Tess Wishengrad Siegel died peacefully at home in Canton, MA on July 9, 2021. She was 80.
She was cherished by her family and her dog, Nellie. A lover of music, literature and poetry, she enjoyed playing everything from Brahms to baseball, but was perhaps best known as a titan of the scrabble board with a soft spot for chipmunks and chocolate chip cookies.
Tess was born in 1941 in New York City, to Rose Pesin and Morton Wishengrad, writer for stage, television, and radio, known for his work on The Eternal Light produced by the Jewish Theological Seminary. Tess’s early life was marked by tragedy, losing first her mother at age 9, then her father at age 21.
Some of her happiest childhood memories were spent at Deerwood, a summer music camp in the Adirondacks where she developed a passion for music that sustained her throughout her life. She attended Vassar College, then completed her education at Boston University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in Music, and later completed a master’s degree in Education.
In 1962, she married Paul Yager. Three years later, they moved to Israel to study Hebrew and eventually settled in the Boston area where they raised their children, Josh and Abby Yager.
In 1986, she married Eli Siegel, Professor of Biology at Tufts University, whose intellect and humor both amazed and delighted her throughout their marriage. Together with Eli, she raised his young son, Michael Siegel, whom she loved and cared for as her own.
Highlights of their life together include trips to visit relatives in Australia, Asia and Europe that they had long dreamed of taking.
Tess was a natural born teacher. Blessed with a flare for animating and conveying the subtleties of language, she taught high school English in Newton, Stoughton, and at the Maimonides School in Brookline where she is still remembered for her theatrical direction of Thorton Wilder’s, Our Town.
But it was as a piano teacher that she struck the most profound chord in students’ lives. In a career spanning 35 years, she mentored young musicians who flocked to her living room studio for individual lessons and gathered for monthly recitals to celebrate each other’s musical growth.
Several of her students with whom she remained in touch until soon before her death have said that she not only infused them with a love of music, but more importantly, cultivated their imagination, encouraged exploration, and fueled their belief in themselves.
As a wife, mother and grandmother she offered unconditional love, support and encouragement for which we are eternally grateful.
Tess is survived by her siblings, Joel Wishengrad, Nina Wishengrad and Dan Wishengrad; her children Josh Yager, Abby Yager and Mike Siegel; their spouses Sarah Holewinski Yager and Ming-Lung Yang; her grandchildren, Miru Yang and Lilah Yager, and her beloved husband Eli Siegel, with whom she would have celebrated 35 years of marriage three days after her death.
Funeral services will be held Friday, July 16th at 10 am Temple Reyim, 1860 Washington Street, Newton, MA 02466. Burial will follow at Zviller Cemetery, 776 Baker Street, West Roxbury, MA 02132. Donations in her memory can be made to American Jewish World Service, PO Box 568, Edna, NH 03750.