A Voice from the Past

With age and a bit more time and more inner awareness, I pay better attention to the voices that call me to action.

In 1965 I was a sophomore at the University of Minnesota, newly married with a child on the way. I got a 20-hour a week job in the Classified Advertising Department at the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

The art group had a supervisor and three artists and me. Terry Walker was one of the artists. I had no artistic talent but my job was mostly typing and I could type.

Terry was a terrific ad-man and an even better person: quiet, humble and caring–everyone liked him. Most of the full-time people didn’t pay much attention to the college kid who worked part-time. Not Terry. Terry was always friendly and interested in my classes. I could always go to him with a question or when I made a mistake. He always helped me and made things right. I worked for about a year and then had to quit to take some afternoon classes. When I was done, the job was open and I went back for another year and a half. I worked full-time over the summers. After I graduated in 1968, I returned for the third time for several months while I waited to become a Secret Service Agent. Terry and I were friends. I recall how proud of me he was when I became an agent. He had me over to show his young sons my badge and revolver.

In 1976 I returned to the Star Tribune as a District Manager in the Circulation Department. I went and saw Terry and we chatted and had lunch one day. The years passed. Terry retired and I left the newspaper in 1994. Suddenly it was 2007 and I no longer lived in Minneapolis. I had only seen Terry a few times since 1968. I began to wonder about him. Terry was many years older than I. Was he still alive? Where did he live? I couldn’t find him on the Internet.

I moved back to Minneapolis in 2009. I continued to think about Terry. I regretted not staying in touch with him. I wanted to thank him for befriending me as a college student. In 2011 I reached out to Human Resources at the Star Tribune and asked if they could help me contact him. A kind woman said she would call him and let him know I wanted to reach him. A couple of days later, Terry called me.

I went to see Terry and Shirley—a beautiful woman with a soul as great as his. Terry had broken his back years prior and was confined to a wheelchair and needed a lot of care. But he was the same man: warm, good and gracious. We were happy to see one another. He, Shirley and I spent a couple of hours talking. I got the chance to thank Terry and tell him how much he meant to me and how often I thought about him over the years. I had a battle with alcoholism in my 20’s and I was glad Terry could see a healthy and whole me with a life of successes after my drinking years. I admired him and Shirley and felt humbled in the presence of their decency.

I wanted to get together again soon. I forced myself to wait several weeks. I called and Shirley answered. She was crying. Terry had died just hours before (4/11/11).

I am grateful for the voice within me that kept bringing Terry into my awareness. And I am thankful I got to see Terry one more time and tell him what he meant to me.

3 thoughts on “A Voice from the Past

  1. What a beautiful, bittersweet story. How wonderful that you got the chance to tell Terry how much he meant to you. I’m sure it meant the world to him, just as I’m sure your call in April of 2011 was of comfort to Shirley. Thank you for sharing this, Tom.

  2. The relationships between co-workers often become long lasting bonds. I spent six to eight hours a day, five to six days a week with so many truly wonderful people at the StarTribune. I hate to admit it but I did not spend that much time, per day, awake with any one person in my family or circle of friends that worked elsewhere. Most of us were dealing with the same issues, either during the workday or at home. We learned to work as a team in a way I had never experienced before. It was enlightening and frustrating at the same time. But, we grew together. I had always seen you, Tom, as a leader. This story showed me, Tom, the follower. I’m so glad that Terry was there for you when you needed a leader. I’m so happy that you were able to go back and reconnect when you did. Thank you for sharing Terry with those of us who didn’t know him.

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