‘He would do it again’: Family remembers man who died trying to save another life

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The family of Terrance ‘Terry’ Dea is remembering him after he dies trying to help a boating accident victim on Fort Loudoun Lake. He was trying to save the life of 18-year-old, Emma Renee Fila, who also died Saturday.

His family said Terry died a hero. His brother, Howard Dea, said Terry was the middle child, “Terry and I were kind of tight even though he was four years younger, we hung out quite a bit.”

The family grew up in Canada and Terry moved to the United States when his job asked him to transfer. That’s when he met his wife.

“The moment I saw him, I know this is gonna sound strange, but I just knew I was going to marry him,” said Merry Joyce Dea.

She said it was his sense of humor and his kind heart the drew him to her, “he would just do anything, call him he’d be there, and his family was first.”

It’s that kindness and spirit that makes it hard to say goodbye explained Howard Dea.

“It’s pretty shocking and pretty tough for me to handle right now.” Howard added, “it’s still sinking in, you know? I still think I’m going to see him online.”

Howard said though they lived far away from one another, they had a close relationship, “last time I was with Terry was a few years before. He had come up to Edmonton and then he came over to Vancouver and spend a few days.”

When the COVID-19 Pandemic hit and they couldn’t travel to see one another, they would chat online. “For quite a while Terry and I would meet up on Facebook in the morning, and have chats, and go over our days”

For Terry, those days were spent out on his lakefront property with his wife, Merry Joyce Dea.

“We’ve always loved the lake,” she said. “Sitting out on the porch in the morning having our morning coffee thinking about things that we were going to do he just retired.”

Merry Joyce said they had big plans for their retirement together, but now those plans are going to have to wait. “He was just amazing and he was my hero he always will be.”

His brother Howard said, “Terry was a happy man, he was somebody who enjoyed life and when he left it he was gone in an instant from what I understand.”

Both Terry’s wife and his brother know he died doing what he loved, which is helping others.

“Knowing Terry, he would do it again,” said Merry Joyce. “He was just that kind of man. he was awesome.”

“I have a little brother that’s a hero and I will always remember him that way.” Howard adds, “we have no qualms of knowing that Terry is in a better place.”

The Dea’s said they plan to have a celebration of life for Terry on July 4.

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