SWANTON — Gaston A. (‘Mike’) Tessier passed away peacefully at home while holding his wife’s hand and sharing one last smile on Saturday, May 28, 2016. Gaston was born in Swanton on Nov. 30, 1922. Gaston spent his formative years growing up in Burlington. A Depression-era child, he was greatly influenced by his immigrant parents, J. Amedée and Marguerite (Trahan) Tessier, who instilled in him the desire to learn, strive, dare, and always share; a creed he held throughout his life.
Gaston never forgot the opportunities his education afforded him, beginning with his grammar school, Ecole Nazareth, and later at Cathedral High School. He graduated from St. Michael’s College after three years of study with a degree in Chemical Engineering in 1943. Thereafter, he started work at General Foods Corporation, and began a Master’s degree program in Chemical Engineering at Stevens Institute of Technology. Called up for service during WWII, the Department of Defense intervened granting him an exemption to continue his work developing survival and K-rations for the military.
During his three-decade career with General Foods and Basic Vegetable Products, Inc., he held various executive positions across the United States, including being the youngest person ever appointed as a Plant Manager of a Maxwell House Coffee plant. While working at the San Leandro, Calif. plant, he also built the first Kool-Aid production facility on the west coast. Later, he was appointed the Plant Manager of the Maxwell House coffee plant in Hoboken, N.J., the largest in the country. From Maxwell House, he transferred to the Birds Eye division of General Foods where he was instrumental in the development of frozen food products. At Basic Vegetable, he worked on the creation of new technology for the dehydration of vegetables. These positions involved international travel throughout Europe, and far-flung places in the Middle East, South America and North Africa.
Upon retirement from corporate life, Gaston returned to Burlington where he was the Chief Executive Officer of the University Health Center and received an appointment as an Associate Professor at the University of Vermont’s School of Medicine. Later Gaston started his own company, Ventess, Inc., which developed South Square, a housing community serving Burlington’s elderly and disabled citizens.
Gaston’s fiercely held belief in the value and opportunities of an education is reflected in the legacy scholarships he established at Ecole Nazareth and St. Michael’s College; his commitment as a St. Michael’s College Associate Trustee; and as a member of Boston University’s Board of Visitors. Gaston was insatiably curious, a voracious reader, who also appreciated a pithy phrase. As an avid sailor, he loved sailing on Lake Champlain and the San Francisco Bay. While his intellect was his calling card, his larger-than-life presence and joie de vivre will be missed most of all.
Gaston is survived by his wife of 20 years, Stella (Breault-Sears) Tessier; his four children, Michael John, G. Anthony ‘Tony’ Jr. (Elleene), Mary Thérèse Wagnon, and Jacquelyn Renée (Eugene Hao); siblings Alain (Merle) and Timothée (Carol); brothers-in-law James Consedine (Mary) and Arthur Breault (Theresa); sisters-in-law Mary McIver, Ione Golden, and Maureen (‘Mimi’) Tessier. He was predeceased by his first wife of 49 years, Gloria (McIver) Tessier; sisters Pauline and Carmen Consedine; brothers John and Louis; son-in-law, Lawrence Wagnon; brothers-in-law Angus McIver and Joseph Golden; and sisters-in-law Carmen Tessier, Rosemari Tessier, and Jean Tessier. Known as ‘PéPére’ to his grandchildren John, Christine and Michelle, and to great-grandchildren, Jack, Emma and Vivian; and ‘Uncle Gaston’ to a multitude of Tessier, Consedine, McIver, Golden and Breault nieces, nephews, and their children.
The family wishes to express its gratitude to the Vermont Visiting Nursing Association for their compassionate care, as well as to all of Gaston’s dedicated caregivers during the last five years, most recently Silver Leaf In-Home Care.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at the St. Michael the Archangel Chapel at St. Michael’s College at 11 a.m., Monday, June 6, with internment to follow in Resurrection Park Cemetery, South Burlington. Friends may call for a visitation on Sunday, June 5, from 3 to 5 p.m., at the Ready Funeral Home South Chapel, 261 Shelburne Road, Burlington,. To send online condolences to the family please visit www.readyfuneral.com.
In lieu of flowers, contributions in Gaston’s memory may be made to The Gloria and Gaston Tessier Scholarship Fund (for students with financial need who concentrate in the natural sciences or math), or the J. Amedée and Marguerite Tessier Memorial Scholarship, (a renewable honor scholarship which places an emphasis on high academic promise and performance) at St. Michael’s College, One Winooski Park, P.O. Box 256, Colchester, Vermont 05439, or via the St. Michael College’s website at www.smcvt.edu.