By Julie Rossman
Terri Gray didn’t have a really long history with Union Grove. She grew up in Franklin and, until her sudden death Nov. 17, resided in Waterford.
But in her four years as the Executive Director of the Union Grove area Chamber of Commerce, Terri developed a deep connection with the people and the businesses in our community.
Terri passed away last month at age 52 as the result of an automobile accident in the Town of Waterford.
Terri began working at the Union Grove Chamber in 2008, taking over for the retiring Carol Knight.
Chamber President Eric Daniels, Polnasek Daniels Funeral Home, said Terri was a hard worker. “She put a lot of time and energy into the Chamber,” he said.
Terri’s husband of 33 years, Phil Gray, said his wife’s job was very challenging, with some good days and some bad days, but that Terri was very proud of some of the things she accomplished; such as the hat and mitten tree and a permanent sweet corn stand at the Racine County fairgrounds.
The hat and mitten tree stands at First Banking Center on Main Street each year during the Christmas season and is a place to collect hats and mittens that are given out with Christmas food baskets from the Union Grove area Food Bank. “It just keeps getting bigger and bigger every year,” Phil said.
The famous Union Grove Chamber sweet corn stand at the Racine County Fairgrounds was housed in tents for years and was replaced by a beautiful, permanent structure a few years ago. “She was the driving force behind it,” Phil said.
In factm Daniels said that Terri went through getting all of the proper permits to be able to construct the building and she was able to coordinate volunteer labor to do most of the work, including help from husband Phil, who owns a construction business.
Phil said it was the experiences he and his wife had in creating their own construction business that helped her with the Chamber job.
“She knew all the challenges of running a business – she wanted the businesses to succeed,” he said.
Now, he wants to thank all those who have been supportive during this difficult time. “I want to thank all of the businesses of Union Grove for supporting me and my family,” he said.
Ann Kerkman, Community Travel, is past president and vice president of the Chamber and worked with Terri for a number of years.
“She put her heart into the job,” Kerkman said. “Just now we are realizing how much detail Terri put in her work,” she added.
Kerkman recalled how Chamber members considered Terri “Chamber Mom,” because she was always taking care of things – just like a mom. Terri was indeed a mom – she and Phil raised three children and have three grandchildren.
Terri was instrumental in planning all of the village Christmas events, like the Christmas tree lighting ceremony along with the arrival of Santa, Breakfast with Santa, the cookie walk and the holiday gift and craft fair, which all took place last weekend. “We have missed her so much already,” Kerkman said.
The annual Chamber member Christmas luncheon will take place next week. In honor of Terri, donations will be accepted to benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, an organization near and dear to both Phil and Terri.
Moving forward, Daniels said they have had some good volunteers step up to help at the Chamber until a new executive director can be found.
Jeff Nielsen, Community State Bank, said he had the pleasure of working with Terri on many Chamber projects. “She was thoughtful, caring and was very good at what she did. Terri was great person and she will be greatly missed,” he said.