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Edward Supplee Terry Jr., 77, stalwart member of Arena Players

Tap teacher and Johns Hopkins science librarian

By Susan Reimer, The Baltimore Sun

8:00 PM EDT, July 7, 2013

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Edward Supplee Terry Jr., former head science librarian for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a decades-long stalwart of Baltimore's Arena Players, died July 1 of leukemia. He was 77.

Mr. Terry, a resident of Baltimore, taught tap dance and performed with his troupe of "mature" dancers, Tapsichore, until his diagnosis in mid-2012, and was honored this spring by Dance Baltimore with its Dance Treasure Award.

But it was his devotion to Arena Players, the country's oldest continuously operating African-American community theater, since arriving in Baltimore in the late 1950s, that friends and family remember. Mr. Terry was the group's artistic director from 2000 to 2002.

"He was an Arena Player forever," said Catherine Orange, who has been with the acting group since the early 1960s. "He made sure that the shows were of the best quality possible. He danced, he sang, he acted, he directed so many shows I can't remember them all."

Pamela Terry, a niece who lives and works in New York City — because her uncle took her and her sister there so often, she said — remembers as a child scouring second-hand shops with him for just the right props, costumes and music for Arena Players productions.

"There was always some item he was looking for and he was dragging us through second-hand shops looking for it.," said Ms. Terry, who said Mr. Terry was a second father to her and her sister. "That was our life growing up."

But he was also director of the Abraham Lilienfeld Library at Johns Hopkins until his retirement in 1997. There, he was remembered as "the essence of graciousness" by Mary Grace Flaherty, whom he had mentored and who is now on the library science faculty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

"He was really great at his job and he used that to enable the other part of his life," said Ms. Flaherty, who knew him for 30 years and worked beside him for a decade. "He was passionate about both."

Born in Atlantic City to the late Edward Supplee Terry Sr., and Edna Mae Terry, he was educated in the public schools of Pleasantville, N.J., and received a degree from Lincoln University in biology and chemistry.

"He went to medical school and discovered that he really didn't want to be a doctor," said his niece. "But he used his education to work in chemical warfare research while he was in the Army. He decided to go back to school for library science and used his medical background in his work for Hopkins."

Ms. Terry and her sister, Renee Terry of Providence Forge, Va., remember traveling all over the Mid-Atlantic to see shows with their uncle, often at a moment's notice. "He would go anywhere for a show," said Pamela Terry, who operates a conservatory for the performing arts in New York.

"I saw everything on Broadway because of him. But it wasn't just shows. He was passionate about our education, and we went to museums and galleries and exhibitions.

"He was so eclectic and he exposed us to all the fine arts and all the performing arts," she said.

Cheryl Goodman, founder and director of Dance Baltimore, knew yet another side of Mr. Terry. "I only knew him as a tap person," she said. "And his best gift was as a teacher. Very patient and very creative."

From 1997 to 2005, he was an adjunct professor of fine arts at Baltimore City Community College, where he taught tap dance as a percussive art. He also taught children at Flair Studios in Baltimore.

More than 20 years ago, his group Tapsichore — its name a play on Terpsichore, the muse of dance in Greek mythology — emerged from Monday night adult tap classes he taught at Arena Players. Its dancers, in their 50s, 60s and 70s, performed around the region, including at Artscape; at "Ageless Grace," Dance Baltimore's annual concert for dancers over 40; and at the 2012 Aging Expo and Conference at the National Harbor.

"He was so much fun," said Sevalyn White, who danced with Tapsichore and who taught dance at Western High School for 35 years. "It wasn't just for the tap that we came. He had such a vibrant personality."

"A lot of people have stories of how he inspired them," said Ms. Goodman of Dance Baltimore. "He would say things to them to encourage them to pursue their dreams.

Mr. Terry was preceded in death by his parents and brother Lewis Aaron Terry. In addition to his nieces he is survived by a sister-in-law and five cousins.

A memorial service will be held Friday at 1 p.m. at the Episcopal Church of St. Mary the Virgin, 3121 Walbrook Ave. Burial will be private.

susan.reimer@baltsun.com,

@susanreimer on twitter.com