Hi! I’m Terry Mansfield and I Specialize in Eclecticism
Here are some things about me you probably don’t know (and maybe don’t even care to know; sorry about that).
My name is Terry Mansfield, and I was born in a doctor’s office on June 28th, 1951 in the town of Rolla, Missouri, USA. Not long after my birth, my parents Elvin and Lillian moved to St. Louis, a city that sits next to the Mississippi River, and which is a much larger place than Rolla. I grew up in St. Louis and, as almost all St. Louisans do, became a lifelong fan of the local major league baseball team, the St. Louis Cardinals. Go Redbirds!
My family was always poor while I was growing up, scratching as best they could to keep me and my five sisters fed, clothed, and with a roof over our heads. Nonetheless, they gave us all their love and were our biggest cheerleaders. Mom made it through two years of high school before getting married and having me, and Dad only got to third grade. However, he was a master car mechanic, especially in the old, mechanical engine days. He was the best. My dad passed away about 25 years ago, but my mom is still very much alive and kicking, I’m happy to report, having celebrated her 87th birthday this year.
As a teenager, I worked a few odd jobs in and around attending Central High School (“the oldest school west of the Mississippi”). During my senior year of high school, I had the obligatory session with the school’s guidance counselor. She asked me if I had considered going on to college. I told her I hadn’t thought about it. Then she surprised me by asking me if I was interested in going to college on a work-study scholarship, where my tuition would be paid by me working two weeks full-time in the summer and four hours a day during the school year.
That sounded like a good deal to me. I then asked about the university, and she said it was a relatively small college called The College of the School of the Ozarks, located over 300 miles from St. Louis near the Arkansas border. When I heard that it was that far from my home, I jumped at the chance to go off on my own and get a little distance between my family and me to gain some independence.
So off I went to The College of the School of the Ozarks located in tiny Pt. Lookout, Missouri, not far from Branson, MO, which has become a country music and entertainment mecca these days. For about six months, I had a grand time doing everything but studying properly. However, I was still managing to hang on as far as making passing grades. That is until I made the huge mistake of signing up for a five-credit hours course in Zoology. It wasn’t long before I fell way behind and was on track to get an F in that course, thus dragging down my overall grade point average to something less than stellar.
I then made the painful decision to withdraw from Zoology, drop out of school altogether, and return home in defeat. Clearly, I wasn’t prepared for college yet. However, on the plus side, I learned to play tennis very well while at that school. After returning to St. Louis, I milled about for a few months before enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1970 and heading off to boot camp training at the San Diego Recruit Depot. That was one, long, hot, grueling summer, I can tell you.
But I survived and graduated successfully before going on to continue my tour of duty in the Marines. As fate would have it, I eventually wound up assigned in 1971 as a Military Policeman at the Marine Corps Iwakuni Air Station in Iwakuni, Japan, which is about an hour by train from Hiroshima.
And as luck would have it, while stationed there, I met through a mutual friend Kayoko, a wonderful Japanese girl who would eventually become my wife (we’ve been married 47 years now!). I brought her to St. Louis as my fiance, and we got married in 1973, after which I finished up my time with the Marines at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
Upon leaving the Marines, I returned to St. Louis and enrolled in Forest Park Community College, a two-year school. I was ready for college this time. Kayoko and I eventually found a place to rent not too far from the college. I went to school on the original G.I Bill, which gave me a few hundred dollars a month for tuition, books, etc.
That amount didn’t even come close to paying for our living expenses, especially after our son Timmy was born in 1974. So I had to work part-time to make ends meet. That’s how I became a cameraman working in Forest Park’s Instructional Television Department, which was actually pretty cool. I had long hair in those days, by the way.
After graduating from Forest Park with an associate’s degree, I applied to Sophia University’s International Division in Tokyo, Japan (Jesuits founded Sophia in 1928), and they accepted me into their undergraduate Bachelor’s Degree program. But again, I had to utilize my G.I.Bill money to pay for my college tuition, etc. at Sophia. And as was the case at Forest Park Community College, the amount I received fell far short of what we needed to live on, especially in an incredibly expensive city such as Tokyo.
So I began working as an English teacher. Each day I would rise very early in our tiny apartment located about 45 minutes outside the city limits of Tokyo and ride the train into the big city. I would then work from 7:30 to 2:30 teaching English at a language school in downtown Tokyo. Afterward, I would travel across town by train to the Sophia campus to attend classes from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. every weekday. This schedule was exhausting, but it’s what I had to do for us to survive. But after a couple of years of this grueling schedule, and after earning my Bachelor’s Degree in 1976, it was time to return to America.
