"Wanderlust propels us to a faraway place and when we arrive we settle in and become still. It is only then that we are able to see for the first time. But, this place is not new. This place is quickly recognized deep within — by our very soul. We have been here before. Our exploration is not of foreign vistas, rather memories of home." Author, Tamara Gunter
Tamara Anne Gunter, 48, was born in Phoenix, Arizona, and grew up chasing fireflies and photos in Austin, Texas, with Saint Bernards and Golden Retrievers underfoot. She graduated from Anderson High School and later earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Graphic Design from Arizona State University. Tamara worked in the creative field as graphic designer, art director for Sirius Publishing and brand identity manager for 21 years at Tivoli and IBM. Early in her career with IBM, Tamara was invited to participate in a one year think tank. This group of bright talented young men and women met quarterly in California to discuss and propose directions IBM might go in the future. In 2009, Tamara was awarded the Software Group Eminence & Excellence Award. In 2014, Tamara was selected as part of the IBM Corporate Service Corps and traveled to Sichuan Province, China. The team delivered support to children and earthquake victims for a month. They facilitated businesses to get back on their feet and enabled China to envision Tianfu New City, which is now a reality.
While the focus of her advancing career with IBM centered on global marketing and technology, her art and heart remained in travel photography. Tamara's photographic work was shaped by her design discipline and ethos. Her artistic point of view was stirred by her grandparents' (Rosemary and Cal Boykin) humanitarian work abroad and cultivated through her own journeys from Cape Town to Sichuan to Cappadocia and beyond. As a fine art photographer, Tamara explored manifestations of solitude and the culture and character that is born of landscape. It is the Spirit of Place that compelled her.
Tamara was the most highly intelligent, spontaneously creative, stunningly beautiful, soulfully sensitive, and strongly independent woman I have ever known. She was not only my daughter, she was my mentor. I treasured and valued her opinion, her insight, her depth of understanding, her strength, and her spirituality. She was an artist in everything she created. Tamara was a very old soul in a very modern woman. These incredible attributes served her well on a career path that never strayed from the time she was in elementary school until she chose to live the rest of her life completing a bucket list that took her around the world.
Tamara was shy and soft spoken, unless she was writing. Then she chose her words with the precision of a surgeon. On one of many visits to New Orleans for surgeries and treatments that would fell giants to their knees, she wrote:
"Great Spirit please turn these tears into bubbles. Spinning, floating, rainbow-colored bubbles Please take this pain from me in a swirl of smoke Transform it into tiny butterflies. Pale blue dancing, butterflies that know not where they go, but are carried there anyway."
In 2008, after her first surgery took 2/3 of her right lung, Tamara embarked on a mammoth project: the restoration of an 80 year old craftsman bungalow in Bouldin Creek, just south of Lady Bird Lake in Austin. Most of the work she did herself turning the home into a minimalist showplace with Asian antiques and Middle Eastern treasures. Very few knew that she was a Feng Shui master. You could feel the sense of purpose, placement, and peace in each room of her stunning home.
One of Tamara's most loving acts of kindness was her work with Gold Ribbon Rescue. Over the course of 17 years, Tamara fostered 33 Golden Retrievers, adopting a very lucky few for herself although it wasn't always clear just who was rescuing whom. Her forté was ministering to the seniors or toughest to adopt. Of those who were closest to her heart, Olive and Hunter, sadly, have passed on. On the night that Tamara passed, as I sat by her bed, sweet 10 year old Lark came in and buried her head in my lap and cried. Lark is now in the loving care of Tamara's brother, Thomas. I think of Tamara being greeted by her beloved Goldens, smothered in licks and kisses, and her family that has gone before waiting in line for their turn.
