In memoriam: Terry Newby, 1951-2010

I posted this obituary to my Facebook page the other day but neglected to put it here. My sympathies go to Albert and to Terry’s family and friends:

Terry Newby always had a smile on his face.

It should come as no surprise to those who knew him that the quote on his Facebook page is “To be lucky you must work at making opportunities.” Terry believed in making the best of life, and he worked hard at it.

“He always brought the positive side of life to every situation,” said Albert Ramirez-Newby, his partner of 9½ years. “He was so loving, and he was always in a great mood.”

A  teacher and actor who was long active in Orlando’s theater community, Terry died Monday June 28 of prostate cancer. He was 59.

Terry was born March 29, 1951 in Brazil, Indiana, outside Terre Haute, the son of Raymond and Minnie Newby and the younger brother of Harold and Jerry. Raymond Newby was a pastor in the Church of the Nazarene, and Terry described himself as the “son of a preacher man” who “grew up on the front seat of church.

“It helped to shape me into who I am, but it is rough getting there,” Terry said.

The family moved to Evansville, Indiana, where Terry attended his first two years of high school, and then to Fort Myers, where he was drum major and graduated from Cypress Lake High School in 1969. He received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of South Florida in Tampa in 1974 and – after moving to Orlando to be near his mother in her later years — earned a master’s in teaching at Rollins College in 1982.

As an educator, Terry began teaching elementary school. But in the late 1970s he moved to teaching adults for the Orange County Public Schools, at first at the Orange County Jail and, beginning in 1978, at the vocational school Mid-Florida Tech. There he taught employability skills until he retired in 2008 – only to continue until earlier this year because, as Albert says, “He was so popular!”

At the same time, he was working at Walt Disney World – as a Kid of the Kingdom, in America on Parade (1975-76), in the Hoop-De-Doo Revue and at the Top of the World supper club at the Contemporary Resort. After his mother died in 1998, he went back to Disney part-time as an attractions host in the Animal Kingdom.

And he did lots and lots of musical theater – at Civic Theatre of Central Florida, at the Osceola Center for the Arts, at the Mark Two Dinner Theater and at the Celebrity Dinner Theater, which was located in downtown Orlando’s old Beacham Theater in the mid-1980s.

He danced in such shows as La Cage aux Folles, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Blood Brothers, a musical he especially loved. In The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, he had to tap for the first time; friends who saw him remembered that, as Albert says, “You could just see the focus on his face.”

Terry was also a theater fan. He and Albert rarely missed a Fringe Festival, and he often worked as a volunteer or provided out-of-town performers with a home away from home. (Two former Fringe artists who stayed with them, from the cast of the 2007 show Six Characters: Best Show Ever, flew from New York recently to bid him farewell.)

He loved photographing plays, and his house was decorated with his pictures of shows he’d been in and trips he had taken. His friend Jennifer Bohn says, “I always thought Terry enjoyed photographing shows more than being in a show.”

Terry and Albert also never missed a performance of Disney’s Encore! Cast Choir, the volunteer group that raises money for various charities. For the past three years Terry sang with the choir at its summer concerts, and last July he was given a solo, “Tie a Yellow Ribbon.”

“He loved singing, and he loved giving back,” Albert says.

That need to give back, especially to his friends, was something those friends appreciated. Jennifer Bohn talks of being very ill when she gave birth to her daughter, and Terry showed up to keep her company and to keep her entertained.

“He sat with me for more than 6 hours – talking, telling stories, laughing, and assuring me that everything was going to be all right,” she says. “To this day, my daughter refers to Terry as her Uncle Terry.”

For 10 years, Terry was partner to actor Russ Oleson, who died in 1995 at the age of 35. In January 2001, Terry met Albert at Mannequins Dance Palace at Pleasure Island, where neither of them really intended to be.

Terry had planned to spend the evening with a friend who had backed out, so he had gone to Pleasure Island to catch a show at the Comedy Warehouse and to watch the Mannequins dancers. Albert had been at home in his pajamas when another friend persuaded him to go out to Pleasure Island, and he and Terry met on the dance floor.

They went on their first date, to EPCOT, the following weekend and have been together ever since. The two were married in a commitment ceremony Oct. 25, 2003.

In March 2009, Terry found out he had an aggressive form of prostate cancer.

“We went ahead and started the treatments,” Albert says. “They were difficult, but it never sapped his personality. He always spun it in a positive way.”

Three weeks ago, the two found out the treatments hadn’t worked. Terry spent some time at home in Winter Park with hospice care but died Monday afternoon at the Hospice of the Comforter in Altamonte Springs.

“I never left his side,” Albert says. “Terry was the most loving, kindest, happiest, most joyful and adventurous person I have ever known. My heart is shattered, but I smile through my tears remembering all the great times we had together, here at home and gallivanting around the globe.”

Besides his husband Albert, Terry is survived by his brothers, Jerry and Harold; by his animals, Gaytor, Blue, Collins and Angel (the last two named for characters in Rent), and by many friends.

A celebration of Terry’s life will be Saturday July 17 at Disney’s BoardWalk Resort. The time will be to be determined. Here’s a link to the Facebook event.

In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to Terry’s favorite organizations, the Encore! Cast Choir or Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival.

2 responses to “In memoriam: Terry Newby, 1951-2010

  1. Bob Galano

    Your reference to Albert as Terry’s husband (rather than his partner, which you used higher up in your post) is very advanced and very cool.

  2. Grant Gribble

    I was very saddened to hear of Terry’s death. I have known Terry for over 30 years, dating back to dance classes at the School of Performing Arts. He was such a kind man, and will be missed terribly. My thoughts are with his family and his partner.

    Grant Gribble