Remember Terry Fear by these words: ‘Do Justice. Love Mercy. March Proudly.’

Terry Fear, a vital member of United Hebrew Congregation and a diligent activist for human rights, died Sunday, Dec. 13, at home in Charleston, Ill., at age 66. Terry had officiated the funeral for close friend Louise Sommers only 11 days earlier. Louise’s daughter Nancy Sommers contributed this memorial.

Terry Gillies Fear (September 5, 1954 — December 13, 2020)

Terry planted herself firmly and deeply at the intersection of Judaism and social justice (Stephen Fear).

Do Justice. Love Mercy. March Proudly.

These words guided Terry Fear, a fierce advocate for social justice. With boldness and a strong moral compass, Terry knew what she was called to do.

She planted herself firmly and deeply at the intersection of Judaism and social justice, believing that one cannot love God without a passion for justice. Terry showed her loving family and friends what is possible within a lifetime of good deeds.

Terry is remembered for the passion, generosity and grace with which she lived her life.

She believed the world could be more peaceful and habitable and that she had a responsibility to build interfaith communities to make it so.

She planted herself firmly and deeply at the intersection of Judaism and social justice, believing that one cannot love God without a passion for justice.

Terry leaves behind her grieving family — husband Steve; son Matthew and daughter-in-law Abigail Fear; daughter Lauren and son-in-law Josh Oliver; daughter Anna and son-in-law Devon Stevens; grandchildren Josiah, Daniel and Michael Oliver and Olivia Stevens; brothers-in-law Greg and Brad Fear; nephews Travis, Riley and Sawyer Fear; dearest friends Judy Kelsheimer and Walter Sommers and the Sommers family; and the faith and interfaith communities Terry embraced and who embraced her.

We celebrate Terry’s life and legacy; we mourn her loss.

Grandmother Ida Anna baked sugar cinnamon cakes

Terry grew up in Imlay City, Mich., an only child, the daughter of Phyllis and Kent Gillies and the granddaughter of Ida Anna Terry and Carey E. Terry, editor of the Imlay City Times.

Terry’s most-treasured childhood memories were her afternoons with grandmother Ida Anna, who watched over her while her mother worked at the local bank, and who cooked Terry’s favorite foods — sugar cinnamon cakes, and sauerkraut.

In homage to her grandmother, Terry immersed herself in genealogical research, discovering generations of relatives back to 1638.

In homage to her grandmother, Terry immersed herself in genealogical research, discovering generations of relatives back to 1638, with the names Sawtelle and Farnsworth, ancestors who settled New England and whose cemeteries and graves she visited.

Terry and Steve met in college, outside the student union at Judson University in Elgin, Ill.

Steve recalls how he first noted Terry’s intelligence and her passion to become a teacher.

After earning her teaching degree from Eastern Illinois University, Terry took a master’s degree from Eastern and a second master’s in curriculum instruction from Southern Illinois University.

Terry and Steve Fear.

Terry and Steve took their activism on the road

Terry and Steve shared the fullness of life’s gifts for 46 years, wanting the best, deepest happiness for one another and their children.

They dedicated their shared life to the Hebrew commandment tikkun olam, to repair the world.

In 2016, Terry and Steve drove 1,057 miles from their home in Newton, Ill., to the Standing Rock reservation to support protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

In 2016, Terry and Steve drove 1,057 miles from their home in Newton, Ill., to the Standing Rock reservation to support protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

They loaded their car with donated supplies — tarps, ropes, blankets, food and collected funds — to support the protest to protect Standing Rock’s sacred ground.

Every year brought the ‘best class ever’

Terry taught elementary and junior high school language arts tor 35 years in the Jasper County, Ill., school system.

Teaching was her passion. She loved her students and they adored her. She displayed a particular talent to identify students who might be overlooked because of learning difficulties.

Terry taught elementary and junior high school language arts tor 35 years in the Jasper County, Ill., school system.

Terry inspired students, celebrated their successes, showing them their potential and talents. She declared each year that she had her “best class ever” and generations of students in Jasper County recalled Terry’s inspiring presence in their lives.

Outside the classroom, Terry worked tirelessly to improve teachers’ working conditions. As chair of the Teachers Union, she took on the school system, advocating for teachers in grievance procedures and employment disputes.

She loved baseball, music, family and friends

Louise Sommers and Terry (Stephen Fear).

Terry displayed great passions and enthusiasms — for the Chicago Cubs and the music of the Eagles and John Prine; for fried green tomatoes and apple kuchen; for a good tuna fish sandwich with extra mayo; for her Australian Shepherd Max and her yellow cat Mazel.

She and her dear friend Judy loved to shop for treasures in antique stores and for designer clothes in consignment stores. She filled her homes with family photographs and what she called “memory pieces” from her grandmother and from her adopted parents, Louise and Walter Sommers.

Her grandchildren called her Dadder — a name given by her oldest grandchild, Josiah — and she loved the name, like a beloved stuffed animal.

She loved talking on the phone, unfailingly available at the other end of the line to laugh, to give her wise counsel and always with something more to say.

Most of all, Terry was passionate about her children’s and grandchildren’s happiness and well-being.

She was an attentive grandmother to her grandchildren, fostering in them the moral foundation that Ida Anna had given her. Her grandchildren called her Dadder — a name given by her oldest grandchild, Josiah — and she loved the name, like a beloved stuffed animal.

She loved to hold their hands, give them her Dadder hug, and watched over them as they made their way into the world.

Terry helped secure landmark status for Temple Israel.

Terry found God ‘wherever he could be found’

Terry was a seeker, a spiritual person who, according to her dear friend Sister Paula Damiano, was on a “God-quest to find God wherever he could be found.”

