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"VRE" 2005 Obituary


VRETIS  VRETTAKOS 

VRETIS o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.toronto_star 2005-09-06 published
VRETIS, Kyriakos
It is with great sadness that we announce the sudden passing of Kyriakos on Saturday, September 3rd, 2005 at the age of 62. son of the late Vasilios VRETIS, he is survived by his mother Dionysia. Kyriakos was a beloved and devoted husband to his wife Maria and a loving father to his children Bill (Vasilios), Artemis and Lisimahos (Aki). Most importantly, he was a devoted grandfather to his grand_son Nicholas who was his pride and joy. He will also be greatly missed by his sisters and brother in Greece and Australia, by all his nieces and nephews and his many family Friends. His great joy in life, along with his family, was as a Chanter at Prophet Elias and St. George Greek Orthodox Churches. His voice will be greatly missed. Friends will be received on Tuesday, September 6, 2005 from 2 to 4 and 6 to 9 p.m. at the Heritage Funeral Centre, 50 Overlea Blvd., 416-423-1000. Funeral Services to be held at St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church, 30 Thorncliffe Park Dr. on Wednesday, September 7 at 10: 00 a.m. Interment Pine Hills Cemetery.

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VRETTAKOS o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.toronto_star 2005-03-21 published
He made every day a good hair day
Yorkville hair colourist worked until age 91
Bon vivant and master of his craft beloved by clients
By Catherine DUNPHY, Obituary Writer
Legendary hair colourist Pierre TESSIER was on the job up until the week before he was admitted to hospital where he died three weeks later on February 17. Even though he was 91 years old, he never had any intention of ever stopping work.
At The Private World of Mary Tripi, the upscale Yorkville hair salon where he was employed for the last decade of his life, there's a sweeping spiral staircase that leads up to a big, bright room overlooking the old fire hall across the street. Every morning he would pause at the top of the stairs, an erect dapper figure, immaculate in one of his starched shirts and silk cravats, and beam at his co-workers. Mary TRIPI herself works at the station at the top of the stairs.
"It was a wonderful smile," she said.
A client recommended she hire TESSIER but warned her he was old. "Then I met him," she recalled. "He wasn't old. He had a magic. He was the age he was -- but also he wasn't."
He loved this world of artistry and egos, power and pampering, where four days a week he engaged in the curious intimacy forged between a woman and the man or woman she trusts with her hair.
TESSIER may have been the last colourist in Toronto using a technique for highlighting he had learned from his father and grandfather in his birthplace of France: a laborious process involving cotton balls and hours of his client's time. "Very old school," said his colleague, Nicholas VRETTAKOS. " You need a lot of patience. But he had more than 60 years experience. He was a master at what he did."
His workstation was the fourth chair in the colourist row, between Monique SANJAREI and VRETTAKOS, who both adored him. He was in the middle of things, where he liked to be.
On his lunch breaks he would look out over the salon with its cool green walls and softly lit mirrors, where women in salon wrappers, hair combed in damp furrows back from unadorned faces, feel safe, protected.
"I was addicted to him," said Sherry Eaton DREW. TESSIER streaked her hair for 37 years. "It was horrifically slow but absolute perfection."
She was stopped by strangers on the streets of Rome, Paris and London and asked for the name of her hairdresser, she said. "He was a maestro."
He turned down a request from actor Maggie Smith to do her colour when she was performing at Stratford. She wanted him to go to Stratford; he thought she should come to the salon. It didn't happen and he didn't care.
"He didn't need the accolades of doing Maggie Smith's hair," said his friend, Carole WILSON.
TESSIER became Friends with a good many of his clients. They were all blindly loyal to him: Margann ANDREWS followed TESSIER through four hairdressing salons to Tripi's, where TESSIER arrived with a file of 350 names of clients willing to pay upwards of $250 for colour and highlighting.
"He always made me feel special," ANDREWS said. "He saw the beauty in everything: people and paintings."
Carolyn WALKER began as a client in 1974. "I found him totally interesting," she said. WALKER had worked for the U.N. in Geneva they found they had much in common. "It was never gossip, never empty talk. He was a man of substance. His conversation was about ideas and culture and travel and food."
