Terry Lee’s Legacy Lives on at Shepherd Center
Hospital marks passing of former patient honored with bronze statue erected in 1986 near Shepherd Center’s entrance.
The bronze sculpture of the wheelchair javelin thrower in front of Shepherd Center honors former Shepherd Center patient Terry Lee for his pioneering achievements as a wheelchair athlete. But, more than just a work of art, it greets thousands of patients, their families, friends and Shepherd Center staff year after year. The statue represents hope through tragedy and perseverance through pain – much like Terry Lee himself.
Terry Lee of Blackville, S.C., passed away Feb. 23 in Williston, S.C. He was 72. He sustained a spinal cord injury during a hunting accident in 1956. At just 13 years old, Terry was paralyzed from the waist down. Insisting on attending college like his friends in a time when colleges weren’t accessible to all people, Terry was just the second person with paraplegia to graduate from the University of South Carolina. After graduation, Terry forged a successful career in real estate.
Terry was also successful in the wheelchair sports arena. He was an all-around great athlete and a consistent winner in the pentathlon, which includes a wheelchair sprint, swimming, archery, shot put and javelin. His awards for his athletic achievements are as well known as they are numerous, even winning medals at the National Wheelchair Games. Terry’s victories weren’t just a win for him, though. They were a win for many others, too.
“Terry was athletic, confident, had a career and a beautiful girlfriend,” says Bill Furbish, a former patient who roomed with Terry at Shepherd Center in 1985 when Terry was hospitalized with complications. “I thought ‘Shoot, all of these things are possible.’”
Throughout his life, Terry served as a source of inspiration and support for many people who sustained injuries similar to his. He volunteered his time with the YMCA’s Youth Wheelchair Sports Program in DeKalb, Gwinnett and Cobb counties. He also remained an avid participant in athletics and recreation therapy at Shepherd Center, encouraging others to not give up doing the things they love. Along the way, Terry met Jim Caswell, a long-time supporter of Shepherd Center; Jim was recently honored posthumously as Shepherd Center’s Angel of the Year.
“Terry had gotten to know Jim through having his office at Piedmont Center,” says James Shepherd, co-founder of Shepherd Center. “Jim so admired Terry and all of the accomplishments he’d made athletically, so he had the bronze statue of Terry made as a symbol of hope for all of those who entered Shepherd Center’s campus. Everyday, we have this powerful reminder that anything is possible.”
The plaque on the statue reads: “Terry Lee – an accomplished athlete and real estate manager, who personified the remarkable spirits of a man to triumph over spinal cord injury and lead a full, active life. Dedicated May 22, 1986.”
Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain, and other neuromuscular conditions. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. In its more than four decades, Shepherd Center has grown from a six-bed rehabilitation unit to a world-renowned, 152-bed hospital that treats more than 900 inpatients, 575 day program patients and more than 7,100 outpatients each year.