Teas Tanner was the director of the Estonian Archives Vancouver (EAV) and one of its founders.
The EAV grew out of the “Society for the Advancement of Estonian Studies” after Estonia regained its independence. For decades the expatriate community of Estonians in Vancouver had worked towards freedom for their homeland. Once independence was declared, their new focus slowly shifted to preserving the record of their history as settlers in British Columbia. Thus the 1990’s saw the already germinating ideas for the archives taking shape: community interest and support grew, materials were donated, the Estonian Ministry of Education encouraged the undertaking by granting some financial support, and professional archivists from Estonia were invited to work at EAV for short periods. Teas began to research other Estonian archives, especially the Estonian Archives in Lakewood, and he also attended the Baltic Heritage Network summer courses in Estonia in preparation for the formal establishment of EAV.
EAV is still a growing project, housing records of Estonian organizations and of individuals in Vancouver, as well as of films, audio tapes, slides, photos, arts and crafts. Teas showed selfless dedication and planning skills in the founding of the physical archives and its administration. We owe him a great debt of gratitude for this work.
Teas Tanner was born in Vändra, Estonia, but spent his boyhood in Pärnu. In 1944 he experienced the fateful escape to Sweden and in 1951 immigration to Canada. Already as a youth he felt a calling to service, admirably expressed in his activities as a scout leader. Scouting offered the young Estonian refugees in Sweden a positive venue for growth and development, and later on—in Toronto and Vancouver under Teas’ leadership—the same shared spiritual, cultural and patriotic aspirations continued. At the University of B.C. in the 1950s he found like-minded friends with similar backgrounds who joined the Estonian community of Vancouver. He participated in several organizations and projects, e.g. in the planning of the construction of the Estonian House and Church, in supporting the work of the Estonian Supplementary School, in serving the Vancouver Estonian Society and the League of Estonian Organizations on the West Coast, and finally he steered the Pensioners’ Club for many years. Teas helped to carry out such functions as Commemorations of the Deported, observances of Exodus from Home and celebrations of Estonian Independence Days. His respect for what the Estonian flag symbolizes was in his heart. Likewise, folkloric social events, especially the Midsummer celebrations with song and dance, benefited from his good humour.
On the personal level, too, I knew Teas as a kind, dependable and gracious person. Family values were of utmost importance to him; many a time when someone needed to be absent because of family concerns, he would always understand, saying “family comes first”. His cherished wife of 60 years, Krista, son and daughter are the beneficiaries of this commitment.
Teas was a constructive person, a builder of character, a builder of organizations, a builder and planner of buildings. His quiet ways and strong support will always be remembered.
Juta Kõvamees Kitching