-GAINS & GLEANINGS-
By J. Hogan
I was in Kentucky when I got the word. My lifelong friend Terry was gone. Details were few, but I assumed it was likely a gran mal seizure that took him… I'd seen Terry seize enough to know how severe they could be.
Sitting in a hotel room with my wife and two of our kids sleeping nearby, I tried to mourn quietly and keep my tears to myself. I decided that the kids would find out soon enough, but I wanted them to enjoy their little getaway so I'd not loop them in just yet. Tomorrow was soon enough.
That didn't work. They got texts letting them know shortly after I'd decided to sit on the news.
Of course they did. Terry was always at our door, our neighbor from a few doors down.
He was also an icon… a legend of sorts for his deep green and white Sto-Rox fandom. Known by name by the Rooneys, who also mourn his passing after years of Terry volunteering with the Steelers.
Terry was deprived of oxygen when his mother Josephine gave birth to him, and suffered intellectual challenges and physical limitations due to the seizures that plagued his whole life.
He wasn't allowed to drive, so he made sure his bicycles were alway decked out and in good running order with help from the Schwinn shop in Coraopolis, and he rode those bikes everywhere.
Winter snow, slick roads and a Vikings basketball game at Avonworth? There was Terry, his tires lit up neon and his oversized Sto-Rox parka pedaling across the bridge, making his way to the game.
Terry wasn't on social media, but he was all over it. There are Terry Stubbs memes, "Where's Terry?" photos, and an entire microcosm of local mourning as word spread of his passing.
Nearly 20 years ago Terry had a conversation with my mom, Fran Hogan, asking after me while I was still in California. Told that I was pastoring in San Diego, he said "Tell him he should come here and make a church."
My mother didn't know at the time I was wrestling with a nudge from God to do just that. When she told me a day later that Terry'd been asking about me, I heard a lot more than my old friend's comment in what he'd said.
A year and a half later my family left a realtor's office in Dormont with the keys to our new home in the Rocks. When we pulled into the driveway, Terry was sitting on the step.
"What are you doing here, Terry?" I asked.
"Waiting for you James Hogan."
To this day I have no idea how he knew we were coming that day.
I look forward to seeing Terry again one day in Heaven. To see him not hindered by the brain injury he spent this whole life overcoming, to see him standing in the presence of the Lord he told me he loved over and over and over again through the years.
I never did know exactly what Terry held onto in that head of his, what information he stored or what calculations he was capable of.
No, Terry, for me, was mostly known by what seemed to be on his heart more than his mind.
His love of the Steelers and his thick photo albums of pictures of him with Bradshaw, Cowher, Big Ben et al.
His love of my dad, Ed, and the stories he'd tell me of him from their days together at Focus on Renewal.
His love of Father Ryan, and their decades long friendship. And, of course, his love of Jesus.
Terry had his own church home at Second Baptist, and he loved those folks. At Faithbridge, we were blessed to have him at cookouts and events, and for a while during the pandemic, he was with us waiting for his own church to reopen.
Terry, the neighborhood just isn't the same without you… but we rest assured that you're in better company these days.
Sing loud, Terry, and smile that big ol' smile of yours.
Rev. James Hogan is a native of Stowe Township and serves as pastor of Faithbridge Community Church in McKees Rocks.