Bruce Terry

Bruce Terry
The Landonian yearbook staff, 1964-1965. Bruce Terry is seated at left.

When your family has lived in the St. Nicholas area for over 100 years, telling their history takes time. Bruce Terry, 67, said preserving history is as important as getting the recognition for St. Nicholas he believes is overdue. St. Nicholas is located where Atlantic and Beach Boulevards intersect, east of San Marco and I-95.

“The true St. Nicholas historic area is much larger than the present boundaries. It’s as important as San Marco or Avondale,” said Terry.

The area, one of two Spanish Land Grants, originally covered 300 acres. St. Nicholas’ history resembles Fort Caroline’s because the Spanish Fort San Nicolas was built in the 1780s where Bishop Kenny now stands (later Fort St. Nicholas). A Florida East Coast Railroad Depot was established here in the 1720s.

“We need a Greater St. Nicholas Historic Association that includes the entire area, not just part,” said Terry. “That’s the problem with St. Nicholas Area Preservation (SNAP). There was an opportunity before the I-95 flyover cut through our neighborhoods, when everyone agreed about what area should be included in a St. Nicholas preservation group… but in the end that did not happen.”

Terry’s father, H. Ross Terry, was born in 1919 in a Kenneth Street home in front of St. Nicholas Park Christian Church. He was the son of Edward Dudley Terry, who worked on St. Johns riverboats in the late 1800s, and Laura Idella Lundgren. Laura, whose family was from Sweden, was born on a St. Johns River landing in 1871.

H. Ross was the youngest of nine children. He told Bruce his brothers herded cattle where Southgate Shopping Center is now located on Beach Boulevard. H. Ross attended Landon High School, served in World War II and was an engineer for Fire Station #12 in San Marco.

Terry’s mother, Priscilla (Hubbard) Terry, lived on Hubbard Street in Springfield. She attended Andrew Jackson High School and was a member of the pep squad. After high school Priscilla worked for the Florida Times-Union as manager of the classifieds department. The couple met on a blind date after H. Ross was discharged from the military and returned to Jacksonville.

Terry’s parents were married in 1946 by Pastor Lavern Preston in the original Southside Christian Church, a member of the Disciples of Christ denomination. The wooden church, circa 1925, is located on Beach Boulevard at Kenneth Street, where the church’s fellowship hall now stands. Terry’s grandmother Laura was a charter member of the church founded in 1920 by families who first gathered in a tent to worship. His father, H. Ross, was baptized in Miller’s Creek, which was at the edge of the city limits until the city/county consolidation in 1968, Terry said.

The church’s name was later changed to St. Nicholas Park Christian Church and its sister church, Southside Christian (both Disciples of Christ), is located on Atlantic Blvd. The original St. Nicholas Park Christian Church building was sold to a plumbing company that cut it in half and moved it down Beach Boulevard near Leon Road for use as their office.

The church’s current Mission-style sanctuary was completed in 1953 and still has a small congregation. Recalling his childhood, Terry remembers Pastor Preston, Pastor William Travis, and Mrs. Tyler, who was the organist, as well as a large congregation and youth group.

Terry was born in 1948 at St. Vincent’s Hospital and had a younger sister, Debra. He remembers his family lived in a house on Glen Mawr Road that neighbors believed was haunted.

“They told ghost stories about that house and some weird things happened there,” he said. “Once when I was little, mom and dad were hanging drapes…I got some of the metal drapery hooks and tried to swallow them…my dad grabbed me up, turned me over and shook the daylights out of me…out they popped. I say ghosts made me do it!”

Terry’s friends liked to play in the St. Nicholas Cemetery and scare each other. Nancy Chappell of Holmesdale Road was a school friend and Kathline Winters, another friend, lived right across from the cemetery. One day they were exploring the graveyard, telling ghost stories and looking at the headstones from the 1700s. Suddenly the ground where Kathline was standing caved in and she fell straight down into the ground, scaring them to death, he said.

Terry was part of the first group of seniors to graduate from Wolfson High School in 1966. Another friend and school classmate was Jean Hudnall, whose family owned properties in the St. Nicholas area. Terry, Hudnall and their buddy Stuart Hecht (Hecht Rubber Company family) had Latin class together and Terry isn’t sure any of them learned much Latin.

“We always played tricks on each other. When we were together at Landon (8th – 11th) and at Wolfson (12th) it was one practical joke after another,” he recalled. “Bobby Tebow, Tim Tebow’s dad, was my best friend. We were in the Hi-Y service club, and we registered for the draft together in January 1966.”

Terry studied architecture for three years at Clemson, was in ROTC and headed for the military. A serious car accident prevented him from becoming a U.S. Air Force officer and military pilot.

When he recovered from the accident he accepted a job in Jacksonville with Reynolds, Smith and Hill Architecture & Engineering. The prominent firm designed many Jacksonville buildings, Terry said.

Lifelong St. Nicholas resident Bruce Terry and Mr. Beauregard “Bodey” – his 165-pound Great Dane rescue.

His most unusual job was in the architectural design department of Offshore Power Systems (OPS), a 1970 joint venture between Westinghouse Electric Company & Tenneco. OPS planned to design and build floating nuclear power plants offshore of Jacksonville. The plants would sit on man-made islands of solid steel surrounded and protected by a massive concrete breakwater.

“Two were to be completed in 1976, but the 1973 oil and economic crisis and recession that followed killed the projects,” he said. “One of my best OPS friends was a nuclear physicist who had grown up in Englewood, Marvin Lockey.”

After OPS closed, Terry’s life changed dramatically. At the age of 27 he contracted meningococcal meningitis, spent 19 days in a coma at Riverside Hospital and his parents were told he wouldn’t live. If not for Chief of Internal Medicine Dr. John Christie and neurosurgeon Dr. David Scales, Terry believes he would be dead.

“They told me my heart stopped and I died but somehow they got me back…I woke up two days before Christmas 1975, knowing it was another miracle in my life,” he said.

These days Terry enjoys remodeling his St. Nicholas home, cooking or spending hours gardening. He kicks back with his “little puppy” Mr. Beauregard.

“I love Great Danes. My third rescue Dane, Mr. Beauregard, or Bodey as I call him, is a charcoal gray and white Harlequin, weighs 165 pounds and takes home security very seriously!” he said.

Terry, who never married, said he hasn’t decided what he wants to be when he grows up yet. He believes he has an understanding with God.

“My family members on both sides lived into their 90s or 100s, so I kind of feel like if I just keep doing my part, then God will do His,” he said.

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