A Life Lived: Tonya Tester made a lasting impression on a niece

Published 8:26 am Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Tonya Renee Lilly Tester was only 43, when she died unexpectedly Jan. 4 after suffering a brain hemorrhage.

“She was an amazing woman, mother, and friend,” said her niece, Taylor White.

Although Tonya at the time of her death lived in Bristol and had grown up in Bristol, she lived for several years in Elizabethton. Her son, Joshua Tester, is a recent graduate of Unaka High School. Tonya also had a daughter, Rylee, 10. She was married to Shane Tester.

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Tonya worked from home for Cigna Health Care in customer service.

“Tonya’s family was always number one with her. She wanted to be there for them. My aunt was not only there for her husband and children, but for the entire family. If you needed someone, you called Tonya,” said Taylor.

Aside from her work and family, Tonya enjoyed gardening. “She especially enjoyed growing vegetables and cooking her garden produce. She shared much of her produce, such as tomatoes and peppers, with the owners of Jiggy Ray’s, who used them in making pizza,” said Taylor.

She shared that Jiggy Ray’s will have a tribute concert Jan. 24 for Tonya.

In addition to preparing and cooking vegetables from her garden, Tonya enjoyed making biscuits and gravy. “Her’s were the best,” said Taylor.

She and her daughter loved cats. In fact, they had rescued a number of cats.

Tonya was also a big fan of the Dallas Cowboys, and at her funeral, everyone was asked to wear the Cowboy colors. She also collected Dallas Cowboys memorabilia.

“Tonya was such a wonderful person and meant so much to her family. We are going to miss her greatly,” said Taylor. “She gave so much during her short life.”

Martin Luther King said, “It does not matter how long you live, but how well you do it.”

And, apparently Tonya Tester crammed a lot of living into her 43 years —– a life that made an impact on the people around her, especially her young niece, Taylor.