The Legacy of Tess Saluja

Generations of generosity toward House of Hope are the legacy of Tess Saluja.

Six years after her death, family and friends are still finding creative ways to honor her memory – including food drives, a car donation and remembrances on special days.

Tess Saluja

Tess Saluja

The story begins with Teresa “Tess” Carr, an Irish lass who came to America. She married a man from India — Kuldip “Deep” Saluja — and together they ran successful Italian restaurants in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia for 35 years.

“They worked their butts off,” their daughter Soni recalled about her parents’ life in the restaurant business.

Tess and Deep retired to the Treasure Coast in 1993, and suddenly there was nothing to do when the alarm clock rang in the morning — a new experience.

As their life in retirement progressed, Tess made new friends at St. Christopher Catholic Church in Hobe Sound and learned about poverty and hunger in Martin County.

Her concern for the less fortunate led her to House of Hope. Before long, Tess and Deep were buying rice in bulk, re-packing it in family-size portions, and helping to feed people in need.

In 2009, when Tess died, her family suggested that donations be sent to the House of Hope food pantry program in lieu of flowers.  And so began the remarkable story of an army of volunteers who continue to honor her memory by supporting House of Hope.

Son Herath (Tess’ daughter) and her son, Tyler, at the House of Hope food pantry.

This army of volunteers includes Deep Saluja; Soni & Matt Herath and their son, Tyler; Pam Herath; Tina Saluja; Nina & Greg Krahling and their children Cory, Kyle, and Kacy; and Baldwin and Lauren Krahling.  A host of extended family and friends spanning Palm City, Hobe Sound, Stuart, Jensen Beach, and La Plata, Md., all make their contributions in memory of Tess.

Here are some notable gifts:

  • At Christmastime, Tyler Herath concluded his sixth annual food drive in memory of his grandmother, gathering 1,572 pounds of food – more than double last year’s total. He and his friends Emma Sexsmith, Simon Larson, and Isabel Rubiera collected the food, with the help of businesses including Totally Polished salon (where Tina Saluja works), Riverview Dentistry and FPL. “It’s been building a little each year,” Soni said of the food drive results.
Pam Herath (Soni's sister-in-law) donated her car to House of Hope in Tess' name. The car will soon be given to a family in need.

Pam Herath (Soni’s sister-in-law) and the car she donated in Tess’ name.

  • Soni’s sister-in-law, Pam Herath, donated a car to House of Hope last year, and it was recently given to a family that is working hard to make a better future for themselves. “This car will mean so much to our family,” said Stephanie Wesco, whose daughter is an honor student at Anderson Middle School in Stuart. “I’ll be able to attend parent-teacher conferences and other events. … Even simple things like driving to the park.” The car will also provide relief and opportunity for her partner, Joseph Hewitt, who has been riding his bike to his night job.  He would like to look for a better job, and the car offers him the chance to attend trainings and seek employment.
  • Throughout the year, family and friends make donations honoring Tess on her birthday and other special occasions, including Mother’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day (to celebrate her Irish roots). These gifts now total nearly $5,000.

“Our mom was such a strong person,” Tess’ daughters agree.  “She was able to build a wonderful life through hard work, faith, family, and her amazing grandchildren who she spoiled rotten. She gave and gave.”

Now, more than six years after her death, the giving shows no signs of stopping.

This article is part of a series of profiles by House of Hope volunteer Arthur Einstein. It includes updates by House of Hope communications director Diane Tomasik.