Tamara conquered her fears in one trip to San Miguel de Allende during the celebration of Dia de Los Muertos. On November 2, 2016, she wrote:
"Two years ago, a specialist told me that I could never ascend. An elevation of 4,000 would be difficult, 6,000 pushing it beyond reason and 8,000 a risk of life. Today, I climbed the trail and steps of a recently discovered pyramid in Mexico. Cañada de la Virgen reaches 7,647 feet in elevation. Along the hike, I was met by the gods and creatures of 700 AD Mesoamerica. The feathered serpent was there to test and challenge, the smoking mirror drew tears, the jaguar, the dog as my guide to the underworld and a kind wolf by my side to survey each step. Wind blew into me as if by force of sun and moon. I made it ... I made it to the top on this day that is also the continuing celebration of Dia de los Muertos. This is the time we take to honor and celebrate the people and generations that have passed. We recognize death as something just as near as life itself. Before us we create the altar and give offerings of marigold. My lungs are open today and so must be my heart. I am here. I am still here."
In spite of a terminal diagnosis that gave her only a few years left to live, Tamara filled the last 15 years of her life with exotic travels, a stellar career, adoring Goldens, her loving family, and so many attentive friends. She leaned heavily on her "incredible, amazing, strong and loving brother, Thomas," the last few years. With pen in hand, Tamara checked off bucket lists, to do lists, estate lists, and beyond. She passed from this world, surrounded by her family and friends, as she wished, in her home. Tamara wrote in her last email:
"I have lived an amazing and wonder-filled life despite such body challenges. Every day I look for and see angels, signs, symbols and synchronicity as an important evidence on the path of my individual, spiritual journey. I hope you do too. I embrace all paths to spiritual awareness including all religions. I firmly support and respect every individual's religious or non-religious choice and beliefs."
One box that was left unchecked … obituary, was given to me and, as her loving Mother, I am deeply honored to check this box for her. I pray that I do Tamara's life justice. I love you, Sweetie, and Godspeed.
We are eternally grateful to Drs. Jerry Fain of Texas Oncology in Austin, Eugene Woltering, and Robert Ramirez of New Orleans Neuroendocrine Tumor Specialists for Tamara's life and longevity. Neuroendocrine Tumors or Carcinoid Syndrome is rare and deadly. Rather than being known as a cancer patient, Tamara wished to be known for her life and how she chose to live it.
Tamara was preceded in death by her grandparents: Rosemary and Calvin Clay Boykin, Jr; Mabel and Thomas R. Gunter; her great aunt Jo Anne Boykin, her uncle David R. Peterson, and her sister-in-law April K. Gunter.
Mourning her passing are her mother Elizabeth Anne Boykin of College Station; her father Thomas Glen Gunter and wife Donna; her brother Thomas Arthur Gunter of Austin; her aunts and uncles Karen Lee (Boykin) Peterson and husband Paul D. Tannehill of Mission and College Station; Calvin Clay Boykin III and wife Laurie Bell of Austin; Donna Durow Boykin of Austin; and Thomas Heath Boykin and wife Katyla of College Station; her nephews: Thomas Allen Gunter, Forrest Calvin Gunter, David Cardenas Peterson, and Calvin David Peterson; her nieces: Ava Delaine Gunter, Carmen Cardenas Peterson, and Avery Grace Peterson; cousins Lance Arvid Peterson and wife Marcela (Cardenas) of Mission, Texas and Tecoman, Colima, Mexico, Daren Ray Peterson and wife Leigh of The Woodlands, Ryan Clay Peterson and wife Julie of McAllen; Brandon Heath Boykin of Washington, D.C.; Kensey Lee Boykin of College Station; and Brandi Gunter of Plano. Also in mourning, are her former husband and dear friend Patrick Boicourt as well as her best friend Howard Curtis, and her loving Lark.
A Memorial Service will be held Friday, July 19, 6 p.m. at Callaway-Jones Funeral Home, 3001 S. College Avenue, Bryan, Texas. It was Tamara's request that memorials be made to the Neuroendocrine Tumor Research Foundation (netrf.org) or Gold Ribbon Rescue (grr-tx.com).
To further Tamara's legacy, see her photography books at tamaragunter.com