This time we wound up living near St. Louis, just across the Mississippi River in Illinois in a small town called Cahokia, famous for its Native American origins. I used a Veteran’s Mortage Loan as a down payment to buy our first house, a very modest “starter” home. While living in Cahokia, I worked in nearby cities. First, as a grants writer in a non-profit Educational Grants Office in 1977 for about a year, and then for two years as the Deputy Director of the Southwest Illinois Office on Aging, where, among other things, I organized and held the area’s first-ever Senior Olympics. Our beautiful daughter Erika was born on the day the Senior Olympics was held. (Tragically, Erika passed away in 2006 at the age of 27; we miss her dearly every single day but still have many wonderful memories of her to cherish.)
While working at the Office on Aging, I decided to pursue a Master’s Degree in Management. I enrolled in the compressed schedule night program for working adults at Webster College (now Webster University). What this meant was that one full semester was compressed into five weeks, followed by a one-week break, and then another five-week session, and so on, that lasted a year. Thus, the typical two-year Master’s Degree program lasted only one year.
That would have been hard enough by itself, but to attempt to do it while also working full-time was absolutely nuts. Nonetheless, I did it and received my Master’s Degree in December 1981.
Eventually, I decided I wanted to return to military service, but this time as an officer. At 30, going on 31 years old, I was a good deal older than the average applicant. But because I had an excellent record of prior service in the Marines, and had my Master’s Degree in hand now, the U.S. Army gave me an age waiver and brought me in as an officer candidate.
However, because I had not been on active duty in the military for over five years, I had to attend Army Basic Training at Ft. Dix, New Jersey in the dead of winter cold. I was guaranteed a place in the upcoming summer Officer Candidate School (OCS) class at Ft. Benning, South Carolina, as long as I graduated from basic training.
Well, despite being the oldest guy around except for the Drill Sergeants, I finished Army Basic Training successfully and went on to spend three hot and humid months at OCS. Upon graduation in September 1982, the Army put me into its Signal Corps branch, with my first assignment luckily being in sub-tropical Okinawa, Japan.
All this marked the beginning of a 20-year career in the Army, which involved various challenging assignments in multiple places, including Japan again and Hawaii, with me rising through the ranks until I reached the level of Lieutenant Colonel (O-5) in 2001 while stationed at U.S. Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia. Kayoko and I have been living in our home in nearby Chesapeake for 22 years now.
I had enjoyed an incredible, rewarding career in the Army, but I was pushing 50 years old and wanted to try working in the private sector before I got too much older. Thus I retired from the Army in February 2002 and started working for a small company as an Information Technology (IT) consultant. After three years of working for that company, a large I.T. firm called Unisys recruited me in 2005 and I worked for them until 2011. While at Unisys, I rose through the corporate ranks and became an IT executive.
I retired in 2011, but my retirement didn’t last long. A friend of mine asked if I’d help him in his startup company. So I did that for a couple of years until being recruited by a medium-size company to join their ranks. I worked for them for a while and then finally retired for good. My transition to being fully retired turned out to be pretty tricky for me. But I finally did it.
Naturally, I have been spending lots of time with my lovely wife Kayoko, since fully retiring a few years ago. I wish I could say that I’ve been spending time with my son Tim and grandchildren Isaac (16) and Emily (13) regularly. However, since they live on the West Coast and we live on the East Coast, the in-person visits are few and far between.
That situation has been made worse by the coronavirus outbreak, which has everyone sheltering-in-place. On top of that, we have a new grandchild, Elle, who was born on July 28th, 2020. With coronavirus around, I don’t know how long it will be before we see the baby, as well as Isaac and Emily. It’s very frustrating, but there’s nothing we can do but ride things out until they return to some semblance of normal.
Since fully retiring, I’ve tried to cultivate pursuits in which I had always been interested, such as writing. Of course, I did plenty of writing, as needed, during my military and post-military careers. But not the things I wanted to write. As I mentioned in the title of this piece, I consider myself a specialist in eclecticism. That derives from my life-long curiosity about all kinds of topics.
I believe my eclectic approach not only keeps me fresh in my writing but also allows my readers to see different aspects of me as a writer. If someone doesn’t care for a particular genre or style of writing, well, they can easily find something else I’ve written that may suit them better. My eclectic bent will ensure there are always lots of different choices.
And whenever you want to write something, make sure you are Dressed To Quill.
UPDATE: On June 19th, 2020 I had a stroke. Fortunately, it didn’t affect my cognitive abilities. However, it did affect my physical balance in a major way. So, after spending six days in the hospital, and five days in a rehabilitation center, I returned home and received in-home physical therapy. I’m happy to report that I made excellent progress, although I’m still a bit wobbly on my feet. But I’ve graduated from a walker to a cane to walking on my own now. I want to again thank all of my wonderful friends online and off for their kind messages of encouragement and support, which meant a great deal to me and helped me to recover.
Thanks for reading.