Teresa Ann Hepler was born in Virginia on July 15th, 1952. She was welcomed into the world by her loving parents, Vasiliki Vaso and Jesse Hep. When she came home to her tidy red-brick house three days later, her messy-haired sisters, Tina and Stefi, immediately adored her. Hep had a hard time combing little girls’ hair.
From a young age her artistic and musical gifts were most evident. At age two she had perfect pitch. As she grew she loved to sing duets with her father, their favorite song being, ‘I want a girl, just like the girl who married dear old dad.’
Being an Air Force child meant years of travel, to Japan where she was baptized in the Orthodox cathedral by the Russian bishop Irini, to Montana where she would insist on weekend trips to the forests so she could practice what she felt was her special calling– mountain climbing, to Canada where she learned to ski and to love Anne of Green Gables, to Utah where she rode horses with wild abandon, to Germany where she grew into a young woman of amazing beauty, and finally to California where she graduated from high school with her cousin Coco by her side.
Teresa then went on to the University of California, Irvine where she was a Regents Scholar and earned her B.A., her teaching credential and her M.A. in Philosophy. Then she became an inspiring instructor of Philosophy and Humanities at Saddleback College and Orange Coast College.
We know that God is love and that he loves us. Our lives can be defined by what we love. Teresa will always be remembered for her many loves and for her generosity of spirit.
She is remembered for her love of J.R.R. Tolkien and good Hobbit breakfasts and all things Elfin. As young boys her dear nephews, John and Tom, listened raptly as she read The Lord of the Rings trilogy to them. She loved her Poiesie group and Jungian Psychology and spent intense hours with her fellow-seekers searching for the meaning of life and the symbolism of mythology. She loved The X-Files—the truth truly is out there.
She is remembered for her love of all things artistic and musical. For singing along with Handel’s Messiah in her beautiful soprano voice. For loving Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and Primavera. For oil painting, watercolor, sketching, greeting cards and elaborate compositions made of sticker-art and art pens. For photography and photo-collages. And especially for all things Christmas.
She is remembered for her love of God’s creation whether in the wilds of the Tetons and Yellowstone, or the beauty of the roses in her backyard. She adored traveling, especially cruising to Alaska. The bear was her spirit animal of the wilderness, but of all the animal kingdom, dogs were her dearest and best companions. She brought so many into her life and into our lives, most of them rescues: faithful Lady Goldberry, noble Shep Shadowfax, beautiful Brindi Brandywine, and of course her dear Kumie and Smokey, to name only a few. And a recent love of hers was Cesar Milan, the Dog Whisperer.
She is remembered for her love of her friends and neighbors. She was surrounded with love from dear friends from her UCI days: Pam, Jan, Rebecca, Susan, Renee and Michael. Nancy and Jill, you were always there for her whether bringing her meals, driving her to doctor appointments, helping with the dogs, or sharing laughter and tears. Another dear group of friends was the ‘Dinner Group’ that met once a month for fellowship and joy for 27 years. Starr, Sally, Jocelyn, Carolyn and Jan brought much happiness to Resa. ‘A best friend is a sister that destiny forgot to give you.’ Jennifer, Vinnie, Diane and Bill, you were by her side.
She is remembered for her love of family. Her loving nephews are better men because she broadened their worlds with her intellect and creativity. They were always there to help their aunt and she was so proud of them. Her devoted sisters stood by her through good times and bad. Teresa was blessed with many loving cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. She was so happy to be chosen as godmother for two precious children: Sawyer Mosher and Arianna Sy. She was blessed with wonderful parents. During these last difficult and pain-filled years, her mother was always there to support Teresa. Of all the gifts given by mom to Teresa, love will always be the greatest one.
But most of all Teresa will be remembered for her abiding faith and her love of Christ. ‘Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing instant in prayer.’ Romans 12:12 This verse describes Teresa as she faced the relentless pain of these last years. Through it all she kept her spirits up and her hope strong. For those of us who loved her it was so hard to watch her suffering; it was easy to ask how could God allow this? Here is what Father Coniaris has written:
‘The world is not an amusement park where pleasure is the chief end of man. It is a school where the chief end of man is holiness, growth into the image and likeness of God. God uses our suffering to make us into the people He wants us to be… In a very real sense, suffering actualizes our hope-our hope of sharing the glory of God.’ Daily Vitamins for Hurting Hearts; Day by Day with Jesus, Volume 4
So though we are so sad at losing our dear daughter, sister and aunt, we hold these words of Saint Paul’s in our hearts and minds:
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8: 38, 39
Teresa was born into eternal life January 30, 2008, MissionViejo, California.
Teresa’s resting place is near her beloved father, Jesse, in El Toro Memorial Park.