John N. Terrey
1926 - 2017
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John N. Terrey

January 19, 1926-December 28, 2017

On December 28, 2017, Dr. John N. Terrey passed away in his sleep. Terrey was born in 1926 in Chicago, the second of eight children. His mother passed away when he was 12, and at age 14 he moved to the Seattle area to live with his aunt, Bernice Kuhn, and her husband Louis. At age 17 he left West Seattle High School to enlist in the Marines and fight in the Pacific theater of World War II. He incurred three rounds of life-threatening bullet and shrapnel wounds and was twice awarded the purple heart. Upon returning to the United States in 1946, he earned his GED, and then subsequently a B.A. in History (1949), a B.A.Ed. in English (1950) and a M.Ed. (1960) from Western Washington University and his Doctorate in Education from Washington State University (1964). He went on to establish a career in education at all levels, teaching at multiple high schools and then entering higher administration. He helped to found and then became first Dean of Instruction at Tacoma Community College. Subsequently, he served as liaison between the legislature and Central Washington University, where he then became Dean of Instruction. In 1969 he began working for the Washington State Board for Community Colleges, finally assuming the Directorship from 1978-1987. In that capacity, he expanded the number of colleges in the system and increased enrollment while also enhancing the curriculum to include more vocational training and general education. Under his watch, the system became a model nationally for expanding educational opportunities. Upon retirement, he returned to the classroom, his real joy, teaching courses at Shoreline Community College and the University of Washington and then co-founding and teaching at the Creative Retirement Institute. He also co-founded the Lutheran Alliance to Create Housing (LATCH). His efforts have been acknowledged with numerous honors, including being named an Outstanding Alumnus at Western Washington University (1986) and a State Humanities Award Honoree (1997) as well as receiving the Alumni Achievement Award at Washington State University (2010). The John N. Terrey Library at Everett Community College was also named for him. In his spare time, Terrey enjoyed traveling, reading (anything, but especially all things related to Romantic poetry and art), and following Seattle sports and Notre Dame football.

In his personal life, he was married for 52 years to Elizabeth Terrey, who survives him. He has three children - Scott, Kevin (deceased), and Sue - from an earlier marriage, along with grandchildren and great grandchildren. He will be missed by his extended family, including his sister-in-law Dorothy Matysik (and Elbert Butcher); his nieces Sheri (and Doug Henrikson) and Tracie Matysik; his nephew Mike Matysik (and Anna); and his great nieces and nephews.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations be made to the Creative Retirement Institute or LATCH. For information about a memorial service to be scheduled, please contact

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in The Seattle Times on Dec. 31, 2017.
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9 entries
January 29, 2018
Anne Proctor
January 28, 2018
My Uncle John was my father's oldest brother. He encouraged my dad to move to Seattle in 1957 after my dad graduated from Notre Dame. I left the Seattle area in 1978 after I married. My father died in 1987. Uncle John took time to visit whenever he was in Texas. He took time to write to me at Christmas. I have letters and cards I have saved over the years. Especially meaningful one from 2001 where he states, "This holiday season once more finds us amid turmoil. It is a harsh reminder that the core of our being is really spiritual. At the apex of that core is the love of family and friends." I am going to miss his kind words and letters.
Nanette Broyles
January 17, 2018
I first met John Terrey at Bellevue High School as a student in his senior English class (1957-58). He was an excellent teacher and highly respected by his students. His enthusiasm for poetry, drama and reading was infectious. He challenged me to think and to read more broadly than I ever had before. He was definitely a favorite teacher.

It was about the time of my 50th high school reunion that our relationship transitioned from teacher/mentor to a student to a real friendship. We met for coffee, discussed books that we had read, shared vignettes of our life experiences. It was then that I met Liz and became friends with her as well. Most years since, Liz, John and I had lunch together (joined many times by others in the BHS class of '58). John and Liz always had good suggestions for books to read and plays to see.

John was a friend and mentor. He brought out the best in so many of us. His wisdom, sense of humor, and friendship will be deeply missed. My thoughts and prayers are with Liz and the entire family.
Margit Jackson
January 12, 2018
I met John when he was a Trustee at The Evergreen State College and I was the Board Secretary. He expanded my literature horizons and was the impetus behind a gift from the Board of tickets to Phantom of the Opera for my 50th birthday, a night I will never forget. It was a privilege to know John. My thoughts are with Liz and his family.
Rita Sevcik
January 10, 2018
John was one of my favorite people. Whenever you talked with him you always learned something. When ever he told a joke or a story, you were never sure what it was for sure until the punch line. He will be missed.
Ed Strozyk
January 8, 2018
Thank you for your service, Sir.
Jody Nardis
January 2, 2018
John was a much-loved "founding father" of the Creative Retirement Institute (CRI). We remember his warm smile and the twinkle in his eye for all of us who loved life-long learning. We thank both John and Liz for the good times they have shared with us at CRI.
Carol Crawford
January 1, 2018
A masterful teacher, creative thinker and caring mentor. Those of us who were fortunate enough to have Mr. Terrey as our teacher are, to this day, better for it. No one can leave a legacy better than that.
John Vincent
December 31, 2017
John was a widely admired teacher at Bellevue High School in the late 1950s and early 1960s. His enthusiasm for literature was contagious, and his active involvement in school life inspired many students beyond the classroom. He is always remembered at alumni events.
Jim Ladd
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