The Singing Pharmacist

As some of you know, my business name is Terrisse Creative. Now, this wasn’t any sort of attempt at hubris, but an idea that one day my business would include another person or two or at least, some collaboration–a kind of collective.

To use my name was a practical decision. If I came up with something clever, cutesy or too literal, the chances are that someday I might outgrow it and have to deal with the inevitability that my mind would change.

There was perhaps yet a more subversive reason. By asserting my name on everything I was undertaking I was pressing myself to move forward, to fail and succeed on my own merits. It’s my good name I would be putting on the line.

The name Terrisse is of southern French origin and has a basis in the French word for earth: terre. I’m interested in its history and origins and am always curious when I meet someone I don’t know that shares the same last name.

I’m not really sure how I became Facebook friends with Guillaume–I have a cousin with the same first name and I think one of us American Terrisses thought for a moment it was that cousin. As awkward as it seemed to be “friends” with this person I didn’t know, the sheer fact that his name was Terrisse and he lived in France was enough to keep my curiosity up and keep Guillaume alive in my feed.

Not too long ago, I happened to exchange a comment or two with him. This led to Guillaume telling me he was currently stateside and to the suggestion that we meet up when he gets to Los Angeles.

I dutifully told my husband I would be meeting with a tall and dark male stranger who may or may not be a distant cousin, and with his blessing, the meeting was arranged. We took a walk along Echo Park lake, trading family stories, trying to discover if we were indeed related.

Guillaume is a pharmacist in the southern French port town of Marseillan. I tell him my grandfather was from Marseille, not too far away. His is a family business is called Pharmacie Terrisse-Magnabal and although I have had nothing to do with the success of this quaint drugstore, I couldn’t help to be excited. Maybe industriousness is in my blood after all. Maybe I could get a discount on French face cream.

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Over the course of the afternoon Guillaume told me three amazing things:

1. He will be opening a small boutique hotel near his pharmacy this summer. 

Another family venture, this seaside boutique hotel will be a rustic and charming retreat. The rumor is it will also bear the illustrious Terrisse name.

2. If are indeed related, we share a common ancestor–the “pirate” Claude Terrisse.

Guillaume calls him a pirate from what I’m finding out he was more like a celebrated mariner under Louis the XIII and XIV. A statue was erected of this fierce ancestor in the southern village of Agde. Here is the bust of my “pirate” pater familias:


Bust of Claude Terrisse by Auguste Baussan (1829-1907) via

3. In all of Guillaume’s spare time, he performs as an operatic baritone.

Here he singing “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen in the church at Marseillon this past Christmas:

Are Guillaume and I really related? Most likely, at least distantly. When I got home, I found a write-up on the brave sailor Terrisse that my grandfather had copied. At this time,  a DNA test is outside of my current disposible income but Guillaume was calling me cousin, so I’m going with it.

But I’d like to think this Renaissance man who shares my name is a link to my past and maybe a little inspiration for my present. With this name tied to the earth, I’m inspired to keep trying to make it my own way-to put down my roots. I’m ready to put my name on it.

With this name tied to the earth, I’m inspired to keep trying to make it my own way-to put down my roots. I’m ready to put my name on it.


The Meeting of Two Terrisses














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