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Terri Huntley

  • "Sweet Terri, continually in my thoughts, forever in my..."
    - Mary Chase
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Terri Joyce Huntley, a dedicated historian who helped Washington State's digital archives rise to national prominence, died in Olympia on March 19, 2013. Her sunny disposition will be long remembered. Terri fought a resolute eight-month battle with lung cancer. She was 54. Terri ("T.J." to friends) dropped out of high school at 16 and earned her GED at 21, a matter of great personal pride. She got hooked on history at Grays Harbor College in Aberdeen and went on to graduate from The Evergreen State College. Her diverse life experiences and commitment to excellence led to an award-winning career with the Office of Secretary of State. Terri managed the Historical Records Project, a volunteer program that transcribed and indexed 3.4 million records that are now accessible worldwide. Before joining the agency as an archives preservation specialist for Southwest Washington in 1998, Terri had worked as a short-order cook, health club trainer, Kmart cashier, book store owner, administrative aide at KGY radio and lead caseworker for the Olympic Area Agency on Aging. As the Historical Records Project coordinator for the secretary of state, Terri drew on her decade of experience working with courthouse, city hall and library employees throughout Southwest Washington. "She served admirably and creatively, recruiting and managing hundreds of volunteers who transcribed thousands of documents to be placed in the Digital Archives," Secretary of State Kim Wyman said. "In addition, Terri was an enthusiastic volunteer for many events and activities that supported our whole agency. People still talk about the fun 'Wayne's World' music video she produced for the Combined Fund Drive talent show." "Wayne's World" italicized Terri's love of music and her infectious sense of humor. Her life was punctuated with caring and sharing, according to family, friends and co-workers. She directed drama at Montesano High School; wrote oral histories for family members; videotaped the Olympia toy run and donated the profits to the cause. She was a bell ringer for the Salvation Army and contributed to the Humane Society. In all, Terri produced, videotaped, and edited some 50 videos for Thurston Community Television and was a member of its board of directors. Her work for TCTV included a history of the Odd Fellows Lodge; the Cowlitz Trail project; the story of Tenino's wooden money and a profile of Bronco Tesia, proprietor of the legendary Liberty Saloon in South Aberdeen. "She loved live theater," Mike Huntley, her husband, recalls. Flower Drum Song, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Mamma Mia! were among her favorites. Likewise live concertsfrom Alice in Chains, Black Sabbath and The Who to Tom Jones, Paul McCartney, Willie Nelson and Frankie Valli. "Terri was a rocker chick at heart," Mike adds "but she loved to play music from the '20s, '30s and '40s on her clarinet," and she knew the words to every Golden Oldies song. KBRD was her favorite radio station. She and Mike would sing along as they cruised to the Tacoma swap meet in their vintage Studebaker sports coupe. During her 15-year career with the Office of Secretary of State, Terri was certified in every aspect of archival preservation, from repairing books and documents to digitizing records. She was trained in grant-writing for preservation projects and was a skilled ombudsman. She compiled oral histories on notable public figures in Grays Harbor history and wrote a college paper on the unsolved 1940 Laura Law murder case. Sam Cagle, a retired Air Force colonel, worked with Terri for four years, gathering and digitizing military records. "Always pleasant, always upbeat, she was able to guide and motivate those 150 volunteers in her care," Cagle recalls. "A special friend, a tireless mentor. She will be missed." Terri was born on Oct. 31, 1958, at Tacoma General Hospital. She was raised by her mother Joyce and her stepfather Roger Nelson. Terri grew up in Western Washington, mostly in Olympia, Puyallup, and Tacoma. She and her first husband, Rod Zimmerman, had two children, Jacob Jay and Jenell Marie"Jake" and "Nellie." The family lived in Olympia, Lilliwaup, Randle and Centralia. Terri and her second husband, Scott Barbour, lived in Aberdeen and Montesano. That marriage also ended in divorce, as did a marriage to Sasha Juillerat. Terri endured a parent's worst heartbreak in the fall of 2000 when Nellie died of Huntington's disease after a nine-year battle they fought together. To work through the grieving process, Terri wrote a bookLosing Nellie: A Mother's Journey of Loss. It was her hope that through her words, others would be able to understand that they are not alone. Terri often said that when her daughter died it was like Nellie truly became a part of her. She always felt her presence. Terri and the love of her life, Mike Huntley, were married in April 2009. Terri cherished her family and friends, her dogs (Jack and Violet), movies, garage sales, cruising in the Studebaker, Halloween (her birthday), shopping and Cannon Beach, Ore. Terri's zest for life, her love of music and standup comedy, were summed up in her favorite saying: "Laughter makes a crying heart dance." In her last weeks of life, Mike recalls, she wrote that on the whiteboard in their den. In addition to her daughter, Terri was preceded in death by her brother, David Nelson, and grandparents Eldin and Ethel Fain. In addition to her husband, she is survived by her son, Jake Zimmerman, and granddaughter, Megan Zimmerman; by her mother and stepfather, Joyce and Roger Nelson; three sisters, Lori McBride, Julie Nelson and Deni Nelson, and a brother, Dan Curley. In lieu of flowers, the family encourages donations to the Salvation Army in Olympia. A celebration of Terri's life is set for 2 - 5 p.m. Saturday, April 6, 2013 at the Olympia Elks Lodge, 1818 4th Avenue.

Published in The Olympian on Mar. 31, 2013
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