TOWN OF SUGAR CAMP
On Sunday, Greg Tessier went fishing.
But before he left, he gave his son Isaac a big hug. Greg patted him on the chest and told him he loved him. Isaac had a reputation for always showing his love.
While Greg was fishing with another of his sons, he heard sirens in the distance.
He didn’t know the sirens were for Isaac. After he returned home, he got the news.
Isaac B. Tessier, who adored The Beatles and loved dressing up in costumes, died in a car crash Sunday in the town of Sugar Camp, where the family moved last year after living in Janesville since 2005.
Isaac was 16.
Early on, Greg said doctors thought Isaac might never walk or speak. But he grew up with special needs.
“He was a miracle,” Greg said. “Every day was a miracle with Isaac.”
The moment father and son shared in Greg’s room was the last moment they had together.
Isaac’s mother, Jean, made him lunch before the crash. They had been watching a Chicago Cubs game.
Isaac loved the Cubs. He really loved them. He insisted on being called Isaac Anthony Rizzo, a nod to the first baseman. The family has a dog named Wrigley.
Isaac was the friendly manager of Northland Pines High School’s varsity football, basketball and baseball teams who cared for his “athletes,” as he called them.
Isaac gave the teams pep talks. After he died, a summer league baseball team—some who were fans of the Milwaukee Brewers—paid tribute by wearing Cubs gear.
At a Thursday memorial service, several attendees wore Cubs shirts. Jean said even the priest, who claims to be Eagle River’s No. 1 Brewers fan, wore a Cubs hat.
Isaac participated in the Northern Access Special Olympics—he placed in bowling, snowshoeing and track and field, Greg said.
Isaac’s laughter and spirit were so infectious he inspired people he knew to pursue careers in special education, Jean said.
He was a friend who showed unconditional support. Greg heard from a student who said whether you were playing a sport or taking a test, Isaac was always your No. 1 fan.
“We thought we needed to support him, but he was supporting so many,” he said.
Isaac brought a lot of joy to his parents’ lives, but they have learned since his death how much he brought to others, too.
Isaac would get dressed up for any occasion. St. Patrick’s Day? Leprechaun. Trip through the Southwest? Cowboy hat. Christmas? Elf costume.
Angie Kirkpatrick was one of Isaac’s teachers for three years at Marshall Middle School. She also joined him in a leprechaun costume one year.
“I’m trying to think through the right words. It still hits me a little bit hard,” she said. “He is one of the most charismatic, funny, kind, loyal people you would ever meet.
“I mean, he loved everything. He loved life. He just was a person that you couldn’t help but smile when you were around him.”
Isaac enjoyed Star Wars so much the family has another dog named Chewbacca. During his freshman year at Craig High School, the jazz band for Isaac’s birthday let Isaac direct a Star Wars song, Jean said.
“He was always happy, you know? ‘Happy to be Isaac,’ is what we used to say,” she said. “He didn’t realize he had anything different from anybody else, so he never dwelled on that. He was just happy being Isaac, and we were happy to have him as Isaac.”
Greg always will remember the drives to school. Isaac sat in the front seat as they listened to The Beatles channel on satellite radio.
Isaac, whose mom said he won a school costume contest for his Ringo Starr Sgt. Pepper outfit, knew every word to every song. He would lip sync and make gestures like he was performing in the car, Greg said.
“It was fun. You know, it was just, it was fun to do,” Greg said. “That was just like our normal day. That was just a normal day. That’s the stuff, just a normal day—that’s what I’m gonna miss.”