NISKAYUNA – Dr. Jerry Terry expected a few friends to show up Tuesday at his home on Pinehaven Drive to wish him a happy 100th birthday.
“But I never thought a crowd like this,” Terry said from a chair on his front sidewalk. “There must have been 50 people or more. Unbelievable. What an honor.”
As part of a celebration for the retired optometrist and U.S. Army veteran, Terry was honored by a light and siren parade from the Niskayuna Police Department and Niskayuna Fire District #2, appearances from New York state Sen. Jim Tedisco, R-Glenville, and Niskayuna Supervisor Yasmine Syed, and a host of friends and family members. The afternoon event was arranged by a committee from the Schenectady Ole Timers Baseball Club, which Terry helped found in 1992.
“Jerry Terry is a very special person who has been an inspiration to all of us,” Don Blaha, club president said. “He has strongly supported our club throughout the years. We are very proud to call him 'The Granddaddy of Schenectady Ole Timers Baseball Club.’"
Terry graduated from Draper High School in 1937 and served in the U.S. Army Air Corps as a Lt. navigator from 1944 to 1946. He married his wife Dorothy in 1945, and they were married for 63 years prior to her death in 2008.
He attended Columbia University, and was a licensed optometrist from 1954 to 2007.
“I never thought I'd ever make 100 — not in a million years,” Terry said. “When I was a kid, 40 was old. Here it is, I'm 100.”
The secrets to his longevity?
“I never smoked, which was one of the good things for me in life,” Terry said. “I participated in sports all my life.”
A multi-sport star in high school, golf became a passion for Terry as he grew older.
“I’ve played golf all over the world; Greece, Rome, Spain, Mexico, Argentina, Portugal, all the islands, and all the golf courses from here down to Florida on the East Coast,” Terry said. “I must have played 400, 500 courses in my lifetime.”
He added: “I broke my age when I was 72, I had a 69. I broke my age when I was 89, I had an 88. I never had a hole-in-one. I've come close, but never had one.”
The crowd joined in for a singing of “God Bless America” along with the traditional “Happy Birthday” before closing out the ceremony for the New York Yankees fan with a rousing rendition of “Take Me Out To The Ball Game.”
Tedisco, 69, said that presenting Terry with a New York state proclamation recognizing his 100th birthday is not an everyday occurrence.
“It's unique, but we've done some,” Tedisco said. ““It always astonishes me when I look back at the type of contributions they've made over their lives. They haven't wasted a moment.
“Great families, married for 63 years to his lovely wife, Dorothy. Three kids, six grandchildren, fought the war for us, part of the greatest generation. I am grateful to be here, to thank him for everything we hold dear.”
The only thing that has slowed Terry down was a broken hip suffered in mid-March.
“I had to have hip surgery, and since then I've been trying to get better, but it's been 100 days,” Terry said. “I'm getting better, but it takes a little longer to get better now.”
Reach Stan Hudy at [email protected] or @StanHudy on Twitter.