And, if asked, about his adventures.
The son of a barber and hair salon owner, and the grand_son of a wigmaker for the Paris Opera, TESSIER's own career began in the late 1920s when he apprenticed at a Paris salon from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m., when it was busy repairing the coiffeurs of the women who worked at the bordello below. He quit to join the army and see the world for the next three years. Back in Paris, he was working in the storied salon at the Georges V hotel, when World War 2 broke out.
By 1940 he was a prisoner of war, interned in a stalag near Baden-Baden, from which he escaped twice, one of those times disguised as a woman. But when he and a buddy were recaptured the second time, they were moved to a higher security Prisoner of War camp near Düsseldorf and shackled together in a small cell for weeks. As soon as they were released, they escaped again. They thought they had made it into Belgium; they hadn't and were recaptured.
Again he escaped, this time during the Allied air raid on Cologne in 1943 and with the help of the Resistance, got to England where he joined de Gaulle's Free French. On D-Day he was hitting Sword Beach with commandos, but when the war was over, he didn't settle down and return to the salon. Instead he enlisted in the French Foreign Legion because he wanted to travel.
He was posted in North Africa and later Indo-China where he was captured and held prisoner again. And one more time, he escaped. But it took him two years to get back to the Legion's outpost in Morocco, he often said.
He was ready to get back to work. He rejoined the staff at the Georges V hotel, later moved to Monte Carlo and Cannes where he famously did Marlene Dietrich's hair. He met and married a beautiful Parisienne ballerina named Lucienne with whom he had a son. But in 1957, restless again, he moved the family to Montreal where he had a new job as head of the newly opened salon at the Ritz-Carleton hotel.
But 10 years later, he moved to Toronto. Alone. His wife had died, after a long battle with cancer. And his son? TESSIER rarely told people this, but his son returned to France and refused to speak with his father, whom he accused of not spending enough time with his dying mother. TESSIER never heard from him again, although he tried on at least two occasions to locate him.
This was not one of the stories he ever told his clients; instead he would chat about his travels, the latest art show or ballet or French film in town. But only when asked. He was a quiet man by nature, focused on his work.
In Toronto he met Anna WILSON, a glamorous Scotswoman in the fashion business. They were an elegant pair, hosting sparkling dinner parties featuring French recipes prepared by TESSIER and only the best wine.
"They were modern people, so interested in everything going on in the city," recalled Carole WILSON, who married Anna WILSON's son Patrick. A francophone from Quebec, Carole WILSON was taken under TESSIER's wing. Their Friendship continued until his death, even after WILSON was divorced from his stepson and after Anna WILSON's death.
"He was like a father to me," she said. "We were his family."
TESSIER worked in some of Toronto's best-known salons -- for Vicki Runge, Gerald and Lloyd, Monroe's in the Colonnade -- before joining Mary Tripi. When he turned 80, dozens of his clients and colourists whom he had trained turned up at Bumpkin's Restaurant for a surprise party. When he turned 90, the staff at Mary Tripi took him out to dinner and gave him a surprise trip to the Greek islands. On his 91st birthday (last April 13) he slipped away to Montreal to see an art show and old Friends. Last September, he rented an apartment in Montmartre and wandered through his old haunts in Paris.
When he fell ill with pneumonia at the end of January, clients and colleagues rushed to his bedside. His hospital room resembled a garden, one said. WILSON was there every night. WALKER spent hours by his bedside.
Sherry DREW was there every day for two weeks -- "He was my friend. How could I not?" she said -- until she had to travel out of town four days before he died. She walked down the hallway weeping because she knew she would never see him again.
She and the staff of Mary Tripi are fundraising for a scholarship in TESSIER's name. It will go to a student of hair colouring. They believe it is a fitting tribute to a man who always did his best work so that women, as DREW put it, "can go out feeling wonderful and invincible."

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