Assembly/Taps Memorial Article:
Terry L. Alexander '61
No. 23524 • 20 Jul 1939 - 28 Jun 2000 • Died in ShelbyTownship, Ml
Interred in Womelsdorf Union Cemetery, Womelsdorf, PA
Terry Lee Alexander had a strong sense of duty and commitment. His
ability to solve problems in a calm, logical manner made him a sought-after
team member on challenging and high-visibility programs. This was true
throughout his Army and civilian careers.
Terry' was born in Marion Township, PA, to Thomas and Emma Alexander.
Growing up in the unpretentious, reserved, hardy, and resourceful Pennsylvania
Dutch culture molded his character and developed his love of country. Terry's
sons remember his life-long zest for knowledge, natural intelligence, and his
zeal to continue to learn.
At Conrad Weiser High School in Robesonia, PA, Terry was class president
and valedictorian. He was an Eagle Scout and developed an interest in Native
Americans. Terry constructed artifacts, including a full-feathered war bonnet,
and taught Indian lore. He began each Scout campfire in his handmade Indian
regalia astride a horse, describing battle artifacts, and ended it with a war
dance. His love and support of Indian culture endured throughout his life.
On 2 Jul 1957 Terry joined the Class of 1961 and in September was assigned
to Company A-2. He excelled in academics, soccer, and planning. Terry loved
soccer. He introduced his A-2 classmates to the game, taught us, and was our
coach. His planning abilities flourished on Ring Weekend in 1960 when he
proposed to Elizabeth "Betsy" Eagelman, his sweetheart since second grade.
During a civilian tour of the cadet barracks, he gave her an engagement ring
(at the time women were not allowed in cadet barracks). While this was a
memorable event, Betsy later commented on the lack of romanticism in those
Upon graduation, Terry was commissioned in his beloved Armor branch, and
while on graduation leave, he and Betsy married. After completing the Armor Officer
Basic Course at Ft. Knox, KY, Terry and Bets)' reported to the 81st Armor in
Ft. Hood, TX the first of three assignments there. Their first son, Steven,
was born in Texas.
In 1963, Terry was assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division in Korea. Next, he
attended the Armor Officer Advanced Course and then served as a Company
Commander and brigade S-l in the 2d Armored Division at Ft. Hood. In 1966,
Terry attended the one-year British Royal Armour School of Tank Technology, a
course on armored fighting vehicles design, which allowed him to further
develop his interest and ideas in that area. Of the 20 students, Terry was the
only one from the U.S. Their second son, Philip, was born in England. Betsy
described this time as the best year of their lives.
In 1967, Terry arrived in Viet Nam, serving as commander of an armored
reconnaissance troop and a staff officer with the 23rd Infantry Division
(America!). Returning to the States, Terry and his family moved to Ft. Knox,
KY. He worked for the Armor and Engineer Board as chief of the combat vehicle
test branch, supervising ten major test programs. Next, he earned his master's
degree from the University of Illinois in industrial engineering with a
specialty in operations research and systems analysis. For his "utilization
tour," Terry was assigned to Headquarters, Project MASSTER at Ft. Hood, TX,
serving as a seasoned test officer. Here, he developed test plans, conducted
field tests, and wrote test reports on systems and equipment that later would
be added to the Army's inventory.
In 1976, Terry attended Command and General Staff College at Ft.
Leavenworth, KS. He and his family then moved to Michigan, where he joined the
Tank-Automotive Command in the Office of Project Management for M-60 Tanks. Terry was promoted to lieutenant colonel, and as the assistant project
manager for the M60-A3, he managed this tank through its final stages of
testing, initial production, and introduction into the Army. Throughout his
involvement with tank programs, Terry was committed to providing our soldiers
with the best fighting equipment. In 1982, Terry retired from the Army and began work for General Dynamics in the Land Systems Division,
working on new armored vehicle concepts ranging from self-propelled artillery
to a tank recovery vehicle. He also developed operational requirements for
new systems and concepts for advanced hardware designs. His job required many
early-morning meetings and flights, reminiscent of 0600 Reveille at USMA,
remarked a fellow graduate. After 14 years with General Dynamics, Terry retired again and enjoyed traveling between Michigan and Florida, visiting
family and friends.
In 1998, Terry was diagnosed with cancer. He fought with his usual
courage and optimism until his death on 28 Jun 2000 at his home in Shelby
Township, MI. His beloved wife Betsy and sons were by his side. Terry was
buried with military honors in Womelsdorf, PA, not far from the rolling fields
that nurtured him as a child. To date, he is the only USMA graduate from
Womelsdorf and his companymates still refer to him as "The Womseldorfer
At Terry's funeral, son Philip discussed the skills and lessons he learned
from his father, the more lasting lessons including gratitude, integrity, and
financial responsibility. "When we remember what my father taught us, he is
alive in us."
An A-2 classmate described the graveside ceremony. "We [were] among
gravestones about 20 yards from the funeral party. We could see the
seven-member firing party and the Army bugler .... Three volleys were fired,
and we waited for the bugler to play Taps, but he didn't move .... Then,
suddenly, oft to our right front, coming from the funeral party were the clear
notes of Taps. Surely, this was not some recording being played. Then we saw
the source of those strong notes—it was Terry's son, Steve, playing Taps for
his father. What a tribute to a father and to a soldier!"
Terry Alexander will be remembered in many ways: as a proud
member of the Long Gray Line who loved West Point, a leader, a loving husband and father,
and a consummate professional soldier. His infectious love or life enriched
the lives of all those around him. Well done, Terry! Be thou at peace. —
Terry's wife, sons, companymates, and friends
64 TAPS MAY/JUNE 2007