Brian O’Neil Terry surprised us all with his unexpected death on July 16, 2020; he died of natural causes in his home. Up until hours before his death, he continued to joke with his many Lake Geneva friends and make their lives a little better.
Born in Skokie, Illinois on December 2, 1956 to the late Mary Louise Terry and Robert J. Terry, Sr., Brian was the youngest of 5 children. Being the youngest shaped Brian’s formative years and contributed to his great capacity for acceptance and forgiveness. He put up with 4 other siblings that ordered him around from day one. The biggest boss was Mark R. Terry, formerly of Rockford, Il, now in Phoenix; next biggest boss was Patrick K. Terry of Whitewater, WI; emotional big boss was Joan M. Terry of Shelburne Falls, MA; and striving to be boss —Robert J. Terry Jr. of Phoenix (deceased). Brian was also the grandson of William O’Neil of W.E. O’Neil Construction Company (Chicago)—father of Mary Louise Terry (also known as “Billie”). Brian was single, no children; he is also survived by nieces and nephews: Jennifer Goldberg, Carin Mahkovtz, Stephanie Terry, Ian Manning, Robert Terry Jr., Christopher Terry, and Lindsay Terry. He graduated from Badger High School, Lake Geneva and attended University of Wisconsin, Whitewater. He worked in the food industry for the major portion of his life in the Lake Geneva area as well as Chicago and Key West, Florida. Brian was also known for his participation in many Lake Geneva fundraisers and charity events and was a resident of Lake Geneva for over 40 years.
Brian’s interest in gardening began at the age of five. He would sit in the sun, and water the hair on his arms, hoping it would grow. Little did we know that this budding gardener would later use this talent to help others design, plant and care for their gardens—starting with his mom. Even of late, when he was hobbling around with arthritis in his knees, he was digging/planting, generally helping out, in the yards of friends.
Brian “came out” as a gay man in his late twenties; no easy task to communicate this to his family, especially in an “authoritarian” household. Challenges that he faced related to his orientation—not so much in his family where he was loved, but rather occasionally during his adult life—these challenges contributed to his own understanding, acceptance and love of the differences and diversity that he’d find in those around him and the world at-large. He believed the world needs all of these differences to be whole.
Brian’s greatest legacy is the gift of friendship, love, humor and truth. He came from a family of truthsayers, and in this respect he was one of the best. He told a good story and was very quick to laugh at himself. When there was disagreement about a particular point of view, he was ready and willing to promote a healthy discussion. He was a great cook, and time spent with Brian in the kitchen was often filled with hilarious laughter. Brian will be so missed by many, many people.
In respect for social distancing guidelines, there will be no service for Brian at this time.
The family will be celebrating his life in private. We encourage his friends and others who loved him to celebrate his life—keeping safety in mind.
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Derrick Funeral Home is honored to be assisting the Terry family.
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