Dr. TerryKay Birrer died of cancer peacefully the evening of September 20 with Eddy, her husband of 53 years, at her bedside. TerryKay grew up in Oklahoma and Texas and was preceded in death by her mother and father, Dorothy and Pat Payne, and later her father’s second wife, Theresa, as well as by her grandparents, aunts and uncles.
TerryKay loved her family and friends. She was devoted to her four children and their growth as highly regarded individuals of excellent character: Christian (Kate), Doryjane, Jessieanna (Tim), and Jessamyn (Kari), and her grandchildren Siri, Maud, and Julian. TerryKay enjoyed family trips to amusement parks, zoos, and national parks throughout the U.S. and Western Canada. Further, she maintained close ties over the years with three of her college classmates from Our Lady of the Lake College where she graduated with honors in English and was named to Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities. More recently she developed strong ties with members of her book club who were a source of immense joy and support in her final years.
Early in marriage, TerryKay was a stay at home mom, focusing on the growth of her children during their formative years. She made time to serve as a nationally accredited instructor of the Lamaze method of childbirth; spent three years as resident director of a women’s dormitory; and shared her lovely soprano voice as a cantor at weekly masses, complemented by travel to conventions of the National Association of Pastoral Musicians.
When the children were older, TerryKay taught for 25 years at Gonzaga Prep where she was affectionately referred to by all as Dr. Birrer. She taught literature as a vision of life in her British Literature and AP and Honors English courses, was recognized as Teacher of the Year, and served as chair of the English Department. Although well read in all genres, she particularly enjoyed Victorian literature, especially the works of Charles Dickens as evidenced by the “Dickens” vanity plate on her MINI.
While at G-Prep TerryKay enrolled in the Educational Leadership doctoral program at Gonzaga University (her dissertation title was, appropriately, Leadership in Literature). Earlier she completed a Master of Liberal Arts degree program at Moorhead State University. That program included enrollment in The Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Oxford University in England which sparked her interest in travel throughout the British Isles, sometimes as a director of cultural and literary tours for G-Prep students, but mostly on many trips with her husband Eddy with whom she traveled the length and breadth of England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland, including the Inner and Outer Hebrides.
TerryKay’s was a life well-lived, and she was loved by all who knew her. She leaves a legacy of compassion as shown through her prayer life, active ministry, and donations to organizations offering humanitarian and life affirming support for others. TerryKay is survived by her husband Eddy and their children, brother R.J. Payne (Yvonne), and grandchildren, cousins, nephews and nieces, and friends. While she died at the young age of 75, her spirit will be alive and well in the minds and hearts of all who knew TerryKay.