Terry Marie Underwood

June 29, 1947 to July 7, 2017

Terry Marie Joyce was born in the dry Toole County farm land of northern Montana on June 29th, 1947. Her father was Delmar Joyce, a practicing young dentist in the town of Shelby. Her Spanish Basque mother, Irene Joyce (Hasquet), was a loving and keen witted, registered nurse. Terry was the first child in the modest beginnings of the Joyce family that resided in the small town. She was soon joined by two more siblings, and at the age of five her parents relocated the family west to the coastal city of San Diego as Delmar became a dentist in the US Navy. Shortly thereafter, Delmar started his own dental practice and established the family in their lovely French Normandy home that would serve as the long time Joyce residence on 355 First Avenue in Chula Vista.

The Joyce family continued to blossom and a family of three children progressively expanded into eight children. The large household was an eclectic waltz of personalities where Terry was the natural maternal extension of her mother Irene. She looked over her younger siblings in dual character as both a loving sister and watchful mother. Her relationship with her own mother was an ironclad bond, they created countless memories cooking and conversing together in the family kitchen that was the hub of everyday activity. In these early formative years Terry shined as the persona of a true renaissance woman. While working at her father’s office, she breezed through her academia at the top of her class at Hilltop High School, and was a protégé of classical piano.

Terry was granted Honors at Entrance to San Diego State University as an English major. It was there in her sophomore year in college that a mutual friend introduced her to a shy and soon to be smitten junior by the name of Lon Underwood. The two were of vastly different origins; Lon was the self-raised son of a humble upbringing by a loving, self-reliant single military father. As their friendship began Lon was introduced to a new world of loud and boisterous Joyce dinners and the whirlwind circus of large family dynamics. What began as a mutual attraction and fond friendship between Terry and Lon soon evolved into a deep love that would only deepen further throughout their lifetime. They were engaged in the summer of 1968, and were married in St Rose of Lima Church in Chula Vista on June 21st 1969. Following a brief 2 day honeymoon, they were back at work in the classroom at SD State completing the last credential requirements for an initial teaching stint in the La Puente Unified HS District where they both taught and Lon coached for 2 years. The couple then returned to San Diego when Lon was hired by the Grossmont Union HS District.

Life wonderfully progressed without haste and the two welcomed healthy twin boys into their lives on July 26th 1971, Thomas Grant and Timothy Lon. These were unassuming and economically creative years for the young married couple and now sudden parents of two. A natural role that she had worn her whole life, Terry was an endlessly loving and generous mother to her two boys, truly selfless and grounded in priorities. Four years after the twins Lon and Terry welcomed their only daughter Amille Pilar on December 1st 1975, and four more years later they welcomed their final son Peter Matthew on July 30th 1979. At this time, after a series of starter homes they settled into a square box two-story house on a dirt lot in the rural Mount Merritt neighborhood of San Diego County. A house that together they would unrecognizably grow into a beautiful estate over time to provide their children with a warm and symbolic home to grow up in. Terry felt early on in life that her primary purpose was to be a loving nurturing mother, and that is exactly what she was without compromise.

Shortly after the twins were old enough Terry began her 2nd teaching career in the Severely Handicapped program in the Grossmont High School Union District that combined would span 36 years. The role was very rewarding and affirming for her, she loved developing students of special needs and the caring atmosphere that she nourished with her comrades. Later she would found the district’s Independent Study program that was designed to help struggling students complete their coursework at libraries and a variety of settings in the community. Terry could have thrived in any profession she chose of varying objective, she was brilliant and capable, she chose this one as it aligned with her values and self-purpose. Terry was also an avid volunteer for various charities for the poorest of the poor, and most forgotten. Her heart was enormous, donating time and materials for anyone who had less.

In 2001 Terry was diagnosed with a rare form of Sporadic Spinocerebellar Ataxia, a condition leading to progressive deterioration of the cerebellum and mid brain. This incurable condition would eventually take her away on July 7th, 2017 at the age of 70. During the 16 years she courageously and gracefully endured her declining condition, she never felt any self-pity or sorrow; she lived beautifully and lovingly amongst her family until her passing. She watched the birth and bond of her thirteen grandchildren, again an eclectic waltz of personalities that she loved to indulge. She traveled as she was able to with her adoring husband, and she always saw the light of any path that was presented to her. She allowed herself to be taken care of when needed, as she had done for everyone else her entire life. Her physical presence will be deeply missed, but we are gracious for the full life that we spent with her. Her vibrant smile and laughter brought such happiness, she is truly beautiful and her life exemplified the definition.

She is survived by her loving husband of 48 years Thomas Lon Underwood. Her three sons; Timothy Lon, Thomas Grant, and Peter Matthew. Her daughter Amille Pilar. Her thirteen grandchildren; Christian Thomas, Ethan Eric, Timothy Matthew, James Lon, Malaya Marie, Micah Ryan, Mason Grant, Camille Olivia, Julia Lane, Macie Marie, Matthew James, Clara Faye, and Jeremiah Lon.

The family ask that in lieu of flowers or gifts that the donations be made in Terry’s memory to the National Ataxia Foundation (Ataxia.org) supporting research to better understand and block this incurable disease.



Celebration of Life

  • Date: August 5, 2017
  • Time: 11:00 AM
  • Location: St. Luke Catholic Church
  • Address: 1980 Hillsdale Road El Cajon, CA 92019
  • Directions: St. Luke Catholic Church

Reception to Follow