Sat 11 May 2013
Scene of fatal accident on the Rohnert Park Expressway. (Photo by Alvin Jornada, courtesy of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat)
My buddy Terry Gray, 54, of Inverness Park was struck by a car around 5:20 p.m. Friday in Rohnert Park. There was no crosswalk in the area, and my friend apparently stepped off the center median into the path of the Ford Escape at left.
He died instantly, police told his brother Mike McIsaac, and the woman driving the car immediately stopped. The accident closed the road for four hours.
Terry’s sister Debra had driven Terry and his granddaughter Tanisha to Rohnert Park to see a movie. Tanisha was already in the theater when the accident occurred and neither saw it happen.
From left: Linda Sturdivant, Terry, Lynn Axelrod, and me at Tony’s Seafood in Marshall, his favorite restaurant.
Terry and his companion Linda Sturdivant had lived together for almost 17 years, and as soon as she got the awful news, she called me sobbing: “Terry’s dead!” Lynn and I immediately rushed to their home.
Terry had helped Lynn and me with innumerable home-maintenance projects, and we enjoyed each other’s company. He had worked for various building contractors most of his adult life, and Lynn and I were always pleased with his workmanship.
We, of course, paid him something, but he inevitably tried to give back all or part of the money, saying he was just helping his close friends.
A perfectionist, Terry twice replaced shingles and fascia boards on the eaves of Mitchell cabin: first on the back side, then on the front side.
Terry was born in Costa Mesa, Orange County, and when his parents divorced, his mother Luella née Nichols brought Terry and his sister Debra Gray to West Marin, where she married Don McIsaac Jr. Don was a Marin County firefighter for awhile, and the family lived at the firehouse in Tomales.
Out of their marriage came two more children, Buddy McIsaac of Santa Rosa and Mike McIsaac of Inverness Park. All the children grew up together. On Friday evening, Mike told me their family had made no distinction between half and full brothers: “I can’t remember a time when Terry wasn’t there.”
He was often too shy to speak up in public, but when Don McIsaac died last year, Terry gathered his courage and spoke at the memorial service. Afterward, he prided himself at having found the strength to talk to the crowd about how much Don had meant to him.
Terry was basically a gentle soul with a wonderful sense of humor. Despite standing 6-feet, 3-inches tall and weighing more than 200 pounds, Terry was never a fighter even when he’d had a few beers and was confronted by a belligerent jerk. Although physically strong in part because of his work, Terry preferred to just walk away.
Not long ago he told me of a time when he was a student at Tomales High and a bully slugged him in a classroom. Rather than intervening, he said, the teacher told the boys to “take it outside.” Terry protested that he didn’t want to fight, but the teacher sent the boys outside anyway. Although he was a big kid, Terry was knocked down, punched and kicked.
“All I did was cover my head,” he told me. Afterward, adults told him he should have fought back, and the bully was never punished, Terry said.
One of the highlights of Terry’s recent life was going skydiving in Sonoma County two years ago. He took his daughters Laura Gray and Diana Baltzley along, and they jumped too. Until he and his instructor jumped from the airplane, he was terrified, Terry said, but once they were in the air and falling, he was thrilled. He talked about the experience for months.
Terry is survived by: his companion Linda Sturdivant, his sister Debra Gray of Point Reyes Station, his brother Mike McIsaac of Inverness Park, his brother Buddy McIsaac of Santa Rosa, his daughter Laura Gray of Reno, and his daughter Diana Baltzley of San Jose.
His grandchildren are: Tanisha Coleman of Santa Rosa, Isaac and Jayson of Reno, Niriah and Kia of San Leandro, Breyonna and Peyton of Eureka.
Also surviving him are Haley and Summer Cherms of Oroville; the sisters are granddaughters of Linda Sturdivant, and Terry considered them his granddaughters too.
All of us who knew Terry are stunned by his death. A memorial service will be held, but it has not yet been scheduled.