Joe Terry sits at the window at the front of the Supreme Bean fully immersed in a book. His light blue eyes stare intently through silver rimmed glasses at the print. Customers come and go, but Terry shows no signs that he notices their presence. In front of him are large headphones that rest on top of a brown package. A woman in her thirties walks in as she rummages around in a brown purse; Terry continues reading.
The Supreme Bean is fairly quiet on this Wednesday afternoon. The patrons are mostly older men and women in their 60’s and 70’s who read newspapers and sip quietly on coffee and tea.
Terry frequents this coffee shop to read, as well as other places in Eugene. He has lived in Eugene for over 20 years, but spent a large portion of his childhood in Midland Texas. Terry’s father was an officer in the air force at the end of WWII and him and his family stayed in Midland until the end of the Korean War. Sometimes Terry’s father would take him flying with him.
“We had picked up a lunch. We were cruising at a good altitude. All of a sudden we hit clear air turbulence and we went down precipitously,” as he tells this story he gesticulates with his hands the way in which the aircraft plummeted. He smiles as he looks out the window. “I wasn’t scared, but there was certainly something visceral about it.” He said.
Even though Terry has no fear of flying, he went down a different career path than his father. Terry is now retired, but he has worked as an independent computer consultant for utility companies, as a software engineer, as the founder of his own corporation and as an assistant professor of computer science at Western Oregon.
Terry’s voice has a kind of quiet authority about it. As he speaks, he bounces his leg up and down – this speeds up when he talks about things that he is passionate about. And Terry is passionate about many, many things. Because he is retired it has given him time to focus on writing a historical novel. To manage his heart he walks and enjoys cross country skiing. He frequents the Hult Center because he likes symphonic music and has various friends in the ensembles that perform there. “My favorite composer is Brahms, but Prokofiev is up there.” He said.
He also occasionally plays video games and reveals with a grin the book he is reading is about World of Warcraft. He also has an intense interest in astronomy. At home he gazes at the skies through an 8-inch telescope. Terry often goes off on tangents about astronomy, his eyes light up and his knee bounces, “There are excellent deep sky objects available in winter.”
Despite the fact that Terry is well rounded, intellectual and has experienced much during his life, he takes time to contemplate his greatest achievement thus far as he looks at the window. It’s a long pause and his knee has temporarily stopped bouncing. Finally he responds, “I don’t feel any great obligation to make a profound impact on culture,” after some more thought he adds, “In my years of teaching I’ve affected a lot of people so I would say that it’s sufficient to not leave the world in any worse state.”
Terry lives alone and both of his parents are now deceased.
You could describe him as a quiet cerebral and a person that has never ceased his quest for knowledge. He is truly a Renaissance man and someone who values knowledge and the fine arts above all else.
Terry has a better description of himself though, as he pauses briefly to put the words together. In one sentence Terry describes himself as: “Basically harmless.”