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Beloved HSU Library Assistant, Abilene Media Member and Community Volunteer Succumbs to Cancer

A sign on the front desk in the Hardin-Simmons University library commemorates the positive attitude of one of HSU most beloved staff members.
A sign on the front desk in the Hardin-Simmons University library commemorates the positive attitude of one of HSU most beloved staff members. The words, “We love you Terry!” and “Let it Snow,” is paired with the forever-smiling face of Terry Minami.

Minami died just after midnight this past Saturday at a hospice in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Her daughter, Amy Fuqua, was at her side. For the last year and a half, Minami had undergone treatment for pancreatic cancer, periodically returning to her job as administrative assistant to the dean of university libraries – a job she held at HSU for just over 18 years.
Leta Tillman, associate professor and education loan librarian, who worked with Terry for 12 of those years, happens to be sitting at the desk and is more than happy to explain the meaning of the words “Let it snow.” “Terry loved snow, she had paper snowflakes all over those windows,” she says pointing to the glassed in office space were Terry worked. “About this time every year, Terry would set up a snowman just inside of that window,” says Tillman, motioning at a corner of the office. “We already really miss her.”

Loving snow in Texas, and wishing for it, is demonstrative of Minami’s eternal optimism. Just ask anyone who knew Terry and they will tell you that she was always happy, always smiling.

Alice Specht, dean of HSU libraries and Terry’s boss for 18 years, says Terry was everyone’s friend. She was universally liked because she universally liked everyone. “When she met someone, she’d ask about their life and their kids. She knew virtually everyone who worked on campus. She knew names and often would even know the names of their children and their spouse.”

Terry’s involvement on campus started immediately after joining the HSU community. “She would do Sunday meals for students. She cooked brisket and any student who wanted to go was invited,” says Specht. “Even after graduation, students would often come back and go to Terry’s house for Sunday dinner.”

Terry was always volunteering. Specht says, “She was involved with the UIL tournaments on the HSU campus and would often act as a judge. She would do work for the Boy Scouts, and she would drive to Winters and Aspermont and places all around to do origami sessions. She would go to HSU education classes and fold geometric figures for our education students that they could use in classrooms to teach math.”

Terry was often called on to demonstrate her uncanny ability to create objects from the simple folding of paper. She made thousands of origami pieces for family and friends through the years and volunteered countless hours in the community and region, teaching origami to others at her own expense.

As a member of Origami USA, she helped to decorate Christmas trees in the American Museum of Natural History’s lobby in New York City. After 9/11, she was asked to fold origami cranes for the tree. She wrote ‘Hardin-Simmons University’ on the underside of one wing and ‘Abilene, Texas’ on the other.

Minami also conducted an annual two-day origami workshop for elementary teachers at Region 14 Service Center and traveled to elementary schools across the Big Country area to teach students her craft. She taught classes for the branches of the Abilene Public Library and often demonstrated origami during Abilene Art Walk.

She taught origami for the Center for Contemporary Arts, the Grace Museum, and the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature. Each May, Minami drove to Sweetwater, Texas, to teach paper airplane folding at the Women’s Air Service Pilots reunion and homecoming.

At Hardin-Simmons, she worked with Dr. Renee Collins in the Irvin School of Education to teach college students how to use origami in their classrooms once they became teachers and would tell HSU students she would be glad to visit their classrooms when they did their student teaching.

Minami also served as the sponsor for the International Student Fellowship at HSU; was the sponsor for the Hardin-Simmons University chapter of Alpha Phi Omega, a national service organization; and was the sponsor for the student newspaper, The Brand.

Under her leadership, in February 2012, student members in Alpha Phi Omega came up with the idea to ask HSU students to promise not to text and drive and to sign a pledge confirming their commitment.

As HSU students get ready to leave campus each year for spring break and summer break, Terry would help club members organize a car check to make sure students arrived home safely. Gary’s Automotive would be on hand in the parking lot across the street from Nix Residence Hall to check air pressure in tires, wiper fluid, water in radiators, and oil levels for students during the free event.

Minami was honored for her many years of Christian Service with the Altom Christian Service Award for Outstanding and Exemplary Christian Service during the April 5, 2011, chapel service at HSU.

The award was established by HSU in 2000 in recognition of the outstanding and exemplary Christian service of HSU alumni Bill and Janis Altom. Minami was the first to receive the award since it was established and presented the first time to the Altoms.

Before coming to HSU, Terry was a member of the Abilene news media and was a freelance writer for the Dallas Morning News. Minami started her career at the Abilene Reporter-News as the obituary writer. Later, her duties at the newspaper included writing the Action Line column, which offered readers help with consumer problems.

Minami worked as the assignment editor at KRBC TV (NBC affiliate in Abilene, Texas) for three years before returning to the newspaper for a brief period prior to coming to HSU.

In September 2013, the Terry Minami Endowed Scholarship was established to honor Terry for a lifetime of devotion to making the world a better place. From the time Terry joined the HSU library staff in 1995 until she was too weak physically, Terry continued to open her home weekly to students for a meal and opened her heart to everyone she met. Ask anyone who knew her and they will tell you, “Terry was an encourager to students, to HSU faculty and staff, and to her many friends.”

Specht says, “This has been a sad day in this office,” as students have come back to campus and learned of her death over the weekend. “We’ve had a lot of students come in to ask about her and want to talk about her.”

A native Wisconsinite, Minami continued to embraced her roots and occasionally would display her cheesehead hat as a point of pride. It is little wonder she would call for snow while living in a part of the country that rarely sees snow. Even after Minami was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in April 2012, Minami’s positive attitude never wavered – a positive attitude that even hoped for snow in Abilene, Texas.

Minami is survived by her two grown children, Sean Fuqua and Amy Fuqua; her mother, Ruth Minami, of Milwaukee; and her brother Robert Minami. Funeral services are pending. Terry was 61.

If you would like to honor Terry’s memory by making a gift to the scholarship that bears her name, click here.

Some of Terry’s favorite sayings:

“Be prepared for everything because you never know when an opportunity will arise! So just do your best and God will do the rest.”

“I figured God gives us all a gift; we just have to open it to see what it is and then use it.”

Arrangements:

An informal memorial service for Terry is being planned for friends and relatives of Terry’s in Milwaukee. Terry’s ashes will be committed at Wisconsin Memorial Cemetery. A specific date and time has not been set. The family is using Krause Funeral Home (9000 W. Capitol, Milwaukee, Wisconsin).

A memorial service for Terry’s Abilene community is being planned for after the first of the year (2014).
Janlyn Thaxton

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