Terry Fear brought people together to share friendship and perspective on faith. She worked diligently to improve her community and the wider world around her, and to preserve life. She softly sang Shabbat prayers to a close friend facing a quiet and peaceful death, only days before Terry herself passed away suddenly. She made her best effort to repair the world.
We learned these things as family, friends, fellow congregants and colleagues shared their remembrances of Terry during an Inter-Faith Council of the Wabash Valley virtual memorial and following United Hebrew Congregation’s regular Friday night Shabbat service. Only a week before, Terry had lit the Shabbat candles for the congregation.
Reflecting the interfaith experience, some mourners expressed their wishes for Terry’s departed soul in terms of their own religions, which do not necessarily match those of Judaism. But all were united in their grief and sense of loss.
In Part One, we present remarks from the IFC memorial.
Riem Rostom, Inter-Faith Council of the Wabash Valley
Losing a friend can hurt so badly, especially when it is between a Muslim and a Jew in today’s world, where hate and intolerance tries to dominate relationships between people of different faiths.
From Day One, [Terry] just opened up her heart in such a deep way that revealed this transparent, caring and loving [person].
She was against oppression, all kinds of oppression, and against injustice, all kinds of injustice. She told me that she lost many people because of her stand against oppression, injustice, racism and hateful people.
Terry, my dear sister. She always called me “sister”, and she will remain my sister.
I do pray Terry that you are in a better place, and that your creator comforts you; that you’re surrounded by angels, and that your family can find some peace to deal with your loss. And as [the poet] Rumi said, “Every mortal will face death. Few will face life.”
Arthur Feinsod, IFC
If we consider that Terry was more responsible than anyone in lighting the soul of the IFC, then in that other way, that part of our soul continues to burn. Through everything Terry taught us about ethical values, about committed social action and protest. And about love for God through loving all human life without exceptions.
Every time we do something to build bridges between religious faiths, every time we do something to encourage broad-minded faith and oppose narrow-mindedness and hate, and every time we take an action to end the death penalty, we are using our God-given breath to re-kindle the fire Terry lit in each of us who knew her.
Every time we do something to build bridges between religious faiths, every time we do something to oppose narrow-mindedness and hate, we are using our God-given breath to re-kindle the fire Terry lit in each of us who knew her.
Terry embodied everything I love and cherish about my Jewish heritage.
There is a candle in my soul that was lit by Terry Fear. And that flame will never go out.
Abe Bonowitz, Death Penalty Action
“We had a 10 a.m. press conference [Sept. 24, the day of Christopher Vialva‘s execution at the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute] and it was around then that Terry showed up and set up her station. She had two chairs, her sign and her cooler and her phone and she was reading her prayer book. She didn’t appear to be going anywhere.
As the rest of us were finishing up, I went over and invited her to go to lunch with us and she was not interested in that. She had her plan to hunker down and stand vigil herself — by herself.
What I know is that her spirit is all about love and life and truth and community. She brought her Jewish spirit into community and she was successful with that and that will continue.
For those of us who aren’t Jewish, we don’t usually say, “rest in peace”. we say, “may her memory be for a blessing”. And what that means is not really so much about Terry or the person we say that about, but “may the legacy of their spirit or their good work continue in all of us.”
So, may her memory be for a blessing.
Leah Simpson, CANDLES executive director
Terry saw the value in sharing education and educating herself. She thought creatively, always searching for a new idea or program to connect to a new audience.
She was not just filling her time, but making her time count. She chose these activities with care, taking each one to help further a cause that she cherished.
I will miss her candor, her use of all the language, and her laugh.
I will miss her candor, her use of all the language, and her laugh.
Terry was a friend to many and will be missed by all. It is now each of our responsibilities to continue her legacy — fighting for social justice and acceptance for everyone.
Cantor Michael Zoosman, L’chaim! Jews Against the Death Penalty
“I am eternally thankful for Terry’s unconditional love for those on Death Row. For her ability to see past their crimes and see their humanity and redemption.”
[Quoting a message from Lisa Brown, mother of Christopher Vialva] “I will say that I am eternally thankful for Terry’s unconditional love for those on Death Row. For her ability to see past their crimes and see their humanity and redemption. May she rest in peace.”
Sister Paula Damiano, IFC and Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods
I think Terry was on a God-quest. Judaism was at the core of what she does. Her relationship with God led her to find God wherever God could be found.
