The Park City lifestyle fits Tom Terry to a ‘T’
Tom Terry takes his job as Park City’s official traffic commander very seriously. His familiar on-air plea, "try to remember folks, keep at least one hand on the wheel at all times," is heartfelt. It has lodged in the town’s lexicon in the short year he’s been on the air. "I don’t say it as much anymore, but that’s what people remember," says Terry. A Park City-area resident since 1994, 56-year-old Terry describes himself simply as "reflective." "My radio personality is really an alter-ego I discovered many years ago as a radio talk show host in Kona, Hawaii. That guy is outgoing, fun-loving, excited and almost always in an up mood," explains Terry.
Terry was born in Columbus, Ohio and grew up in nearby Reynoldsburg. He graduated from Reynoldsburg High School where, as a senior, he was student council president. He went on to attend Ohio State University.
While at Ohio State, 19-year-old Terry assisted in an outdoor education project for fifth- and sixth-graders at a YMCA camp. "That summer there was a flash flood," Terry recalls with a lowering voice. He tells the story reluctantly because it took him a long time to get over what happened next. "It was like a noise went off in my head and I knew something was wrong. Some of the kids were trapped by the flood when the bridge they were crossing collapsed. They were clinging to tree limbs with the water rising around them. A buddy and I swam out and coaxed them out of the tree to the safety of a nearby island," says Terry.
The two young men saved 28 children. One child was lost. Terry and his friend each received the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Heroism for their rescue effort. It’s a prestigious award given to U.S. citizens who exhibit extraordinary acts of heroism.
During the Vietnam War, Terry joined the Navy Reserves. "I didn’t want to go to Vietnam," he admits, "but I just couldn’t bring myself to run away to Canada. So I stayed and served." He was stationed at Key West, Fla., where he became a radio operator and worked part-time as a bartender in the Officer’s Club.
When he got out of the Navy, Terry developed a severe case of wanderlust. "Things just came along new opportunities, new things to learn," he explains. "After I left the rolling hills of Ohio, I realized it was a big world. I knew how to tend bar, so I figured I could get a job anywhere. I loved the ocean, so I headed back to Key West."
He lived there when the town was still a sleepy beach community. "I was in Key West when cut-offs, slippers and a T-shirt would get you into almost any restaurant, including the Chart House."
From Florida, Terry drifted west via New Orleans, eventually landing in Kona, Hawaii in 1972.
"I got there before the first traffic light went in," recalls Terry. "The day I arrived I rented a house on the beach. I just sat there for hours and watched the dolphins and whales and the sunset over the Pacific. It really was paradise."
During his 11 years in Hawaii, Terry held a diversity of jobs, including hotel management and advertising sales. "I had six years of college and no degree, but I was versatile," Terry chuckles.
It was in Kona that Terry launched his radio career. "I wanted to try something new so I used my G.I. bill money to sign up with the Columbia School of Broadcasting. "You too can become a radio and television announcer in the comfort and privacy of your own home," Terry bellows in his best broadcasting voice. He got a part-time job as a DJ in Kona and for several years was the local announcer for Hawaii’s annual Ironman Triathlon.
Love struck in 1982 when Terry met his wife, Donna, at a party. They dated for several months before she told him she was moving to Utah. Terry remembers her parting words: "You’re a nice guy and all but I’ve got three kids and I need to get them a decent education, so I’ve moving to Utah."
Within a few weeks he bid "aloha" to Hawaii and followed Donna to Utah. They were married in 1985 and set up housekeeping in Holladay in the Salt Lake valley.
When the nest was empty, the two moved into a small home in Pinebrook in 1994. Terry found work as a loan officer with Mountain Express Mortgage. He also began working with his stepdaughter and husband, who own Tommy Knockers in town.
In 1999, Terry and his wife built a home in Pinebrook and settled in for the duration. The Park City lifestyle suits Terry to a "T." He’s found a comfortable balance between work, service and home life. "I’m very passionate about customer service in my jobs," he emphasizes. "I believe that people need honest answers and good advice about real estate issues and the best ways to invest."
While Terry admits there’s a part of him that thrives on being in the public eye, he says he has no desire to be the center of attention at home. "I’ve got my wife and my grandchildren and my pets," and that’s plenty for me."
He enjoys doing home improvement projects, landscaping and gardening. "I love to do crossword puzzles in ink and read spy novels," he adds.
While Terry won’t confess to any real pet peeve about Park City, he does feel strongly that Main Street should be closed to auto traffic. "It should be pedestrian-friendly, the kind of street that welcomes people and makes them smile," says Terry. "I used to be up there seven days a week. It’s a special place and can continue to be, but only if it’s welcoming and fun."
Traffic Commander Terry vows to continue reporting for as long as the local radio station wants him. "It’s a great job," he glows. "If I can make somebody’s day a little better by keeping them out of a traffic jam I’m happy. All you’ve got to do is get up, grab a smile and give it your best shot."
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Park City Fire District Chief Paul Hewitt died Friday from injuries sustained in an off-duty accident earlier in the week, the agency announced.