News Articles

Eleanor Terry dies of injuries from South Africa auto accident

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP)–Eleanor Foster Terry, 55, wife of The Alabama Baptist editor Bob Terry, died Monday evening, July 20, at University Hospital (UAB) in Birmingham after returning July 19 via medical transport from Durban, South Africa.
The Terrys sustained severe injuries in a car accident July 11 in Durban, where they were attending a meeting of the Baptist World Alliance General Council. They were flown to Alabama aboard MedJet International, which departed Durban on July 18 after having been dispatched from Birmingham three days earlier.
Terry, 55, is listed in satisfactory condition after suffering severe facial injuries, including fractures to his nose and face, a shift in his jaw and injuries to his mouth and teeth.
Both Terrys had been alert following the accident, and their injuries were not considered life-threatening. Several bones in Eleanor Terry’s face and head were broken. She underwent surgery July 11 to repair broken bones in her face but slipped into an agitated and confused state July 13. Later the same day, her heart stopped but she was resuscitated and placed on life support.
The children — Brent Terry of Atlanta and Jean Terry Cullen of Vincent, Ala. — flew to South Africa July 14 after their mother’s situation worsened; she slipped into a coma July 15. While in South Africa, Bob Terry also had surgery for a fractured nose and other facial injuries.
Doctors at St. Augustine Hospital in Durban had reported a blood clot caused Eleanor Terry’s complication. UAB surgeons have not confirmed the cause.
Bill Holdefer, medical services director for MedJet International, was in constant contact with physicians aboard the medical plane during the 30-hour trip home. Early reports from the plane had miscommunicated to the United States that Eleanor Terry had died aboard the jet. Holdefer confirmed July 18 doctors had been able to resuscitate her and bring her home alive.
The car accident occurred when an oncoming car ran a red light and slammed into the Terrys’ taxi just three blocks from their hotel, reported Dennis Jones, a Southern Baptist missionary stationed in South Africa. Jones said both Terrys were thrown from the car.
Despite the tragedy, Jean Cullen said her father and the entire Terry family continued to see God’s faithfulness through Baptists in Alabama and around the world.
“We have been uplifted by the support and concern expressed by fellow believers,” said Cullen, whose husband, Lon, is pastor of First Baptist Church in Vincent. “My mom stood for the best and brightest of what a Christian woman should be, and we hope to continue her legacy in our lives.”
The funeral is scheduled for 3 p.m. Friday, July 24, at Dawson Memorial Baptist Church in Birmingham, followed by burial at Southern Heritage Cemetery. Visitation will be Thursday evening, July 23, at Ridout’s Valley Chapel, Homewood, Ala.
Memorial gifts in honor of Eleanor Terry to support studies in Christian women’s leadership may be sent to The Alabama Baptist at 3310 Independence Dr., Birmingham, AL 35209.
Aboard the medical jet, Terry wrote of his wife as he monitored her condition: “You can imagine the darkness when the love and joy of your heart seems to be dying. … God promised that when we are weak, he will make us strong. We are clinging to that promise.”
Mike McLemore, chairman of the board of directors for The Alabama Baptist and pastor of Lakeside Baptist Church in Birmingham, was saddened to hear the news of Eleanor Terry’s death.
“Eleanor Terry was a gracious lady to all of us at The Alabama Baptist and to our entire Baptist family around the world,” McLemore said. “We extend our deepest sympathy to Dr. Bob Terry, their children and all members of the family. We will truly miss her.”
Born in Copiah County, Miss., in 1942, Terry graduated in 1960 from Cooper High School in Vicksburg. She earned her bachelor of arts and master of arts degrees from Mississippi College at Clinton, in 1964 and 1965, respectively, and her doctor of philosophy degree in higher and adult education administration in 1989 from the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Her career included numerous academic posts, including her most recent position at Birmingham Southern College, where she served as associate dean of graduate studies and assistant professor of administration and management. She had recently resigned to devote more time to travel with her husband and to spend time with her grandchild.
The Terrys moved to Alabama from Missouri in 1995 after he was elected editor of The Alabama Baptist.
Prior to their move, Terry had been editor of Word & Way, the Missouri Baptist newspaper, for 20 years. Eleanor Terry was senior associate dean of student affairs at William Jewell College in Liberty, Mo., where she had also worked as associate dean of students, assistant dean of students, director of the freshman year experience and adjunct professor.
Eleanor Terry also had served as adjunct professor at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Kansas City, Mo.; speech teacher at Sullivan Business College in Louisville, Ky.; and public school teacher of English and related subjects in Jefferson City, Mo., Louisville, Ky., and Jackson, Miss.
Eleanor Terry was listed in “Who’s Who in Education,” “Who’s Who in the Midwest,” “Who’s Who of American Women” and “Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities.” In 1985, she received the Outstanding Educator Award from Jefferson City (Mo.) Public Schools.
In addition to her husband and children, Terry is survived by her mother, Catherine Foster of Vicksburg; two sisters, Cathy Wilkerson, also of Vicksburg, and Anne Tanner of Lucedale, Miss.; and a brother, Jim Foster of Memphis, Tenn.
Jeffrey Tolbert, chief executive officer of MedJet International and a deacon at Mountain Brook Baptist Church, Birmingham, furnished his MetJet plane for the trip to South Africa at cost, which was approximately $100,000.
The board of directors of The Alabama Baptist took action to provide internal undesignated funds to pay for the flight.
In response to numerous inquiries, the board also established an account where donations may be sent to defray expenses resulting from the accident.
People wishing to donate may make checks payable to: “The Terry Medical Fund,” 3310 Independence Drive, Birmingham, AL 35209.

Keith Hinson contributed to this story.

    About the Author

  • Laurie A. Lattimore