Terry Harper declared on his blog that he was a “loving husband, devoted father of two, association executive, Oklahoma State Cowboy, raconteur.”
And “the owner of a recurrent, malignant glioma.”
For nearly two years, Terry had regaled the blogoshere with his fight to overcome the brain tumor that would eventually take his life on June 2, 2009. “Regale” seems like a strange term when talking about brain cancer, but if you knew Terry, you know that regale is exactly what he did.
“Thumping My Melon” is the title Terry gave to his blog. He shared stories of diagnoses, treatments, family trips, work, ongoing bets about Oklahoma State vs. Mizzou sporting events, etc. All the things that were going on in the melon of a mid-40’s man fighting for more time with his wife, his sons, his extended family, his colleagues.
We knew Terry from his work in a national capacity at Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity, first meeting him in Columbia when he visited our chapter as a traveling Educational Leadership Consultant. He continued on to hold many staff leadership positions at Phi Psi, and our paths crossed again in Columbia, New Orleans, Indianapolis a few times and, most recently, Pittsburgh a few years back. From 1990-1999 he served as the Executive Director of Phi Psi, and we knew him to be a strong leader, a good story teller, the life of the party.
Terry went on to serve the past seven years as the Executive Director of the Society of Professional Journalists. It’s clear from their website that Terry left his mark there as well.
So to know Terry is to know the spirit in which he titled and wrote his blog. He said the cancer wasn’t a gift nor was he on some kind journey. “It just was,” he wrote. Then, towards the end, his wife posted, “You should know that, months ago, Terry wrote the last entry for this blog and saved it on this computer. I’ve never peeked at it, nor will I. But, when the time comes, that will be the next entry you read here–from the Melonthumper, himself.”
Shortly thereafter came one last post: The Final Thump. “So this is it. I have shuffled loose the mortal coil. My soul has been hurled into the great void. I am taking the proverbial dirt nap. I bought the farm. I kicked the bucket. I have checked out …” And so it went. The post made the front page of AOL, and it generated around 300 comments from family, friends and total strangers.
How fitting it is that, posthumously, we read the words that were quintessential Terry.