Sewickley mother honors daughter with scholarship fund, art camp

| Wednesday, June 26, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Nancy Raynovich of Sewickley said she wants what just about every parent wants when they lose a child — for that child to be remembered.

So in memory of her daughter, Tess Raynovich, who would have been 21 this year, she has initiated the Tess Senay Raynovich Art and Earth Fund.

Through the fund so far this year, two scholarships have been awarded and an Eco-Art Camp was held last week for about 10 students at Sewickley Valley YMCA's OASIS teen center.

Tess Raynovich was a 2010 Quaker Valley High School graduate who died in an automobile accident last year on her way to work at Ross Park Mall. She was finishing her final week of work, and planned to move to a Montana ranch to teach art to children.

She had taken art lessons from the time she was in second grade, and often helped to mentor students at an after-school Quaker Valley Middle School art program.

Tess, also the daughter of Andrew Raynovich, studied for about a year at Parsons, The New School of Design in New York City, at first aspiring to a career in fashion.

But when she visited her uncle Tony Newman in Alaska and saw the natural beauty there, it changed her perspective, her mother said. She decided to work more on her art.

Tess's dream was to incorporate her love of nature, artwork, fashionable clothes and organic food and her concern about the abuse of natural resources, her mother said.

The four-day Y art camp emphasized Tess's love of nature and gave children who otherwise might not be able to afford art lessons a chance to participate.

Anna Farnan, 14, of Leet, realized at the end of the camp that Tess had been her baby sitter years ago. She made her sculpture by piling rocks on a tree stump that had fallen over behind the YMCA.

Nancy Raynovich said her daughter used to go to the same spot to collect rocks to make sculptures.

A friend of the family created a rock sculpture and placed it in the Himalayan Mountains in Tess's memory.

Rocks also were given to people who attended Tess's funeral. Many of those rocks came from Erika Johnson, director of Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse, who also ran a workshop at the camp.

Tess's mother said money to start the fund came from many Sewickley friends and family after so many flowers filled the funeral home that there was no room for more, and visitors began asking what else they could do.

She expected that donations would total $500, but much more came in.

A $750 art scholarship was awarded to Laura Stinson, a 2013 Quaker Valley graduate who will attend Penn State University to study agriculture.

Because Tess also was interested in poetry, a $300 poetry scholarship was given to Rachael Houser, also in the school's class of 2013, who will major in theater at Wagner College in New York.

A fundraiser was held at the Y community activity center on Memorial Day featuring artwork from Tess's teachers and artists from the Sewickley area.

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Her artwork also will be displayed as part of a Day of the Dead celebration on Nov. 1 Downtown, through the Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse.

Raynovich, who has two other daughters, Anna, 25, and Mia, 23, said working on Tess's fund has helped her handle the grief tied to losing her youngest child.

“It makes me feel like I'm taking care of her,” she said.

Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or

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