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Fuel oil dealer Lawrence Tesei dies at 94

Growing vegetables in his yard and tending the flowers his wife Margaret loves is how the late Lawrence Tesei would unwind after a long day providing area growers and others with the fuel needed to run their tractors.

Mr. Tesei died on Oct. 24, 2016, at the age of 94.

“He would go home at noon, and after dinner work in his garden growing tomatoes, peppers, onions, boysenberries, lettuce, parsley, occasionally garlic and he had a lemon tree. He enjoyed sharing his harvest with friends and family,” said his son Gail.

When he was a boy Mr. Tesei’s family had a truck garden, growing and selling produce on the corner of Avenue 11 and State Route 145, said Gail.

Mr. Tesei graduated from Madera Union High School in 1942 and served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. Following his military service he returned to Madera and went to work for Seaside Oil, owned by Buck Dean the father of Howard and Bob Dean, said Gail.

In 1949, Mr. Tesei married the former Margaret Spera. In 1953, the year his son was born, he went to work for Gail Stewart who was a Mobile Oil wholesaler.

In 1969 Lawrence and Howard Cook acquired the dealership and formed Cook and Tesei. After college in 1975 Gail went to work for his father and in 1979 when Cook wanted to retire Gail bought his shares of the business and the name of the business became Tesei Petroleum. A year later they became Tesei Petroleum, Inc.

Lawrence’s past community service included being a member of the then-newly formed Young Farmers. When his children went to St. Joaquim’s School he was active in the parent’s club and worked the parish Tuesday night Bingo games calling numbers, said Gail. He was also a member of the VFW Post 1981 and enjoyed taking his wife to the monthly post dinners.

“My father was a very giving person anxious help those in need,” said Gail.

“If somebody needed something Dad was the first one in line, especially for family members,” said Gail.

While the business has changed through the years, like most businesses in Madera, when the farmers had a good year, everybody in Madera prospered. During this simpler time there weren’t contracts or even written agreements. Business was conducted with a handshake.

“Many of those customers remain loyal today because we provide customer service,” said Gail.

Gail remembers that while he was growing up evening and weekend service calls were fairly common. If a customer called because their propane water heater, furnace or kitchen stove didn’t work Mr. Tesei would go out and fix it. That was all part of the Tesei customer service, said Gail. For example his dad would convert an appliance from natural gas to propane as necessary.

“He taught me you have to take care of your customers,” Gail said.

Mr. Tesei spent most weekdays meeting friends at local coffee shops followed by a trip to the post office to collect the bulk of the company’s mail from its post office box.

“He would come back and tell me who he saw at the post office,” said Gail.

Gail said he remembers that when he was growing up, evening card games were common in the Tesei household, a holdover from Mr. Tesei’s own childhood.

“After family dinner they would get out the cards and play Pedro,” said Gail. “They didn’t have television so they played cards.”

Gail grew up around his father’s dealership and learned to drive a gas truck at the age of 12 or 13, he said.

Mr. Tesei is survived by his wife, Margaret Tesei; daughter, Sandra Jo Tesei of San Luis Obispo; son, Gail Tesei and his wife Alice of Madera; grandsons, Kevin Tesei of Santa Barbara and Aaron Tesei of Fresno. He also leaves behind many nieces and nephews.

The family has requested that memorial donations in Mr. Tesei’s’s name would be appreciated for Alegria Guild of Valley Children’s Hospital, 9300 Valley Children’s PL, Madera, CA 93636 or VFW Post 1981, 2026 N. Granada Drive, Madera, CA 93637.

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