Many of the Cleary family highlights coincide with time spent with the Gillett’s and I have many, many fond memories of Terry; like him talking to the emergency dispatch while the Humpy medics attended to Dave the Kitesurfer (known by a different nickname with more alliteration). I have this vivid image of him pacing the beach at Humpy in a full wetsuit, satellite phone to his ear, talking to the chopper dispatch with the same matter-of-fact, understated, wry demeanor that he would employ to tell Dad about how Coochie locals are great at finding obscure tax loopholes.
I am grateful to have been a fly-on-the-wall for sides of Terry beyond what I think of as the quintessential Terry Gillett:
-on an island
-wide brimmed hat
-a long sleeve shirt (a rashie (2000’s) or a retired work shirt (1990’s))
-that hot time of the day after lunch when most people are being lazy
I am grateful that I was able to attend the anniversary party on Coochie in 2009 and hear some of the origin stories of Margaret and Terry. It was a beautiful insight into what was otherwise the sepia-toned backdrop to the the very immediate and present Gillett clan.
I am grateful that Erika and I were able to spend time with Terry in 2019 and witness his bond with Lilah and how much he relished the grandparent gig. Grateful that we were able to spend more time with him again this past Christmas and witness how, even with fatigue an obstacle, he thrived amongst the full-fledged brood that is the third generation (that didn’t even include Maggie at the time).
Peter Cleary was an excellent judge of character and he adored Terry. He loved being his lieutenant on “Humpy Day Zero” when Terry would see the vision and then realize the vision of the shelter for the fortnight. Dad loved tapping into Terry’s capacity to appreciate both the natural and the man-made world with a quiet intensity; no Cleary will ever make a medium-sized purchase again with the same confidence they did when an email chain with Terry preceded it.
I only ever saw Terry lose his cool once: when Rosie brought a captured Peacock chick into the house at Coochie. Years later I learned there was maybe some irony to this incidence given that it was possibly reminiscent of behavior Terry himself had exhibited when he was a boy in PNG but that is perhaps pure conjecture on the part of Heather and Rosie about what Terry and his brothers got up to in the PNG days.
I will always feel somewhat morally compromised getting petrol at a BP.
I will always feel somewhat morally compromised renting or purchasing a car that isn’t plain white.
As someone new to the parenting gig, I find myself taking many leaves from the Terry Gillett book of parenting, especially when it comes to elaborate, “core memories” fun. As a teenager it was completely lost on me, but now I appreciate and try to emulate how he was always in the background packing, prepping, fixing, maintaining and marshaling so that the fun and the adventure could transpire seamlessly. He and Margaret were extraordinarily generous; always filling the last vacancy in the truck or the boat or at the table to ensure that kids that weren’t even their daughters got to participate.
He was a gentleman and a wonderful human being. He leaves an enormous absence but a beautiful legacy.