Carlson family hopes work of daughter will inspire others,
3 years since her tragic death
The Pelican Rapids homecoming queen, cowgirl poet, and songwriter who died tragically in Nashville is still inspiring folks–from beyond the grave.
Daily Bible passages, compiled by the late Tess Carlson, has been published–appropriately, during the Christmas season.
The collection is a gentle nudge to get people to follow the Bible, start to finish, in a one year span.
“I feel Tess spent hours, days and months compiling the passages, and she sent it to family members as a Christmas gift,” said Carol Carlson, of her late daughter–who died under mysterious circumstances in 2016. “By putting it in book form, maybe it will challenge somebody else to read the Bible…from the Old Testament to the New; the psalms and the proverbs.”
“Our hope is that somebody else may find a blessing in her work,” said Carol.
A 1988 graduate of Pelican Rapids High School, Tess was known as a talented writer, and was also involved in cheerleading, gymnastics and volleyball. She was homecoming queen in fall of 1987; and represented this part of the state as Miss Northwest.
A Moorhead State graduate in elementary education, she taught in Detroit Lakes–but soon moved to Nashville to pursue her creative ambitions.
By family accounts, Tess became a “starving artist,” like thousands of others in the show biz, country music capital. Her struggles with mental illness closely parallel her time in Nashville. Ultimately, she was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, about 20 years ago.
“A Closer Walk with Our Savior” is a daily guide, with four readings each day and a box to check off as you complete.
“Tess loved to journal and kept daily notes of her thoughts and beliefs,” writes Carol in the opening notes to the book. “One of Tess’s aspirations was to write a series of Bible study guides and Sunday school material.”
Recalling a pastor’s comments, that “we’ve all read books–but have you read the greatest book?” noted Carol. Tess’s collections may be an inspiration for some to read the “Good Book” cover-to-cover.
Despite her emotional challenges, and financial struggles, during her years in the country musical capital, she was involved in children and youth programming with a number of churches in the Nashville area.
Tess’s lifelong talent for storytelling also inspired her to earn a degree in the subject, at Eastern Tennesee State University. Along the way, she developed an interest in “cowboy poetry,” and participated in western storytelling events in Medora, North Dakota.
Her Bible journaling book is the second Tess Carlson book published since her death. In 2017, the family packaged text Tess wrote into “Harold and the Angel of Christmas.” Graphic artist for both books is Bethany Helem, of Evansville, Minn., who was a student of Pelican Rapids artist and teacher Paul Johnson.
Meanwhile, the family has recordings or lyrics for at least 20 songs that Tess wrote. Many have a Christian theme, including “Store Up Your Treasures.” A compact disc collection, including recordings of cowboy poetry, are available at the Pelican Rapids “Mercantile on Main,” along with the Bible passage and “Angel” books.
“These are things Tess worked on all the time,” said Carol. “We’d like to preserve them, rather than just leave them in a trunk, and maybe someday, somebody will be touched by it.”
Tess Carlson case nearly ‘cold,’ but DNA sample gives family dim hope
The Tess Carlson mystery remains unsolved, and the case has almost become “cold,” but Carlson’s family in Pelican Rapids have a dim glimmer of hope.
Three years ago in November, Metro police say they found the partially decomposed body of 46-year-old Teresa Carlson in a dry creek bed. Because of the decomposition, an autopsy couldn’t reveal a cause of death. Her toxicology results were clean, with no drugs or alcohol present in her system. She was last seen alive sometime between October 30 and 31 in 2016, and discovered Nov. 5, 2016.
Tess had come to Nashville in the late 1990s from Minnesota. Her aspirations were poetry, songwriting and modeling.
Her parents traveled to Nashville in Summer of 2019, and met with the detective, to follow up on a case considered active–but growing colder by the week.
“They had collected enough DNA to put in a national data base, including the FBI,” said Carol, noting that the process took about two years. “Going forward, they now have enough DNA to make a match.”
But–authorities still need to find a suspect. The detective believes the case is a homicide, said Carol, but there remains precious little evidence–outside of the DNA sample.
Diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and struggling with mental illness for at least 15 years, Tess was believed to have been homeless the final weeks of her life. Carlson family members believe Tess’ mental state was likely a factor in her death.
For information about the death of Tess Carlson the public has been asked to contact Nashville Crimestoppers, at 615-74-CRIME.
—Louis Hoglund, managing editior