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Terry Nordeen: Greeting all with a smile

By Staff | Dec 11, 2009

Terry Nordeen Photo by Michael Theis/Chronicle

The first thing you notice about Terry Nordeen is her smile. It’s a big generous smile and it radiates. For eleven years thousands of first-time visitors to Shepherdstown were welcomed with that smile but more about that later.

Thelma Mae Herriman was born in Washington, DC and grew up in Silver Spring. It was the ’30s and Silver Spring, Maryland rivaled today’s Chevy Chase and Potomac as the place to live. Thelma was the only child of Ethel Wages and Lawton Herriman. Lawton was the sole distributor of Good Year Tires in Montgomery County. Lawton was Bethesda, born and raised, his parents Melvin and Katie Mae Herriman lived on Wisconsin right across from Walter Reed. Melvin was a builder and Katie Mae a homemaker. Thelma received the “Mae” from her grandmother. Ethel Wages came from Washington State to take a job in Washington, DC and met the good looking guy from Bethesda. The rest as they sayhistory.

The ’40s were a great time to be teen “inside the Beltway,” before there was a Beltway. “Washington was lots of fun and very safe,” recalls Terry “and Connecticut Avenue was the place. All up and down the avenue were wonderful restaurants and Oh! The shopping.”

An aspect of her childhood that didn’t seem much fun or very safe was the fact that her father had stewardship of the Good Year Blimp. The blimp held six people and according to Terry, who refers to it as “That dang blimp” she was taken for blimp rides a lot and it wasn’t her favorite thing to do.

The Harriman’s lived in the Woodside Park section in a house designed by Melvin Herriman. Little Thelma went to Woodside Elementary and then to Montgomery Blair. The summer of her sophomore year Thelma was attending a Christian Church conference in Bethany Beach and met dashing Ron Nordeen. Ronald Ogren Nordeen was “an older man” and about to enter the University of Maryland. The two hit it off and “stayed in touch.”

Upon graduation from Montgomery Blair, she entered Harcum College in Bryn Mar, PA. Her major was elementary education and her name was Thelma. By the end of the first semester her major was still education, but her name was “Terry.” “My roommate thought I needed a new name so she gave me one and it stuck.” Enter Terry Herriman.

Terry graduated from Harcum with a job offer at the prestigious Mrs. Cook’s School in Washington, DC. She loved teaching but the passion of her life was the dance. Terry loved to dance – ballet and tap, everything and was good at it.

When school was out for the day Terry indulged that love and taught ballroom dance at the Thayer Dance School in DC and gave ballet and tap lessons to children from her home studio.

Ron had graduated from Maryland four years earlier and enlisted in the Army. He was stationed in Europe and the letters between he and Terry were flying back and forth. “You could say our friendship had flourished.” (Say what you will about email and textbook, nothing beats a real letter.)

Ron was out of the Army and working for the State Department when he and Terry were married. The year was 1948. The following year they started a family. Princess Rona came along first and two years later, Master Curtis. Life was full of babies, teaching and State Department social life and it was really good. Ron was posted in DC first and then he was given an assignment in India.

Terry remembers that life as one great adventure.

“We lived in India for four years. “Everyone was wonderful to us. We made a lot of friends saw some amazing treasures. ” Then she laughed ” and our home came with help. I sure liked that.” Suddenly serious “I loved India, it’s a beautiful country but the poverty was drastic and something I’ll never forget. All those beautiful peopleyou just can’t imagine.”

Ron was busy at the Embassy, Terry was teaching in the International School and Rona and Curtis were in high school, when Terry found out she was going to have a baby. I had to ask. “Randi wasn’t a surprise at all. Ron and I always wanted another child. She was perfect.” Ron was transferred to Madras. “The house they gave us was gorgeous and (laughing again) this time it came with a staff of six.”

When the four year stint in India was up the Nordeens moved on the Turkey with a baby, two teenagers and a life-long love of India and Indian cuisine. “Ron loved to cook Indian and Rona still makes great curry.” As Terry recalls “Unlike the people in India, the people in Turkey only tolerated Americans.” But life was still pretty nice.

Their last assignment was in Greece. They lived in Athens where Embassy work was very challenging but there were also some super perks like sailing around the Greek Islands. (All those interested in working abroad for the US Dept. of State raise your hands. Not so fast.) One night there was a near disastrous bomb scare at the Embassy. “Ron was working late and he was trapped in the building for three days until the “all clear” came. “The people in Athens didn’t really care for Americans.”

In the mid ’70s Ron, Terry and Randi returned to DC and settled down near Olney, Maryland where Ron immediately set out building a playhouse for Randi. Rona and Curtis were now adults building their own lives.

Ron retired from the State Department in the late ’70s and the Nordeens moved to Shepherdstown. First they bought a home just outside of town off Route 45, and then they built a home off Shepherd Grade in Shepherd Wood. They also purchased a home on Fairmont in-town. Shepherd Wood suited the Nordeens to a tee. The days were filled with as Terry says “A heck of a lot of friends.” Between parties, dinners at the Bavarian or the Yellow Brick Bank with the Prices, the Knodes, the Lowes, the Coffeys, and many others, golf at Cress Creek and visiting “the kids”, Terry and Ron had a great life.

Then in the mid-’90 tragedy struck this kind and fun-loving couple when Ron was diagnosed with a terminal disease. It was shortly after they had moved to their Fairmont home. Originally purchased as rental property, Ron designed and oversaw turning the period piece into a charming expanse of inviting rooms with a country kitchen. “Ron loved outdoor work and building things.

The Nordeens had many friends who made sure neither Ron nor Terry were wanting during Ron’s illness. “Phil Coffey came over almost everyday.” Terry recalls “Betsy and I would sit in the kitchen and Phil would sit with Ron and be his friend. They were wonderful.” Ron died in 1997 in the loving arms of his three children, grandchildren and his wife of 49 years.

Today Rona and Wayne Wendeborn live in New Mexico. Rona is in real estate and Wayne is a teacher. Curtis and Barbara live in St. Augustine, Fl. Curtis is also in real estate. Randi and Jude Hogan live in Crownsville, MD. Randi is the chief development officer for a non-profit in Washington, DC. Terry and Ron have six grandchildren but Ron never got to meet his two great-grandchildren. Colby is only 8 and Zhaiden, 2. (Rona is their grandmother.)

“One month after Ron died Jan Bender called me.” Terry said, “She asked if I’d be interested in being the director of the Visitors’ Center. I told her I’d give it a try for a little while. I was lost without Ron. I needed something to do. It turned out to be the best job in the world. I worked with some of the nicest people in Shepherdstown” There were names – Harriet Arthur, Doug Kinnett, Catherine Wilson, Betty Lou Bryant, Dabney Chapman, John Schley and the list went on. There were forty volunteers in all under Terry’s directorship. “I thought I’d just give it a try and was there for eleven years.” She really laughed at that one.

These days Terry is totally amerced in Trinity Episcopal Church, where she is an avid artist in the sewing group, “Sarah Drennen runs the program and she let’s me paint while everyone else is quilting and knitting.” Terry is a very talented artist and her home is full of wonderful originals. She volunteers at the Church Thrift Shop decorating models, or anything that needs doing. “Sadie,” dressed by Nordeen, is the one woman welcoming committee sitting on the front porch of the shop.

Looking forward to the holidays and everything beautiful that comes with them, Terry will either be at the Hogan’s in Crownsville or Randi & Co. will be visiting Shepherdstown. Wherever Terry is, the festivities are guaranteed to sparkle with love, and kindness and beautiful smiles.

– Sue Kennedy is a former public relations executive and Emmy Award winning screenplay writer.