The Oberlin Review
<< Front page News February 10, 2006

Community Members Will Be Missed
Staff and Students are Impacted by Loss of Two Decafé Mainstays
Teryl Ann Porter: Beloved member of Oberlin community will be and is already missed.

“Teryl and Enola are like an institution at Oberlin,” said Gina Fusco, manager of the Decafé, referring to twins Teryl Ann Porter and Enola Bowen, who worked as cashiers there. “They’ve bonded with so many of the students here.”

Upon returning to Oberlin for the spring semester, students received the news that Teryl passed away on Jan. 28. Teryl had been diagnosed with cancer last year.

Teryl and Enola had worked for Oberlin since 1996, taking the night shifts at Decafé and at the Rathskellar when Fourth Meal took place at Wilder.

“[Teryl] had been fighting the cancer and it looked like she was winning,” said Fusco. “She even worked in the fall for a few months. But unfortunately it returned and spread very quickly.”

Enola, who was not sick, suffered a heart attack on the floor of Decafé on Jan. 26. Two CDS workers, Vivian Seeley and Cheryl King, were there while it was happening.

“It was a big shock,” said King. “I found her and called 911. I pulled her out from under the table and she didn’t have a pulse. I tried to get her to breathe but it wasn’t working too well.”

King called for help and Seeley came in and performed CPR.

“The safety and security guards performed the miracle,” she said. “I did what had to be done. I kept her going but they saved her life.”

“The department dispatcher and office manager heard over the scanner that a full-scale arrest had happened on the floor of the Decafé,” said Dave Alvarez, one of the first guards on the scene. “They dispatched it to myself and other officers working and we performed CPR and used the automatic defibrillator.”

Enola has recovered for the most part and has a very good prognosis. She was released from the hospital this week. Fusco believes she will even be back at work soon.

“She’s such a strong-willed lady,” Fusco said. “It won’t be the same without Teryl.”

Students and staff both said they feel the impact that Teryl has had and the void she will leave.

“I worked with them for ten years when we would cater weddings,” said Rick Panfil, general manager of campus dining services. “Everybody liked them. They would make friends with the clients over a four-hour period and would be out on the dance floor with them. Teryl loved life and always had something funny to say. They loved their jobs, being a mom or a friend to students. They knew students by name.”

“She was a great lady,” said Sharon Shriver, campus catering supervisor. “She always wanted to make things fun. She was fun to be around and fun to work with. She was a hard worker in every category. She and Enola both. I’ve never seen two sisters as close. They were tight-knit but very private.”

“Teryl and Enola both are just very strong, caring people,” said Mark Shuping, a student Decafé employee who played cello at the funeral. “They’re always there. Willing to talk if you need it, willing to help if you need it. They also give you space.

“Enola was still in the hospital [during the funeral] and her presence was missed,” Shuping continued. “Her son spoke for her about Teryl’s love of laughter and making people happy. A pastor said that there’s always that one person in a conversation who’s not afraid to say what everyone else is thinking. That was Teryl. She was always tactful about it but would get it out there.”

“It’s not going to be the same without her,” said Lisa Anadiotis, a food service supervisor at Decafé. “Maybe not everyone knew her name but everyone knew who she was.”

Fusco related how Teryl would clear the room when it came time for Decafé to close. She would come out banging a big pot with a spoon, saying “I don’t care where you go but you’re not staying here.” Stragglers would be handed a rag and a squirt bottle and told with a straight face, “If you’re staying, you’re cleaning.”

“They’re both here for everybody and wear their hearts on their sleeves,” continued Fusco. “I think we were all hoping [Teryl’s illness] was just a bump in the road. It goes without saying that I’ll miss her. I think of that cashier’s chair as her throne. In fact, we’re thinking of buying a new one – no one wants to sit it in.”

“Teryl’s been kind of a mom to me,” said College senior Alia Kate, who has worked off and on at Decafé and also attended the funeral. “She always had the best, motherly advice. She’d give you that look and just tell you whatever she was going to tell you. And you knew that Teryl knew best.

“She always said the perfect thing to ground you back into what’s most important: caring for people and taking care of herself,” Kate continued.

“She had a lot of class,” said a maintenance worker in Wilder who wanted to remain anonymous. “And you could avoid a lot of problems by asking her how to do something the right way first.”

Junior Porter is a maintenance worker in Wilder food services. He was also married to Teryl and remained close with her after their divorce.

“She was a good wife to me,” said Porter. “She liked to travel. She liked to cook. She liked to go to church. She liked concerts. She liked music. She was very active and liked to do a lot of stuff. She was a very sweet young lady. I cared for her a lot and miss her a lot.”

Teryl seemed unfazed by Oberlin students. A section of a 2003 “Off the Cuff” with her reads:

“This one time that a man came in completely naked and ordered a cup of coffee. The manager, who was new at that point, came back to where I was sitting and said, ‘There’s something really strange going on outside.’ I asked him, ‘Is it a naked student?’ and he said ‘Yeah.’ ‘That’s nothing strange,’ I said.”

“I hope she knew how much she meant to people,” concluded Kate. “We were lucky to have her watching over us – making sure we weren’t drinking too much coffee or eating too many cookies. She had such a positive impact on people’s lives. She was inspirational.”


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