Vandal Nation mourns loss of an icon

Courtesy photo Mike and Carolyn Terrill at the 2017 world premiere of “Steve McQueen: American Icon” in Orange County, Calif. Son Marshall Terrill executive produced the 90-minute documentary.

Beloved Miami man passes from COVID-19

“Mike bled Vandal Green all his life,” said Carolyn Terrill, wife of 61 years. “He had such a great affection for Miami and her people.”

The family of retired Air Force Col. Leo M. Terrill says that 83-year-old passed away on July 6, 2020 of COVID-19 at Chandler Regional Medical Hospital in Chandler, Ariz.

His son Marshall Terrill said that his father will be missed by all of those who knew and worked closely with him. “He’ll never be forgotten.”

Born in Hubbard, Oregon, Mike’s family moved back to Miami, Ariz. when he was an infant after the Inspiration Copper Company mine strike was over in 1937. Mike’s father was Leo A. Terrill. Leo was the president of Local 586 Mine and Smelter Workers of America in the early 1950s, and worked for the Miami Copper Company. He has a union hall named after him in Kearny.

Mike supported the community throughout his lifetime, including stints with the Miami Arizona Sports Hall of Fame, Bullion Plaza Cultural Center and Museum, and the Silverio T. Barreras Memorial Scholarship Fund.

In addition to his wife Carolyn, Mike is survived by four children, seven grandchildren and two great grandchildren. Carolyn placed her own life in danger, when she insisted of visiting Mike in the hospital. “She made the decision to go into the room with him and expose herself,” Mashall told AZ Family news. “She said, ‘I don’t care, I’m going to be by your dad’s side. If I die I’m going to go with him.” Carolyn did contract the virus but was asymptomatic and ended up quarantining for some time after Mike’s passing. 

In his youth, Mike was a talented all-around athlete. He made it to the Baltimore Orioles farm team before enlisting in the Army. He served from 1956-58, including a tour of duty in South Korea. When he returned stateside, he worked for the Inspiration Mine and then taught English at his alma mater, Miami High School, from 1962-1963.

Mike joined the Air Force in late 1963 where he achieved the rank of Colonel. He served in Vietnam from 1968-1969, worked at the Pentagon for a decade, and finished his career in Sept. 1985. He was awarded the Legion of Merit for his outstanding performance as the top Air Force public affairs officer.

Mike worked as a military consultant in Reston, Va. for seven years after retiring from the Air Force, specializing in weapons systems. He also worked at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico; Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Los Angeles, and Missile Defense Agency in Huntsville, Alabama. Mike retired to Mesa, Ariz. in 2016.

Mike kept busy in retirement volunteering for various non-profits. They included the Miami Arizona Sports Hall of Fame, American Slavic Association, the Rad Vucichevich Foundation, and Kidz at Heart International, an organization devoted to training Sunday School Teachers. He also served an elder at Centerstage Church in Apache Junction, Ariz.

At the time of Mike’s passing, launching a podcast relating to the area’s history was in the planning stages with former Miami resident Ray Arona.

Mike not only supported many Miami-based organizations and causes, he bolstered and promoted the local Mexican food scene with bi-weekly runs to El Ray Café, Guayo’s on the Trail and The Burger House, where he stocked up on tacos and red and green chile burros.

“A few weeks before his death, I accompanied my dad on a Mexican food run to Miami. On the drive up and the way back, I tape recorded several hours of his memories growing up in the area,” said son Marshall Terrill, who has authored 25 books. “We lunched at El Ray Café. Chips and salsa were brought to the table before our entrees, and he went right for the hot salsa. I remember him dipping the chip in the salsa and him loudly savoring the taste. I was amazed that after so many decades and the frequency in which he ate Mexican food, it still pleased his taste buds. He had a real zest for life.”

In a book written by Sammy Munoz, entitled “Summer of 53”, published in 2008, Sammy pays tribute to his close friend Mike Terrill. Sammy wrote: “Mike’s life story, like many others, whose parents chose to make their homes in Claypool, is a success story. Mike was also a baseball star, playing on Vandal teams that ranked among the very best in the Annals of High School Sports in the State of Arizona. And Mike shares some wonderful stories of the people who made Claypool what it was – a wonderful ‘suburb’ of the Town of Miami and a very special place.

In Sammy’s interview with Mike, he writes this: “Mike, you have touched so many people’s lives in your lifetime, my friend, and as such, you are so loved and respected by them all.”

And in return, Mike concluded his interview with Sammy with his own words that came from Mike’s heart, “Claypool was our home, and we are grateful for those who made it a safe haven for us during our formative years!”

A Claypool Alley Cat and a Miami Vandal, Mike Terrill.

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