When reflecting on the life of John Terry, words such as compassionate, generous, and hardworking come to mind, yet this was the way he loved his family and for which he will be remembered most. He knew what it meant to work hard from a young age, and he was a master at all aspects of farming. John was blessed to share his life with his true love throughout most of his journey, and there was nothing better than being surrounded by his loved ones as far as John was concerned. His life exemplified what it meant to be a man of faith whose moral convictions were his constant companion.
During the decade that is commonly referred to as the Roaring Twenties, America was alive and well. The eyes of the world were focused on our shores as WWI came to an end in 1919, and we became the leader in innovation that forever transformed the way we lived our lives. The world of flight soared to new heights due to the adventurous spirits of Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh, and the world fell in love with American baseball with legends like Babe Ruth who dominated the sport. It was during this exciting time that a young couple from Kenosha County, Wisconsin, was delighted to add a healthy baby boy into the fold on September 24, 1926. John Lawrence was one of six children born to his parents, Harry H. and Frances (Ketterhagen) Terry, in a bedroom of the Terry homestead. He was raised on the Terry family “Century Farm” in Brighton Township, located within Kenosha County, alongside his older siblings, Jerome “Jerry,” Bernard “Bernie”, and twin sisters, Catherine, and Evelyn, and his younger sister, Virginia or “Gin.” The farm was owned by his father and Uncle Jacob Terry, but it would be John and his wife who would one day purchase, own, and operate the family farm.
From a young age John was a bustle of activity. As a young boy he went on a family trip with his mother, father, older brother, Jerome, and his younger sister, Virginia. It was a trip to remember as his mother needed to sit between the kids to keep them from fighting in the backseat. John’s mother, Frances, often told the story of how he would chew on the window sills in anticipation of a visit from the Easter bunny.
As a teenager and young adult, John continued to make his mark on the world around him. He completed his schooling through the eighth grade, which was fairly common during his generation, in a one-room schoolhouse St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Brighton. Growing up on the family farm instilled within John a strong work ethic as he worked hard alongside his parents and siblings learning various chores. John was the first area farmer to own a wire tie hay baler. Always resourceful, John worked hard to earn money baling hay for surrounding neighbors. He earned enough money to be the first buy his own new car – a Pontiac; he always had a thing for Pontiacs. He simply loved to drive, so it was not uncommon for him to load everyone into the car on a Sunday afternoon for a drive around the countryside to check out the surrounding farmers’ fields. John and his family spent several Sundays visiting aunts, uncles, and other relatives.
Life was forever changed for John when he met the young girl who stole his heart, Dolores Richter. They grew to know one another as part of a group of young couples who liked to get together to go to the movies or on sleigh rides. John and Dolores dated for four years before becoming engaged. After a two year engagement, the sweethearts were married on August 20, 1949, at St. Alphonsus Catholic Church in New Munster, Wisconsin. Together they welcomed six children into their hearts and home, Barbara in 1951, Rita in 1953, Patricia in 1956, Mark in 1958, Theresa in 1964, and Maria in 1968.
John spent the majority of his life as the owner and operator of the Terry Century Farm. They raised chickens, caring for up to 300 baby chicks at a time, hogs, and beef cattle. They also grew oats, corn, and hay to make their own feed for the animals. At times, John supplemented his income by working at American Motors Co. and at Virgil Schultz Trucking where he picked up cattle from farms to be taken to market. During his later years, John drove a school bus for Thomas Bus Service.
Family was always the cornerstone in John’s life. Anniversaries were usually celebrated with a family gathering or party of some kind. When John and Dolores celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary at Dave’s Triangle, their wedding party organized a mock wedding ceremony. They marked their 30th anniversary on a once in a lifetime Caribbean cruise. Every five years the family would celebrate anniversaries at area restaurants. John and Dolores celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with a pig roast on the family farm. It wasn’t just when celebrating an anniversary that the family got together; they also hosted Terry family reunions every three years since the late eighties. Families traveled from Michigan, Illinois, Texas, and even California to visit the farm and remember where it all began. Both young and old loved visiting with Uncle John, and at times they even helped out with chores and baling hay.
In addition to keeping busy on the farm, John kept active in other ways, too. He was a lifetime member of St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church. John also belonged to the Holy Name Society where he served as an usher, lector, and a chairman for the fall bazaars, men’s smokers, and barn dances. John also was a parish trustee. He always loved a good game of baseball both as a player and spectator. When farming slowed down during the winter months, John enjoyed ice fishing for blue gills. He was quite the dancer who especially loved the polka – so much so that he and Dolores traveled around the area following polka bands, especially Frankie Yankovich. John additionally enjoyed a game of sheepshead with card club friends and family. For a number of years he served as a supervisor on the Brighton Town Board. He was also a committee member of the Agricultural Stabilization Conservation Service.
All who knew John would agree that he was an extraordinary man – easy to know and love. He loved transporting kids where they needed to go, always wearing his cap with cows on it to make it easier for kids to find the correct bus. John drove Pontiacs all his life, as well as Oliver and Case tractors. Despite only having an eighth grade education, he knew how to fix any piece of farm equipment, and he also mastered how to build and weld. John dispensed medication to farm animals countless times throughout his life and kept up on all the latest farm equipment and technology.
A dear man to many, John Terry made a significant impact in the lives of those around him. His work ethic was an inspiration, and his love for his family was unmatched. John will be dearly missed and warmly remembered.
John Terry died on September 4, 2013 at Brookside Care Center in Kenosha. He is survived by his wife, Dolores R., children; Barbara Fleming, Rita (Perry) Mueller, Patricia (Gary) Glas, Mark (Therese) Terry, Theresa (Robert) Hozeska, Maria (Greg) Gillmore; grandchildren, Sean Fleming, Michael & Jeremy Mueller, Amy (Pete) Foerster, Holly (Ryan) Graf, Adam & Derek Glas, Brian (Jessica) Terry, Taylor (Chad) Larson, Erica & Parker Hozeska, Ariana (Joel) Culbertson, Austin Gillmore; great grandchildren, Lauren and Graham Foerster, Quintin and Bennett Graf, Riley and Chloe Mueller, Phillip Terry, and Dawson Larson; and one sister, Virginia (Robert) Jazdzewski. Visit with his family and friends on Sunday, September 8 from 4-7 p.m. at Schuette-Daniels Funeral Home, 625 Browns Lake Dr. Burlington, WI. Mass of Christian Burial 10:30 a.m. Monday, September 9 at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, 1704 240th Avenue, Brighton, WI. Please visit www.lifestorynet.com to leave a memory.