The Edmond Sun
One life, that of Detective Matt Terry, touched countless others in meaningful ways. His faithfulness to the community continues to impact many in Edmond after his untimely death at age 41.
He helped an Edmond Police Department colleague, Sgt. Damon Minter, deal with the loss of his younger brother in 2002. Minter has consoled Matt’s brother after his loss of Matt.
He made such a favorable impression on an out-of-town resident that the person wanted to work for one law enforcement agency and one agency only — the Edmond Police Department.
He rushed into a burning house, came back outside to breathe and rushed back inside to pull a victim to safety.
He connected in a memorable way with members of a family who had just lost their young son through their mutual love of University of Oklahoma football. After Matt died, those family members paid their respects.
That doesn’t include the victims of homicides, white collar and other crimes who found justice due to his 19 years of work in Edmond as a police officer and a detective, those who are fine-tuning their lives due to his examples and countless others who benefited from their encounters with Matt.
Police Chief Bob Ricks said Matt was an excellent father, husband and police officer who was the source of much laughter in the department amidst the tension that comes with the territory.
“Matt was diligent in his detective work,” Ricks said. “There are really no words to express our sadness that he is no longer with us, but his wife Kathy and daughter will always be a part of our family. The bond that Matt built with his coworkers these past 19 years will never be broken.”
Sunday, members of the law enforcement community and others will be joining to honor Matt and his family through the Matt Terry Memorial Softball Tournament at Mitch Park, located near the Kelly-Covell intersection.
Teams will get two pool play games from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Single elimination bracket starts at 2 p.m. The championship game will begin at 6 p.m. During the separate cops vs. firefighters charity game, which also begins at 6 p.m., each team will make a donation per run allowed.
Commemorative wristbands, decals and T-shirts will be available. There also will be a silent auction. All proceeds will go to the Matt Terry Benefit Fund at BancFirst, P.O. Box 3370, Edmond, OK, 73083.
THE ‘TERRY TEN’
On Oct. 2, Matt died unexpectedly of natural causes. His brother Doug Terry was at the Mercy Heart Hospital, where doctors were performing CPR on his little brother. Then they stopped. He was gone. Three weeks later, it’s still a shock, Doug said.
“He was such a life bringer, such a life giver in so many ways,” he said.
Doug said Matt was prepared to give his life in the line of duty. It wasn’t a year-long battle with terminal cancer. He didn’t consider this kind of outcome, Doug said. His brother was 41, didn’t show any symptoms. He didn’t get a chance to say good-bye. But family members didn’t have to see him die.
Helping him through the dark times has been knowing he has a lot to live for, Doug said. He and his beautiful wife, their 12-year-old triplets, Matt’s wife and daughter, their mom and dad. A family friend has dubbed the family the “Terry Ten.”
“We’ll always be the ‘Terry Ten,’” Doug said. “We’re just flying ‘Missing Man’ formation.”
Doug said he was lying in bed early one morning before the sun came up, crying, feeling the weight of sorrow crushing down on him. It was maybe the darkest moment he’s ever had in his life. While he was lying there, light started coming through the window — the sun was rising.
“The timing of that seemed more than just a coincidence,” he said. “I can’t help but think that. I believe that Matt is still here. He’ll always be a part of me.”
The experience has given him time to lay his soul bare, ponder his mortality and reassess his life, said Doug, an Edmond attorney. Is he the type of person he really wants to be? Is he having the desired influence on others in his life? What will people say at his funeral?
“On paper he was a pretty ordinary guy, but in reality he was an extraordinary guy,” Doug said of his brother.
Matt’s legacy is his joyful living, Doug said. He said he wants to take his present emotional pain and turn it into something positive.
Minter first met Matt 15 years ago when he was his field training officer. It was a 16-week program. The two worked the graveyard shift. Many who were on the shift became close friends.
As a cop, Matt was a consummate professional, working homicides and financial crimes, Minter said. He was honored for his work multiple times, for putting his own life on the line for others. Cops know the risks and are willing to take them.
“You live by the gun and die by the gun,” Minter said. “You carry a gun to work every day for a reason. We wear body armor for a reason. We know those threats exist.”
Cops talk about death but they’re not afraid of dying, Minter said. Matt had accepted the possibility that he could die in the line of duty. The fear is what will happen to the loved ones they leave behind, their spouses, their children, their relatives.
FULL OF JOY
Those who knew Matt well say he was able to maintain a healthy balance between his priorities: Faith, family and work.
The Terry brothers grew up together in small town America — Stroud — where mother, Jody, was an English teacher and his dad, Bill, was a basketball coach and principal.
Doug and Matt played sports and saw their names in print every week. The school is the center of a small town like Stroud and he and his brother were in the center of the school because of their parents, Doug said.
Matt was also remembered for another reason.
“He was like the heavyweight of orneriness as a kid and that never changed when he got older and lovably so,” Doug said. “Everybody that you’ll ever talk to about him will tell you that he was funny, always joking around and pulling pranks.”
Doug recalled a recent fly fishing trip to Arkansas that was a retirement gift for their father. Doug taught them how to fly fish and wanted to come away with a photograph of the three of them fishing in a picturesque setting.
“It was really a great father, son, brother thing to do,” Doug said.
Matt, however, had a different idea for a keepsake photograph. It involved a T-shirt he bought just for the trip with the words “I make my own stink bait.” Doug took a photo of his dad and Matt wearing the shirt, his entry in the book of memories.
At the station, Matt was notorious for Photoshopping images of unsuspecting colleagues. Somebody there said he was like the light of the Police Department, Doug said. He was sort of the spirit of the family and infused it with joy, Doug said.
“If everyone could live by his example of structuring in their lives in such a way as to make them happy the world would be a better place,” Doug said. “He had found a way in his life to spend it doing things that made him happy — his job made him happy, his wife made him happy, his daughter made him happy, his hobbies made him happy.”
Organizers of Sunday’s softball tournament are hoping to share some of Matt Terry’s joy for life with the community as they play for his family.
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