As a freshman in college, I bounced into my parents’ photography business and found myself toe to toe with this woman: short in stature but big in personality. In her pink and grey suit she shook my hand firmly and I was immediately intimidated.
My mother introduced us: “Lesle…this is Tena Vetor. She is interviewing for a position with the studio.” We exchanged pleasantries for a moment, then I bounced back to Butler’s campus. In the back of my mind, I wondered, did she get the job?
Both my business and my family were changed that day.
When I came into the business in the fall of 1991, and I was a drifter. I floated around the business learning what I could with the goal always being that I would take over some day. Who knew that “someday” would come by January of 1992? My stepfather suffered a stroke, leaving me in charge before I had the skills necessary to run the entire business. Tena convinced me I could do it. That was her thing: number one cheerleader. She had years of experience in the field and walked me through what I needed to know. She spent countless hours in the studio with me – I would practice, she would run film, it sucked. I would shoot it again, she would process the film again, and it sucked less. Over and over, until one day it was finally good.
But nothing prepared me for the fervent love she would have for my children. She went from being my biggest fan, to being my family’s biggest fan. Never missing a performance, holiday, party, or graduation. She was literally always there. Overnights at Nana’s (what they named her) included jumping on the beds, doughnuts for breakfast, candy jars that stayed full, laughter, made up stories about children being born in the cabbage patch, and so much more. My children loved her so much that when my first grandchild was due, she was destined to be Charlotte Evelyn—named after Tena’s mom, Evalyn.
The impact Tena had on my entire life cannot be understated.
There are days it’s still hard to continue on in the business when such a big part of it is missing. Everything that you can see in this business, Tena had a hand in. If you knew her, consider yourself blessed. If you didn’t have the privilege of meeting her, you bet we won’t hesitate to tell you story after story.
Here’s to you Tena Vetor.
Thank you for everything.