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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    A friend remembered

    Shortly after 6 p.m. on June 3, I learned that my friend Tess Martinez had died two days before in a single-car accident in New Mexico on her way to Chicago. For a few minutes after I got the news, I sat there phoning her over and over again. I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to hear the other end of a line pick up more than I did then.

    Tess was a star at the UA Journalism Department, and a lot of space could be devoted to her accomplishments. You could devote even more space to what most of the people who knew her were certain she would accomplish.

    In a way, though, that Tess seems a world away from the girl I knew. I met her in 2001, when she was a burgeoning reporter at the Aztec Press, Pima Community College’s biweekly newspaper. I have a vivid memory of her rushing out of class on Sept. 11, with a camera slung around her neck. Some people seem born to their profession; Tess certainly was.

    After a two-year adventure in San Francisco, she came back to Tucson and started bounding from one project to the next, one newspaper to another. She never seemed to rest. Tess was always overflowing with ideas. She was probably the single most creative person I’ve ever met.

    Some of her ideas were better than others, of course. (I remember she once wanted to buy an otter and keep it in her swimming pool.) But she was also one of the most thoughtful people I’ve ever known. Once she bought me a cake shaped like Winona Ryder as a surprise, but it went stale before she could mail it to me.

    Most of all, I remember her laugh. It wasn’t a bray or a snort. It was a sweet, infectious giggle. It could change the atmosphere of an entire room. I also remember the way she would double over with surprise, her mouth open and her eyes wide, whenever you told her something startling. The way she twisted her whole face around, like a cartoon character, when she wanted to mock something.

    There are other memories,ÿcountless more. But I don’t want to share too many of them. After all, they’re precious -ÿI won’t get any more of them.

    I hadn’t seen much of Tess in the last six months. She always seemed to have two or three jobs at once, and sometimes I got the impression she was doing two or three jobs at once, like Archie trying to go on a date with Betty and Veronica on the same night. Whenever you saw her, she’d be on her way somewhere else. Her cell phone was always buzzing; she was always in motion.

    I last saw her a couple of weeks ago, at my wife’s graduation party at Himmel Park. She was bubbling over with excitement about her next project – the trip to Chicago. My last memory of her is a hug and a cheerful goodbye.

    For all that she had accomplished, I never thought that Tess’s life in Tucson would be anything but a precursor to whatever life she was going to have next. It never entered my mind that Tucson would be all the life she would ever have. Nor did I ever imagine that all the memories I’d shared with her would one day be mine alone to remember.

    At her funeral yesterday, I kept hearing her voice popping into my head, as familiar and friendly as ever. I wondered what would happen if she suddenly walked through the door: “”It was only a prank, guys. Sorry about that.”” I wouldn’t have put it past her.

    It didn’t happen, of course.

    A few days before, her mom had been telling me about her attempts to keep Tess from going to Chicago, to get her to stay and walk down the aisle in her graduation ceremony. “”Mom, I don’t want to walk,”” Tess would retort. I can hear her saying it now, as if I’d heard it myself.

    “”Of course she didn’t want to walk,”” I said. “”She would have wanted to run.””

    – Justyn Dillingham is the editor-in-chief of the Arizona Summer Wildcat. He can be reached at

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