Robert J. Terry, 76; reported on crime for The Inquirer

Robert J. Terry
Robert J. Terry
Posted: October 09, 2013

Robert J. "Bo" Terry, 76, a longtime crime reporter for The Inquirer, died Sunday, Oct. 6, of complications from lymphoma at his home in Manasquan, N.J.

He had been ill for two years. "He fought and fought and fought. He never gave up," said his wife, the former Donna Donato.

A throwback to the reporters of the 1930s and '40s, Mr. Terry was an expert at digging out the facts at a crime scene and phoning them in to a rewrite man in the newsroom for compilation into a detailed story.

"He could strike up a conversation with anyone who crossed his path, and loved to tell stories and reminisce about his exploits as a reporter," his wife said.

Mr. Terry had an encyclopedic knowledge of the city and the crimes that occurred there, said his stepson, Brett Beach. He covered some of the city's most high-profile crimes, including the Dec. 9, 1981, killing by Mumia Abu-Jamal of Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner.

Mr. Terry also reported on the murder of Police Officer Thomas J. Trench, 43, in his cruiser on May 28, 1985, in the Spring Garden section. The squad car's driver's-side window was down, and Trench's revolver was still in its holster, leading officials to believe he had been surprised, Mr. Terry reported.

To have detailed information soon after a crime was routine for Mr. Terry.

"The way he did that was, he got access to the initial police reports right at the crime scene," said retired Inquirer police reporter Thomas J. Gibbons Jr., who worked with Mr. Terry.

"When he got back to the office, a white paper that would have been prepared by the top commanders would be shared with Bo," Gibbons said.

Many of the officers and top police brass trusted Mr. Terry due to their common roots at North Catholic High School in Philadelphia, Gibbons said.

"It didn't hurt him - the fact that he had a photographic memory and a talent to glean more information in an interview than most reporters in town," Gibbons said.

A colorful figure, Mr. Terry smoked Pall Malls, weighed in at 250 pounds in his prime, and dressed in sports jackets with wide lapels.

He took notes in an inscrutable shorthand, and dumped the notes in the trash as soon as he called in the facts to the rewrite man, Gibbons said.

Gibbons, who competed with Mr. Terry for almost a decade at the Bulletin before joining him at The Inquirer, said Mr. Terry was tough to scoop.

"You didn't know what you were up against in the following day's Inquirer. It made me work a little harder," Gibbons said. "When the Bulletin folded and I jumped to the Inquirer, I was glad to be on his team."

When he retired on Jan. 27, 1999, Mr. Terry was officially recognized with a citation from the City of Philadelphia.

Born in Philadelphia, Mr. Terry graduated in 1955 from North Catholic and began his career on May 29, 1955, as a copyboy in the newsroom.

He moved to the Business News department as a financial clerk, and finally became a reporter attached to the City Desk. For the last 20 years of his career he worked out of Police Headquarters at Eighth and Race Streets.

Surviving, besides his stepson and wife of 24 years; are a son, Kevin; a stepgrandson; and nieces and nephews.

Visitation will be Wednesday, Oct. 9, from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. at the John E. Day Funeral Home, 85 Riverside Ave., Red Bank, Monmouth County, N.J.

A Funeral Mass will be at 10 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 10, at St. James Roman Catholic Church, 94 Broad St. Interment will follow at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Middletown, N.J.

Donations may be sent to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Office of Donor Services, 1311 Mamaroneck Ave., White Plains, N.Y. 10605.

Condolences may be offered to the family at www.johnedayfuneralhome.com.


bcook@phillynews.com

610-313-8102

 

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