In tribute to a beautiful person
One day Teri Weidner baked brownies for an illustrators’ party. She sprinkled on coconut “snow” and outlined a bear print like the ones in Baby Bear’s Not Hibernating, by Lynne Plourde, which Teri had recently illustrated. There is something intriguing about footprints in snow…they are traces of someone’s actions… evidence that someone has passed by. Teri’s books are like that too, lovely vestiges of creative ideas shared between an author-illustrator and her readers. Footprints in snow melt away, but Teri and her books have left gentle, permanent impressions on the minds of children and all those who knew her.
Teri grew up in Fairpoint, New York and later moved to Portsmouth, NH, an active New England seaport area rich with creative people. As a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design she began illustrating children’s books, some of which she also wrote. In this excerpt from a Kirkus review of Always Twins (Holiday House 2015), the sensitivity of her work is highlighted. “In this picture book, the first that Weidner has both written and illustrated, watercolor-and–colored-pencil artwork in a soft palette shows the ducklings’ anger, fear and love in ways that young children can identify.”
Her lively, delicate art and gentle stories portray the drama of youth with genial energy. By choosing ducklings, bear cubs and other animals, she has opened the story to any child, no matter what race or background, extending the reach of her books. Endearing baby animals draw children into Teri’s warmly feathered and furry world where adventure awaits.
Teri also illustrated many stories for CRICKET magazine, a media group based in Illinois. Ron McCutchan was CRICKET’s long time, greatly loved Art Director back when Teri began her career.
To build relationships with his illustrators, Ron would organize get-togethers when he came to New England. Everyone would gather at a long table in a busy Boston restaurant, which was fun, but those people at the other end of the table…what were they talking and laughing about? So, next time we gathered at my home to allow more fluid conversations. In 1993 and 1995 Ron suggested lists of people, Teri among them, and we enjoyed fun potlucks. Brian Lies, the Emberleys, Pam Levy, Marcia Sewall, and numerous others came, sharing, comparing notes, and enjoying some one-on-one with peers.
Ron recounts that his CRICKET experiences with Teri left him feeling that she has, “always been one of my favorite people, and because of those illustrator get-togethers (and other visits to the Boston area), I do have some fond memories.
I started working with Teri because she could draw mice and other small fuzzy creatures. I’m not sure I remember the first piece she did for CRICKET, but I know it was either a mouse or a bear! And when I was able to meet Teri–it was on a trip that took me through Boston and she kindly offered to let me spend a night at her house–what stood out was that she had a little menagerie. At the time, it was a mouse who was so old and frail that her tail had broken off and a chinchilla whose dry-bath was in a beautiful crystal bowl. And apparently I was an acceptable part of that menagerie, too, because Teri and I kept in touch, and kept working together, and kept seeing each other when I was in New England. A conversation with Teri that has always stuck with me was about body rhythms – Teri liked to work until the wee hours, 2:00 am or so, and she told me that if she did that (and didn’t have to get up until 10 am-ish), she had a full day’s worth of energy, but if she had to get up earlier, even if she’d gone to bed accordingly earlier, she felt the need of a nap in the afternoon. When Teri’s menagerie came to include Chris, and she had moved to Portsmouth, we spent a lovely afternoon visiting bookstores and the public garden in the harbor (and I remember seeing a small snapdragon that looked exactly like a little mouse!) Teri’s interest in and support of other artists and her vitality are the facets I will always remember . . . along with the mice and bears.”
Brian especially enjoyed these dinners years ago, and a more recent one here in 2016, which you can read about here. “I first met Teri in 1981, while I was at Brown, and she was at RISD. She’d grown up with a woman on my freshman floor. We were aware of each other, but didn’t hang out. After graduation, when she was working in the frame shop in Cambridge, I’d go in occasionally for something and we’d chat. One day, she said that Ron McCutchan was going to be coming by shortly, and when I said I’d never met him, she said I should stick around so she could introduce us. Typical of Teri, it was such an immediate and generous offer, without hesitation—and I think other illustrators who were working to establish themselves might not have done that. She’s always been so upbeat, so positive, and it’s so unfair to know she’s being brought down by this disease…”
Kathie Kelleher recalls, “I knew Teri only as a fellow Portfolio Solutions artist for many years. Then you invited all of us to your illustrator gathering and I was delighted to actually meet her in person. Carol, Teri, and I had a great conversation and I felt like I had known her for years… After bumping into her at the NESCBWI conference in 2018, I decided to reach out to Teri to see if we could meet up sometime. Not hearing back, I assumed that she was busy. Then I read on FB that they had discovered the brain tumor and my heart sank. My heart breaks for her husband, son, and entire family.”
Teri’s husband, Chris Dahlen, shared updates and anecdotes on Caring Bridge about her situation for the year and a half of her treatment. His humor and love were obvious.
Teri passed away during the night on Friday, December 20, 2019. In the morning Chris posted a story that illustrates the relationship he and Teri shared during her illness. He said, “This is maybe a weird story to share in the middle of all of this, but the last thing I told Teri about yesterday morning was a story I read about ticks in New Hampshire. You all know Teri loves animals, and I shared the story because it featured a night vision photo of a deer bending its head down to a possum that appeared to be kissing its snout. It turns out that deer often go to possum to help get rid of their ticks: possums love to eat ticks, and deer can’t pull them off on their own, so they have a symbiotic relationship. I don’t know if it was just a cute (sort of cute) animal story, or if it reminded me of Teri and I during hospice, or what, but it was the last thing I told her about.”
Teri was fortunate to have Chris by her side.
The stories and images that Teri created and shared with the world make beautiful lasting impressions. Like all children’s book authors and illustrators, she produced works that we can hold in our hands and that reach into special places in our hearts. Maryann Coca-Leffler recalls that, “I have a beautiful book signed by Teri which she gave me many years ago when we were all just beginning our careers. I will treasure it.”
Teri Weidner made the world a more caring and heartwarming place for children through her books populated by a menagerie of mice, bears and ducklings. Her colleagues and friends share the lasting gift of her generous and creative heart. We all see the beautiful tracks she made on this world, the traces of her goodness.
For a complete list of Teri Weidner’s twenty books, go to her website.
Teri’s Facebook page.
Teri Weidner Dahlen
June 26, 1963 to December 20, 2019
Last Saturday the memorial for Teri was attended by so many friends and family. Her memory is vibrant. Today Teri’s husband Chris Dahlen posted two special photos on Caring Bridge. One was a lovely tribute by Senator Cory Booker and the other a photo of their cat Phineas snuggled on Teri’s side of the bed. Excellent traces of a life well lived.