The Story of Tamara and Roy
By Kristian Partington
As Roy Warren shares the story of his wife Tamara’s history, he gently lays his hand atop her foot while she rests quietly in her room at the Village of Winston Park. His hand never moves through the half-hour conversation, a gentle reminder that he’s there with her.
As Roy speaks of the long path that led Tamara’s family from Holland and Germany into the heart of Russia and eventually to Canada, he paints a picture of her grandparents, Mennonite farmers who met in the 1800s in Russia while teaching about agriculture. Through the conversation there lies a hint of the devotion he feels for his wife, for he talks of her with such reverence. He tells about how her successful businessman father fled the communism that took hold in Russia in the early 1920s when Tamara was but an infant to start life a new in Canada with little more than the clothes on their back. He died shortly after and the young family struggled all the while to survive.
Roy says Tamara’s work ethic helped get the family through, eventually, as she worked her way from job to job to eventually help lead the University of Waterloo from its roots as a small Lutheran College to one of the world’s finest universities in the world. This was at a time when women were rarely given an opportunity to succeed in any type of career.
He’s proud of her, this much is clear. He tells me they’ve known each other most of their lives, but it wasn’t until after his first wife passed away that he and Tamara became close. They spoke for more than two hours over a bowl of French onion soup on their first date after taking in the symphony.
“We just had so much in common and we felt there was something worthwhile here, but we didn’t speak that out at the time,” Roy recalls with a smile. They shared similar evenings throughout that spring, and he proposed to her on her birthday at Webster’s Falls near Hamilton.
“Overlooking the falls they had a nice shrub with a bench around it so we sat down on the bench and I told her how I felt about her and all the things that I saw in her and what my desires were,” Roy says. “I asked her if she felt the same way about me and she said, ‘Yes, I do’ so I knelt down and pulled the ring out of my pocket.”
That was in 2002 and they’ve been at each other’s side ever since. In recent years, Tamara’s health began to decline, especially after she suffered a fall that rendered her unable to walk.
“Now, Tamara has been deathly afraid of nursing homes,” Roy says. She cared for her ailing mother at home while she held her job as a vice-president at the university because, in their minds, a long-term care home was not a viable option.
This was something Tamara always wanted to avoid, but at 90, Roy was finding that the day-to-day care his wife required was taking a toll, so they connected through the Community Care Access Centre and were surprised at how quickly a private room at Winston Park became available. They decided to act quickly and they’re glad they did.
“I thought when I went to put her in a nursing home, we’d have big trouble, but I came in here and got her settled and that afternoon, she was as happy as could be, laughing away and fully enjoying where she was,” Roy says. “It’s a wonderful team here with wonderful team spirit. It’s really exceptional.”
As we finish chatting, I glance over to the mural that spans one whole wall in Tamara’s room. Roy had the beach scene put up almost immediately after she arrived in the village so she can sense a bit of paradise when she’s lying in bed.
It seems to me that paradise is the type of love and devotion I see between these two people who came together late in life, and I thank Roy for sharing it as I walk away.