Terry Stahl

Terry became an educator because she loves history and people, and the profession complemented her role as a mother. She has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Kansas and a master’s from Emporia State University. Terry worked 30 years in the Seaman School District north of Topeka, mostly at the junior high level, teaching Kansas and World History. Since retirement she has served as a docent at the Kansas Museum of History. As a member of the Topeka Genealogical Society, Terry spearheaded a research and writing project that culminated in a published report, “The Stachelbeck Brothers: Orphan Train Riders to Kansas,” and she has presented the work of the group numerous times at conferences and meetings.

Starting in 1997, Terry became an unofficial ambassador for Kansas through participation in summer programs for educators. She first went to Ghana as a Fulbright-Hayes Teacher Scholar. One of her most cherished mementos is a Ghanaian, Sankofa heart pendant. It symbolizes her personal growth and reminds her to look back in time when making decisions. In subsequent years she was chosen for programs in Japan, New Zealand, and Germany, and she taught English in China.

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Terry's Journey With Personal Chapters

On Valentine’s Day 2012, Terry and husband, Norm received devastating news when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Since both of them were interested in family history, they joined the Topeka Genealogical Society to learn how to conduct research and record their findings. Studying their ancestors was intellectually stimulating. Before long, they had populated their family trees with hundreds of people, and she began planning "One Kansas Family."

Preserving family stories has been more fulfilling than she ever imagined. It has provided fascinating challenges and connected Terry to people–both dead and living. By the time Norm’s health was in serious decline, she was well into the process of creating this book.

Coping with cognitive impairment, depression, urinary tract infections, swallowing problems, and speech difficulties with Norm became somewhat bearable because she had more to do than stew about their problems and worry about the future. Often, while waiting in a doctor’s office, hospital, or rehab center, she worked on the book. 

Collaborating with Anne Spry to publish the manuscript provided the structure and guidance Terry needed to continue during the final years of Norm’s life, as caregiving became ever more demanding, and as their lives were further disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. She credits Anne’s enthusiasm with the motivation to continue.

In many ways, producing this book was therapeutic. When she focused, old memories surfaced. The process has been a wonderful growth experience that continues as she shares her book with a wider audience.

Sadly, Norm passed away after a ten-year battle with Parkinson’s Disease, just as Anne and Terry were making final revisions. Terry believes he and her folks are watching from above and are delighted and proud of her accomplishments. It makes her smile to imagine Norm, a quintessential salesman, promoting her book in heaven, while taking his fair share of the credit.

"Creating One Kansas Family: Stitched Together with Memories has confirmed the value of exploring one’s past. I hope my work inspires others to research and preserve family history, because it will enrich their lives and the lives of their descendants," Terry concludes.