CRESWELL – About 40 community members gathered Sept. 24 on Oregon Avenue to pay tribute to the late chiropractor and community member Dr. Tamara Blum, who passed away on Oct. 26, 2018 from complications of peritoneal mesothelioma.
She succumbed to her cancer eight months after she was first diagnosed. It was a sudden and tragic loss for her family, friends, colleagues and fellow community members – some of whom attended the ceremony last week in front of The Chronicle newsroom, next to her former practice of 25 years, Creswell Chiropractic.
The plaque, installed by the Creswell Public Works Department, memorializes her as a healer, a friend, a community member. But a small plaque could not encompass all of Tamara’s spirit, said Alan Bennett, who was married to Tamara for 32 years before her passing. “Tamara meant so much to so many.”
PHOTOS BY ERIN TIERNEY/THE CHRONICLEAl Bennett stands on the bench with a plaque commemorating Tamara Blum’s legacy in Creswell.
“I could have filled the plaque 10 times the size of the one here with her special qualities,” Bennett said. “I could have put wording in there about what a great wife and partner and coparent she was, or about her cute freckles or the little overlap of her front teeth that her mom didn’t want fixed because she said it would give her character.”
The plaque was centered between two red roses. In the middle, a red Solo cup – a simple item with much meaning to those who were closest.
The cup signified a connection to her late brother, Brent, which was a tragic and sudden loss for Tamara. As Tamara and Alan piled into the car to attend the funeral services, Brent’s favorite song played on the radio – “Red Solo Cup” by Toby Keith. For the rest of the trip, they saw red cups at every stop. “She took it as a sign that her brother was with her,” friend Debbie Berrow said. From that moment forward, whenever she saw a red Solo cup, she felt a connection to her brother.
Now, people feel a similar connection through Tamara whenever they see a red Solo cup.
Berrow said that a couple days before the dedication ceremony, a red Solo cup appeared in her house, origins unknown. A couple of days later, the day of the ceremony, she sat down at work and found a red solo cup on her desk, origins also unknown. She brought that cup to the ceremony, where it sat underneath the plaque, as Bennett stood on the bench, sharing stories of the reciprocal love between Tamara and the community. Other community members, like Rick Lloyd and Richard Zettervall, spoke fondly of her impacts on the community.
Bennett said he remembers her passion for her work, and stories of conducting house calls for terminally-ill patients in need of comfort from the effects of being bedridden.
“She was just one human being using her gifts to help ease the suffering of a fellow human being in need,” he said. “That was so her.”
Al and Tamara’s daughter, Bailey Bennett, prepared a speech for her father to read at the dedication. Bailey received her master’s degree at Oregon State University and is now in her second year of teaching in Castle Rock, Colo. and is coaching volleyball.
She said that her mom was her “ultimate strategizer, cheerleader, advocate, doctor, tutor … everything a child could ask for in a parent.”
Bailey especially remembers her mother’s laugh.
“What’s life without laughter? My mom didn’t go a day without it. I still occasionally hear her laugh in my head, though it doesn’t compare to the real deal,” Bailey wrote. “I would do just about anything to make her laugh again.”
Bailey said that she hopes the dedication plaque is a reminder to passersby that “an incredible woman passed by here almost every day for 25 years. This place (Creswell) clearly meant a lot to her. My mom would not put that much heart into a community that she didn’t love,” Bailey said.