Terry converted to Judaism because she loved the faith, the community, the traditions.

She loved the beauty and sacredness of the synagogue, its rich history and prayerful pews, its stained glass windows,and its peaceful sanctuary.

She became active in United Hebrew Congregation, contributing her time and talents to the community, elected to the board of trustees, leading Shabbat services, participating in Torah study and making sure that the synagogue was designated as a historic congregation, a sacred space recognized by Indiana Landmarks.

She loved the beauty and sacredness of the synagogue, its rich history and prayerful pews, its stained glass windows,and its peaceful sanctuary.

Terry became active in the mission of CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center because of her passionate opposition to bigotry and antisemitism in all its forms.

Terry lit a candle with Walter Sommers to observe the Kristallnacht anniversary in 2018.

Terry teamed with Walter Sommers at CANDLES

CANDLES director Leah Simpson recalls Terry as an “inspiration and joy who knew the inner workings of the museum and was always an advocate for the museum’s mission, bringing her creativity to push the museum in new directions.”

Terry served as a CANDLES board member, program chair and docent. With her dear friend Walter Sommers, who lost numerous family members to the Holocaust, she would teach lessons from the Holocaust, sometimes meeting with groups of 75 or more students.

The teacher in Terry and the storyteller in Walter combined to create powerful presentations, encouraging students to ask questions, speak openly and confront religious and ethnic intolerance and prejudice.

The teacher in Terry and the storyteller in Walter combined to create powerful presentations, encouraging students to ask questions, speak openly and confront religious and ethnic intolerance and prejudice.

Cong. John Lewis‘s oft-quoted words resonated with Terry: “Make some noise. Get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”

Nothing held Terry back; she spoke up and out, from her heartfelt obligation to condemn hatred, racism and antisemitism at every turn.

She marched proudly, participating in the 2017 Women’s March on Washington, the largest single-day protest in U.S. history for women’s rights; LGBT rights; and racial equality.

Photos of Terry from the march show her wearing the iconic pink pussy hat and getting into some “good trouble.”

Terry formed Daughters of Abraham with (from left) Sister Barbara Battista, Riem Rostom and Sister Paula Damiano (Riem Rostom).

She reached out across the faiths

A founding member of the Inter-Faith Council of the Wabash Valley, Terry imagined possibilities for interfaith dialogue, opportunities for people from different faith traditions to find common ground in issues of social justice.

IFC president Arthur Feinsod recalls that “Terry lit the soul of the council, taught us about ethical values, committed social action and protest. She built bridges between religious faiths to oppose narrow-mindedness and hate.”

Terry imagined possibilities for interfaith dialogue, opportunities for people from different faith traditions to find common ground in issues of social justice.

Through her work with the Inter-Faith Council, she met two dear friends, Sister Paula and Riem Rostom — or, as they call themselves, the Daughters of Abraham.

Terry saw the majesty and depth of their religious traditions, and they hers. Sister Paula recalls one of her dearest moments with Terry and Steve occurred during Sukkot, the Jewish harvest festival.

“Steve had erected a sukkah behind their house, with a view to a wide-open space and forest in the distance, for us to eat and pray together. There was something very holy and earthy about that night, sacred and treasured.”

And Riem Rostom remembers Terry was among the first to send her best wishes on Ramadan and Eid and presents at Hanukkah. “I am a Muslim; she was Jewish. We will always be united as sisters against injustice.”

(DeathPenaltyAction.org)

Terry engaged in unrelenting activism against capital punishment

Terry worked actively and passionately against capital punishment with her friends and colleagues from the inter-faith community, writing articles, delivering speeches and attending peaceful vigils in opposition to federal executions in Terre Haute.

In her unrelenting activism against the death penalty, Terry made some “good trouble” as she spoke up against capricious, arbitrary justice, wrote essays, and participated in Zoom meetings. “We are better than vengeance,” she argued.

“Execution is not the solution,” she insisted, always emphasizing the racist roots in the imposition of capital punishment.

“Execution is not the solution,” she insisted, always emphasizing the racist roots in the imposition of capital punishment.

The more Terry learned about the federal executions, the more she made her voice heard; the more frequently she returned to the vigils.

In the summer, she returned with her signs and lawn chair; during Hanukkah, she showed up with candles for light and life, healing and hope. And always, she arrived with her prayer book.

Her light continues to shine

Terry was full of prayerful love and good life, and deep wisdom. The world is a better place because of Terry’s loving presence.

Family and friends say they find it difficult to speak about Terry in past tense because her light continues to shine, her words continue to be spoken.

As Terry’s son Matthew reflects, “my mom did her part in this life, but she had so much more to do. What she planted will continue to grow; it is our job now to keep it growing.”

As her son Matthew reflects, “my mom did her part in this life, but she had so much more to do. What she planted will continue to grow; it is our job now to keep it growing.”

Terry’s family and friends will continue to honor her life by following her philosophy: Do Justice. Love Mercy. March Proudly.

Those who wish to extend memorial contributions may give to the United Hebrew Congregation Building Fund, c/o United Hebrew Congregation, 540 S 6th St., Terre Haute, IN, 47807.

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Sheron Jeanenne Dailey
Sheron Jeanenne Dailey
December 21, 2020 7:43 am

Thank you, Nancy, for this beautiful and thoughtful tribute. Your words will echo for a very long time.

Philip Ewoldsen
Philip Ewoldsen
December 21, 2020 9:14 am

Such a wonderful article, and it really captures the essence of Terry: a leader, a woman of faith and action, who lived what she believed and brought light into our world