Terry Gasper Memorial Editorial
When a person passes from this world into whatever follows it, their lives and their presence are suddenly thrown into stark relief; mundane memories of passing interactions become mutable, prone to shifting shape in the light of their absence. What previously seemed like an inconsequential conversation may suddenly take on added weight and significance—meaning shifts and it can feel like we’re falling through the world. When hindsight is 20/20, every memory becomes an omen that you missed. When we lose the colorful characters that inhabit the stories of our lives, it becomes easy to misinterpret the past, misperceive events, and convince ourselves that the universe had tried to hint to us—in its ineffable way—that we were on the verge of something terrible. Guilt is a natural impulse in such times: how could we have missed that he was ill?
In my case, it was idle small talk, chatting in the office with Terry about the cold he’d been battling for a few days; at the time, I would have never believed that was the last time that I’d see him.
Though Terry Gasper only spent a short amount of time in the story of my life (and I in his), he possessed numerous and distinct meanings for me—all of which left an indelible impression on me. Firstly, Terry meant a second chance. Terry recognized my talents and decided to believe in them over the ugliness of my history, and that meant a great deal to me. He saw enough goodness in me to offer me a job. There have been times in recent months where the fulfillment I was receiving from my internship at the Graphic felt like the only positive reinforcement in my life (and it sure as hell kept me going). Terry signified opportunity for me—the opportunity to try my hand at a vocation that would allow me to scratch the creative itch that has dogged me my entire life (the same creative impulse that has so often rendered me dissatisfied with the less-creative jobs I’ve had in the past). Terry also signified success; the success of making a living as a writer and journalist. Though Terry may not have always been able perceive it clearly through the veil of his own private triumphs and disappointments, the life that he led as the publisher of the Lake Mills Graphic and as a full-time journalist was an enviable one. I would look at Terry and wonder whether I could ever manage as much in life as he had. He was an inspiration to me.
Terry symbolized a happy family life for me; he and Shery always seemed the best of friends and loving companions. The way that Terry spoke about them, I got the sense that Terry was pals with all of his children and they with him. Another thing to be enviable of! Terry exemplified a love for people and animals. Watching him joke with buddies that would come through the Graphic’s office just to sit a little while reminded me of everything good about human friendship. Watching Terry’s unerring loyalty and love for his dog, Lambeau, also always reminded me of the beauty of human-animal companionship; I’d always feel a twinge of jealously when I’d see the two of them leave for their daily walks—it made me wish I had a best friend like the both of them did.
In short: though I only knew Terry for a short little while, I feel blessed and indebted. He exuded the joys of life, inspired me, and provided me with an example of a way to make it forward in this world. He will be missed.