Terese Chiames Caire passed into the arms of her loving God on April 29, 2020, after a courageous battle with COVID-19. She left us much too soon, but she left her family and friends with a lifetime of love and memories they will always cherish.
Terese was born in Fresno, CA, to Paul and Anita Chiames. Along with her brothers Chris and Paul, her extended family of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins were the centerpieces of her childhood.
Terese was active in school, church and social activities, whether as a cheerleader or student government officer at McLane High School, Sunday school teacher, Greek dance troupe member or a national officer for the Maids of Athena, a Greek-American service organization for young women. Her church and her Greek and Serbian/Montenegrin heritage were very important in her life. She participated in the first-ever Greek Folk Dance Festival and continued to be involved with her own children as the event grew to include over 3,500 dancers from across the U.S.
She graduated from Fresno State University with a bachelor’s degree in education and then a master’s degree in counseling. After several years of teaching in Fresno, she transferred her teaching career to southern California.
In 1990, Terese met John Caire, also from Fresno, but living in Los Angeles. The Chiames and Caire families had a long-standing friendship going back decades, in a way that only Fresnans can understand coming from the small, close-knit community that it used to be. Terese and John were engaged and married in 1992 and she joined him in southern California where she began teaching in La Cañada.
Their first home was in Sherman Oaks, where they were soon joined by their two children, Maria and John Paul, who became the center of John and Terese’s universe.
The Caire family eventually moved to La Cañada, where Terese taught for 27 years at Palm Crest Elementary School. During the course of her tenure she taught 6th, 5th, 4th and 3rd grade and made a lasting impression on faculty, parents and students alike. Her love of life and learning will be her gift that they will carry with them the rest of their lives.
Terese was always very involved in her church and became an active member of St. Anthony Greek Orthodox Church in Pasadena. The special friendships she built there and the foundation of faith and service she instilled in her children will be a part of their lives, memories and character forever.
John, Terese, Maria and John Paul traveled the world together. They loved their trips to New England, New York, Europe and Greece and a host of other destinations to visit family and friends. Everything was an adventure and an opportunity to have fun, create memories and experience new things. Their home was always buzzing with activity. She loved being a wife and mother and was proud of her husband and children. She welcomed anyone who walked through the front door, typically with a hug. And she treasured her relationships with her extended family and her friends. She was never too busy to talk. And she had a way of making sure you knew you were the most important person in the conversation, with an infectious laugh that spread quickly.
Even after moving to Los Angeles, she was frequently in Fresno to look after her parents and in-laws. Countless weekends, school breaks and summers were spent there. And as her parents slowed down, she never let the distance become an obstacle for being there for them.
Terese’s passing is still a shock to her family and friends. She was our joy and light and she shared that with us every day of her life. Her family also wants to acknowledge the hundreds of friends whose outpouring of love and support remind us of the importance of always caring for each other, always expressing our love for each other, and never living life in ways you will later regret. That is how Terese lived. It is the gift she has given to us, as much as we were not ready for her to share that lesson with us in this way.
Terese is survived by her loving and devoted family that extends across the U.S. to Europe and Greece.
The family would also like to acknowledge the amazing team at USC Keck Medical Center that stood with Terese throughout her fight, and who bonded with her and gave her love and encouragement when the family could not be with her. These heroes deserve the gratitude and respect of everyone who reads this.
Given the circumstances of this global pandemic, a private funeral service was held on Thursday, May 7, and she was buried in Fresno with her beloved family.
The family requests that any donations be made to St. Anthony Philoptochos Society, 778 South Rosemead Blvd., Pasadena, CA 91107 or to the La Cañada High School LCTA Scholarships, Attn: Bozzani, 4463 Oak Grove Dr., La Cañada, CA, 91011.
The love, prayers and support shown during these past few weeks will always be remembered, just like Terese will. As difficult as this is, we will all find strength and inspiration from Terese’s life and hold her dearly in our hearts. May her memory be eternal.
“A Tribute to Terese”
Terese was more Greek than Zorba.
Both my sons had her at Palm Crest, and unlike some elementary teachers, she really liked the boys in her class, propped them up, made them excited to come to school each day, something young boys are not always prone to do.
Mrs. Caire was different: She would dance on desks (like Zorba); she would light up the campus with her smile.
Terese Chiames Caire was born to teach. And teach she did.
Is there a better calling? Is there a better way to make your presence felt here on Earth? Terese was such a natural teacher, she did what all the great teachers do: She made kids want to become teachers themselves.
She had so much impact. She also had so much fun. If only we could all enjoy our work so much, and leave such a legacy.
At Palm Crest, she led the students in the Greek Olympics. Even better, she brought her incredible energy to class each day.
One teacher remembers going into Mrs. Caire’s classroom at the end of the day and seeing her and my son giggling over something. They couldn’t even explain what was so funny, some inside joke that they shared. She had such heart. And she loved Maria and John Paul, and all the students she had over three decades of teaching, who were her children too.
I remember Terese always trying to get us to come to some Greek festival in the fall, and how she loved to travel. One of my former colleagues grew up with her in Fresno, and told me about how Terese’s father, Paul, coached them in basketball, and later reffed school sports in town.
“And you should’ve seen her dance,” my friend said.
Well, I did. We all did.
In her book bag, Terese’s husband John found some poems she’d kept from her third-grade students, in pencil, with rainbows and trees and flowers.
One student wrote:
“Dear Mrs. Caire, I look up to you. And I see a ray of sunshine shining on me. I knew God sent me one of his angels when he sent you to me.”
It makes you nuts, this stuff. Early deaths make no sense, on any spiritual or rational level. The questions can make you crazy: Dear Lord, why take her, of all people? And why so soon?
All I can think: Maybe He needed someone to work with the kids. Maybe he needed his dancing angel back.
We love you, Mrs. Caire.
– Chris Erskine
columnist, Los Angeles Times