Mrs. Helen Maria Brown Terry was born in Mannboro, Virginia on October 13, 1933, and was the daughter of the late Deacon George Lee and Deaconess Lou Giles Brown. She departed this life on Monday, June 27, 2022.
Helen loved the Lord and gave her life to Christ at an early age. She was a member of Branches Runn Baptist Church in Amelia, Virginia during her youth before leaving home for college. During her travels all over the world as the dutiful wife of an active-duty offcer of the United States Air Force, she joined and remained active in the church no matter where her family was stationed. In addition to attending Saint Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church in Delray Beach, Florida during some of her latter years, she has been a member of Wayside Chapel Baptist Church in Florence, South Carolina for the past 40-plus years. At Wayside Chapel Baptist Church, she served on the Willing Workers Ministry, Women’s Missionary, Friends and Family Committee, and the Visitation Committee. Helen always studied the Bible and had a habit of challenging others with provoking questions to stimulate intellectual Bible study discussions; she strongly encouraged individuals to study, own the Word, and gain understanding for themselves. She had strong faith, put God first in all of her decisions and strongly encouraged others to do the same. She was a prayerful woman at all times and worked hard to instill this practice in her children and others. She ensured her children knew the Lord, His sovereignty and the power of faith and prayer.
Helen graduated from Russell Grove High School in Mannboro, Virginia. Afer graduating from high school at the early age of 16, she left home to attend Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama. She was the first of her siblings to leave home to attend college. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Home Economics from Tuskegee Institute. She earned her Master of Science degree in Counseling from the University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio. She was the consummate educator always working to encourage youngsters and others to believe in themselves and continue learning every day. She promoted education heavily and served as the Chairperson of the Education Committee for the Giles Family Scholarship Fund that awarded scholarship monies to extended family members that continued their education post-high school.
Though she was small in stature, Helen was “mighty” in spirit! She was an activist in all of her young adult and adult years and believed in fighting for underserved populations, those who were discriminated against, and individuals who were unable to advocate for themselves, including young children. Her activism and advocacy were shown in her employment and civic duties. She worked in the library at Tuskegee Institute. She and her soulmate for life, Amos Terry, Jr., challenged the Jim Crow Laws and participated in many activities to challenge discrimination practices. They oftentimes put themselves in potentially harmful situations during their fights for justice, but did not waiver in their dedication. Helen continued her fights for justice even into her later years, including marching at the South Carolina state capital in her late 70’s.
In terms of employment, Helen worked as a Home Agent in Virginia aer graduation from college. She later worked as an Adoption Home Finder for children in South Carolina, where she found permanent homes for children in need. This job required her to have the fortitude to go into underserved communities to help families navigate the adoption process. She worked as a substitute teacher in the Dayton Public School District. She taught Home Economics at Southside Middle School for two years before being employed for twenty years as an elementary school Counselor for Greenwood Elementary School with Florence School District One in Florence, South Carolina. Teachers and administrators at Greenwood Elementary School very actively referred children with emotional/behavioral diffculties to “go talk to Mrs. Terry in her offce.” Teachers and administrators were often “amazed” at how adept she was at being able to de-escalate students who were agitated and also help children work with their emotions in ways that enabled them to be more successful in their academic endeavors. Helen actively fought for children to get their individually specified learning needs met within the educational system so they would have the necessary supports and ability to work to their best potential. She fought for children and their educational needs/rights at the national, state, city and school district levels, and made impacts on education policies and protocols at each of these levels. She was so well respected as an educator that after she retired from Greenwood Elementary School, the school district asked her to come back and work, which she did for another 2 years. She also taught literacy skills to adults.
Helen was a member of several organizations and held an ocer position in many of them. She was a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated, where she served as Chapter Treasurer. She was a faithful member, attending regional meetings, state meetings, and the national Boulé. She was co-founder of the Epsilon Chi Zeta Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated Stork’s Nest program. This program provided clothing assistance and education to unwed mothers and their children. THe Epsilon Chi Zeta Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated Stork’s Nest program was the first in the state of South Carolina and was used as the model for other chapters to develop their own program. Helen was active with the Archonettes and the Relay for Life March for Babies. She was also the chapter liaison to the March of Dimes. Helen was a member of the National Education Association, the South Carolina Education Association, the Retired Teachers Association, the American Legion Women’s Auxiliary, the General Federation of Women’s Clubs and the National Council of Negro Women, Incorporated. The National Council of Negro Women, Incorporated (NCNW) founded in 1935 by Mary McLeod Bethune, honored her with the “Living Legend Award” For Service to Humanity, in 2013.
In addition to caring for her family and engaging in work, advocacy and church activities, Helen engaged in several hobbies and interests. Helen was an avid bowler and often bowled in two leagues weekly, year-round. She won numerous gold and silver medals via competing in the Senior Olympics in various cities across the United States. She also bowled with professional bowlers in Las Vegas, Nevada! Helen engaged in additional fitness activities on a regular basis, including working out at the fitness center, walking daily in her neighborhood, doing Yoga and doing Tai Chi. In addition to her strong intellectual and athletic skills, Helen was extremely creative. She was a very good seamstress and sewed outfits for herself and her children. She even sewed her own wedding gown! She also did crochet, knitting, cross-stitching and needlepoint. Helen loved gardening and often received compliments regarding her colorful and blooming gardens. Helen was a creative writer of poetry and children’s stories. She actually had one of her children’s stories published! Everyone who knows Helen knows about her love for traveling and her zest for sharing pictures and stories from all of her travels! She continued traveling into her 80’s and her trips included Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Egypt, Ghana and Morocco. After the age of 80 some of her youthful “spirited” activities included being a volunteer greeter for the West Palm Beach, Florida Public library System, intiating a hot air balloon, holding an 18-ft python snake, sitting in a Lamborghini, sitting in the flight deck of a C-141 jet aircraft, and swinging a polo mallet while attending polo matches.
Mrs. Helen Maria Brown Terry was preceded in death by her loving and devoted husband of 52 years, Major Amos Terry, Jr., USAF Retired; three sisters, Sallie W. Berry; Lula M. White, and Rebecca F. Johnson; six brothers, Richard L. Brown, George E. Brown, James E. Brown; Bernard E. Brown, Solomon S. Brown and William M. Brown; and three additional siblings who preceded her in death during their infancy.
Mrs. Helen Maria Brown Terry leaves to cherish her precious memories and continue sharing her legacy with the world: three children, Lieutenant Colonel. Kenneth P. Terry , USAF Retired (Jacqueline) of Arlington, Texas, Dr. Karen M. Terry, currently residing in Darlington, South Carolina, and Keith B. Terry of Palm Beach, Florida; one granddaughter, Ariana G. Main (Noah) of Frisco, Texas; two great grandsons, Thunder Main and Legion Main; one sister, Barbara Love of Amelia, Virginia; one brother, Reverend Waverley Brown, Sr. (Ann) of Chase City, Virginia; two sisters-in-law, Martha Ann Brown of Dinwiddie, Virginia and Frances Brown of Amelia, Virginia; along with a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, other close relatives and extended family, friends of her children that she “adopted” as her children, sorority sisters, and friends.
Please keep the family of Helen Maria Brown Terry in your thoughts and prayers.