It enabled her to really seek out unity in so many different religions and I think this God-quest was so strong in her, it just was at the core of her being. She was so close to God, to me it’s almost as if she passed over into the one she sought so fervently.
I just think that for me it strengthened my belief that God yearns for us and really desires oneness with us. And I’m just so grateful for her presence in my life and I know each of you shares that same gratitude.
I know we’re all going to miss her and I love Abe’s prayer that her life will be for a blessing, because it’s already been for us a blessing. It already has and will continue to be.
Betsy Frank, United Hebrew Congregation president
One thing I think about Terry is that she was a woman of passion. Everything she did, she did with her full heart.
From the moment she joined our congregation, she got involved in many, many things. People here today know how instrumental she was in our [Temple] restoration, our security committee. She was vice president of the board. And I [could] always count on her.
She exemplified that Jewish value of tikkun olam, or repair of the world. Whether it was demonstrating for a variety of causes — not just the anti-death penalty [movement] — truly to make the world a better place, which is a core of Judaism. Our whole religion is focused on what we do in the here and now.
She exemplified that Jewish value of tikkun olam, which is a core of Judaism. Our whole religion is focused on what we do in the here and now.
And from all of what you say, I think she truly did that. And Abe, when you say her memory will be a blessing, the blessing was in all the things she contributed.
Doddie Stone, First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Terre Haute
Before I returned to Indiana, I was very much involved in interfaith activities. And it was strange to come here and find how separated the various churches were, one from another — the churches, the Temple, the mosque. All the groups were separate.
And with the work of Terry and Arthur and in those early days, we created a new community. And I’m very proud to be part of that community.
She shared herself and she accepted all of us. And I’m very grateful that I knew her. We will light a candle in her memory and we will add another poinsettia to the many memorial poinsettias that we gather at this time of year.
So, Terry, rest in peace. We will miss you.
Sister Mary Montgomery, SPSMW
I’ll always think of Terry as a loving, generous light in our world.
The last time I saw her was Thursday night, lighting the Hanukkah candles at the penitentiary and praying in solidarity. I’ll always think of Terry as a loving, generous light in our world.
I thank God’s generosity in gifting us with her and her light and love and friendship.
Scott Skillman, UHC board member and former president
When I think of the term, “community activist”, I really put Terry at the top of the group. She defined what a community activist is all about — stressing, of course, active. She was so instrumental, so involved, not just attending things but taking up the mantel and really advancing it in good, positive ways.
But also, community. She was here working at a local level to make things better here. She was involved in a very large way in the restoration of our Temple. And I think she understood very clearly that restoration of the building is not just about preserving a building but preserving the community that is around that building.
When I think of the term, “community activist”, I really put Terry at the top of the group. She defined what a community activist is all about.
So, when she was restoring the building, she was also restoring a community.
I was so impressed by Terry and her ability to share her positive vibes with people. When she interacted with them, she was always very careful to use strong, supportive language — for people, for causes — to share exactly what her thoughts were and to share her successes as well as her yearnings.
I’m reminded by her sudden and tragic passing of the importance to tell people exactly how you feel about them and to share with them while you can how much you appreciate them for the things they do as well as the way they impact our lives.
I think she understood very clearly that restoration of the [Temple] is not just about preserving a building but preserving the community that is around that building.
I will continue to remember her always as an idea of what a community activist should be and cherish her time and her great humility that was coupled with a very strong sense of how to restore community and make the world a better place.
Remy Liverman, former UHC student rabbi
Terry embodied all the most righteous virtues of our Jewish tradition and beyond. Terry lit up the world with her optimism, her beautiful ability to bring people together. Terry fought the good fight, saw the best in people and never had a bad word to say about anyone.
Mourning is the price we pay for having the courage to love others. Even in grief we know that the wonder of human life is too complex, too magnificent to be memorialized in endless pain.
it is my prayer that we will live courageously with passion and infinite love, as Terry taught us through her actions and words.
The gifts of spirit of our loved ones Terry gave us cannot be measured or weighed, nor can they be lost or tarnished with time. Even in our darkest hours, we know that some of their light and warmth will always be with us, spreading comfort and courage and in the fullness of time, healing and peace.
So, it is my prayer that the example Terry led in her own life be continued and reflected in ours now. And we will live courageously with passion and infinite love, as Terry taught us through her actions and words.
Zecher tzadik livracha: May the memory of our beloved Terry be forever a blessing.