During the first incarnation of The Turner Report back in 2000, one of the hardest stories I ever had to write came after the death of Terry Shepherd, Carthage, who had been a friend since we were first graders today at Midway School, through our days at East Newton High School, Missouri Southern State College, and eventually as adults.
Terry was probably best known as the businessman who started Midamerica Hardwoods in Sarcoxie, and along with his wife, Rhonda, as the driving force behind the creation of the Christian Youth Center, The Powerhouse, in Carthage.
This was what I wrote five years ago:
The blue and white Pinto wasn't the most fearsome looking car cruising down the Neosho Boulevard that summer evening in 1972, but with Terry Shepherd behind the wheel, it became a combination Formula race car and Batmobile. One of the nice things about the Pinto was its maneuverability and Terry skillfully weaved it in and out of the two southbound lanes. The Pinto, carrying Terry and two other East Newton High School students, pulled up beside a carful of Neosho High School students. There were no markings on the car that said, "Hey, we're Neosho High School students," but you could always tell the ones from Neosho. They had that wild-eyed look. Or at least we thought so back then. It's amazing the barriers that 10 miles of geography can place between people.
Terry pulled into the left lane and drove up beside the Neosho car. Terry's friend, Chief Saddler, who was on the front passenger side, rolled down his window, just in time to hear a Neosho boy shout what seemed to be an impolite greeting. Chief's response was a little more impolite and the chase was on. Terry pulled ahead of the Neosho car, took a left, drove through a parking lot and headed north. He left the boulevard and there probably wasn't a street in Neosho that didn't see that blue and white Pinto that night. Finally, the car came to a one-way street. Unfortunately, the sign said, "One way, do not enter."
"Let's do it," Terry said and zipped down the one-way street going the wrong way. The Neosho car didn't follow.
He drove around town a while longer until once again he spotted that same Neosho car on his tail. The chase resumed and soon, once again, Terry came up to the one-way street. He looked at Chief. Chief looked at him. No words were spoken. Terry drove the wrong way one more time and once again the Neosho car passed up the chance to follow him.
It took a while, but the Neosho group spotted the blue and white Pinto (how could you miss it) and this time, those boys were out for blood. Terry decided to go to the well one more time and returned to the one-way street. There was no doubt about what he was going to do this time. He didn't even hesitate as he turned and drove the wrong way. Only this time, the Neosho car followed. As the Pinto emerged on the other side of the street, another car pulled into the path of the Neosho vehicle ending the chase as the pursuers were forced to pull off the road.
That memory of Terry Shepherd is as vivid to me today as it was 28 years ago when I was cowering in the back seat of that Pinto figuring that each time down that one-way street was going to be the last one. We took one lesson out of that evening...Those people from Neosho are crazy. Stay away from them.
Fortunately, Terry forgot that lesson and five years later, he married Rhonda Speak, a Neosho girl. And she didn't even have that wild-eyed look. The chase, Terry discovered, was much more rewarding when Neosho and East Newton were in the same vehicle heading in the same direction for eternity. The car chases were a distant memory when Terry married, but enjoying life was something he did from the day he was born until the accident that took his life Tuesday at Jolly Mill Park.The picture that accompanied his obituary in The Joplin Globe and The Carthage Press struck an instant chord with everyone who saw it. Terry was nearly always smiling and there was generally a hearty laugh just a few moments away when he was in a room.
In the short 44 years Terry had on this earth, he accomplished a great deal. Some of those accomplishments were listed in the obituary. He was the driving force behind Mid-America Hardwoods. He teamed with his wife to form the highly successful and much-needed Powerhouse Teen Center in Carthage. He spent a great deal of his summers for the past three decades coaching Little League baseball. He devoted his time to the things that meant the most to him, his family, his church and the young people of the community. The most endearing quality about Terry Shepherd was that he did all of these things, over and over again, without ever needing to be the center of attention. On the Halloween night a few years ago when the Powerhouse Teen Center opened, Terry stood proudly in the back of the auditorium as Rhonda welcomed the capacity crowd.
From Terry's standpoint, someone had to do the introduction, Rhonda had put in hour after hour of work to get the former theatre building ready for the grand opening...and besides, he would say with a laugh, everybody would rather look at her anyway. The Teen Center's success stands as a symbol of the commitment Terry and Rhonda Shepherd made to young people, a commitment also symbolized by their four children, Adrian, Aubree, Allee and Lucas. Terry was just six months away from becoming a grandfather.
The lines were long at Terry's visitation at Fairview Christian Church Thursday night. The memories were flowing as rapidly as the tears. "It's a shame he'll never see his grandchildren," one woman said quietly as she looked at Terry's pregnant daughter. Yes he will, ma'am. He certainly will.