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Terry Ward was like the uncle I never had.
From basically the moment I was born he was like family.
He and my mom and dad were the best of friends.
They shared many colorful conversations, and he shared many a meal at our dinner table. In fact, he came to our house practically every Thanksgiving. I’m sure that doesn’t surprise anyone who knew Terry because we all know he loved to eat. And my mom, being the excellent cook and hostess that she is, always had a place at the table for him. He had an open invitation to our home and our dinner table, and his presence is missed greatly, especially by my mom.
In fact, there’s not a day that goes by that my mother doesn’t think about Terry. She still has a message saved on her answering machine from Terry. He left it on Friday, Aug. 1, 2008, the day he died.
My mom will never erase that message.
And the impact that Terry had on everyone who knew him will never vanish.
He made a lasting impression on so many people, including the staff and students at St. Catharine College. Terry was a fixture at St. Catharine College, and he was one of its library’s most faithful patrons. In an effort to forever honor Terry, St. Catharine College is currently working to have the Hundley Library Information Desk named in honor and in memory of him. The Sept. 3 Marion County Circle of Friends event at Myrtledene in Lebanon will be raising money toward achieving this in Terry’s memory. In preparation of the event, I asked several people at St. Catharine College to share their memories of Terry with me.
Ilona Burdette, director of library services, said while Terry thoroughly enjoyed food and loved people, his greatest delight came from learning. So, it’s fitting for SCC to name the information desk after him.
“If Terry had ever retired from teaching, I think he would have taken up residence at the information desk,” she said. “Part of the Dominican tradition is to contemplate and to share the fruits of that contemplation with others. In this regard, he was a Dominican at heart. He took delight in both the contemplation and in the sharing. Add to that Terry’s depth of knowledge in so many areas of human endeavor. What he knew, he would share. What he didn’t know became a personal quest for truth. Having Terry’s name on the information desk will serve as a challenge and reminder to those of us behind it of the high calling of our daily work.”
Burdette said she wishes Terry could have been here to help christen the new library.
“It would have been his home away from home,” she said.
Learning was definitely his greatest love, according to St. Catharine College President Bill Huston, who once asked Terry why he didn’t get his doctorate degree.
“He said there were just too many things to learn to specialize in one area,” Huston said.
Huston’s son actually attended one of Terry’s accounting classes. His son wasn’t a “numbers guy,” but he loved Terry’s class.
“He said, ‘Dad, that guy makes learning fun,’” Huston said.
One funny story that Huston enjoys telling about Terry was when the library staff at St. Catharine was weeding out some of its book collection and throwing some of their unwanted books in the dumpster. Huston said Terry would go in after dark and pick them out. Well, when Terry passed away, he left all of his books to St. Catharine. So, all of those books that the library once threw away came back to the college.
“Terry couldn’t stand to see a book thrown away,” Huston said.
Charlotte Gribbins, director of auxiliary services at the college, was also one of Terry’s accounting students. She said his knack for teaching and his attitude about life and about learning were both blessings that were very evident to his students.
“He loved to share what he knew with anyone that wanted to listen,” Gribbins said. “When Terry passed it left a hole in the heart of St. Catharine College, a hole that our memories must fill. Terry left us way too soon, and speaking for myself, I had much more to learn from him.”
Connie L. Kays, assistant to the president at SCC, said during her 22 years at the college, no one has held the space that Terry did there.
“His parting left a void that, as yet, has gone unfilled,” she said.
Kays shared two stories about Terry. The first story was about a time when she was having a discussion with someone in the hallway about the Ten Commandments. As Terry passed by, he said, without stopping, “and the greatest of these is love.”
“To this day, Terry’s simple pronouncement of that great truth has affected my life,” Kays said. “Even more significant than the simplicity and clarity of his statement was the fact that he lived that truth. Terry treated every human being that he came in contact with as brother or sister, regardless of their state in life.”
Terry taught Kays another lesson many years later. It would be the last time she saw Terry before his death. Rushing out of her office during her lunch break to run some errands, she met Terry on the steps of the St. Catharine Administration Building. Terry stopped and asked her how she was and asked about her children, whom he taught.
“He was being the Terry he always was, very human, very caring,” Kays said.
Kays admits to being in a rush to get things done, and she didn’t take the time to completely stop what she was doing for a moment and really talk with him.
“It would be the last opportunity I would have to interact with that kind and generous man on this earth,” she said. “I never forgot the lesson that Terry taught me on those steps. People and life are both precious. Try not to pass them by.”
I hope the people of Marion County don’t pass by an opportunity to honor Terry on Sept. 3.