RIP: Deacon Terry Star, Executive Council member, found dead at seminary

By Mary Frances Schjonberg
Posted Mar 5, 2014

The Rev. Terry Star, a deacon in the Diocese of North Dakota and a member of the Episcopal Church’s Executive Council, has died at Nashotah House Theological Seminary in Wisconsin. Photo: Bishop Carol J. Gallagher via Facebook.

[Episcopal News Service] The Rev. Terry Star, a 40 year-old deacon in the Diocese of North Dakota and a member of the Episcopal Church’s Executive Council, has died suddenly at Nashotah House Theological Seminary in Wisconsin, where he was studying for ordination to the priesthood.

After Star did not attend chapel the morning of March 4 and failed to show up for classes or meals a member of the Nashotah House community went to check on him and found he had died, according to the Rev. Canon John Floberg, a fellow member of the Diocese of North Dakota and also an Executive Council member, and the Rev. Phillip Cunningham, Nashotah House associate dean of administration.

Floberg told Episcopal News Service that there was no indication Star was ill. “It took everybody by surprise,” he said.

Star, whose council term would have ended after General Convention in 2015, was also a convention deputy. He belonged to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and considered St. James Episcopal Church in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, to be his home church. He served as a deacon for the Standing Rock Episcopal Community.

Star had been a youth minister on the reservation for many years. When Episcopal News Service reached Floberg on March 5, he was en route to the reservation high schools to talk with students who knew Star. Floberg reported that the principal of the high school in Fort Yates, North Dakota, had asked him to come in as a counselor after word was received of Star’s death. Floberg said he also planned to go to the high school in Solen, North Dakota, “because they’re in the same place” about Star’s death.

In November, Star preached at the consecration of the new St. James building which replaced the church that was destroyed by an arsonist in July 2012. A video recording of his sermon is here.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said in a statement that “the Episcopal Church has been much blessed by the ministry of Deacon Terry Star, on Standing Rock, as a member of Executive Council, and through the many relationships he had built throughout the church and beyond.”

“We give thanks for his life and witness, his prophetic voice, and his reconciling heart. All his relatives are grieving, and we pray that his soul may rest in peace and his spirit continue to prod us all in continuing the ministry of healing we have from Jesus.”

The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, House of Deputies president and vice chair of Executive Council, called Star “a dedicated and passionate deputy from the Diocese of North Dakota and member of Executive Council, a fierce advocate for the people of his beloved Standing Rock, and a loyal and faithful Episcopalian.”

“He was also smart, witty, and a good pastor and friend. His death is an enormous loss for his family, the Cannon Ball community, the Episcopal Church, and all of us who served with him,” she added.

Reaction to his death and tributes to his life soon began to appear on Facebook.

“Deacon Terry Star was a holy witness to the lived gospel – I am so sorry to hear the news of his death,” Diocese of Long Island Bishop Larry Provenzano said in reaction to Diocese of North Dakota Assisting Bishop Carol Gallagher’s posting of the news on her Facebook page. “May he rest in the loving arms of Jesus, whom he served so well.”

The Rev. Jennifer Phillips, of St. Francis Episcopal Church in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, said “May he feast with the ancestors!”

Star’s own Facebook page is now filled with messages and tributes.

“Oh my friend, I know you are where your light will continue to shine and we will always feel your support and love,” wrote Janet A. Routzen from Mission, South Dakota. “Praying for your family….”

BobbiBrandon Bear Heels wrote “RIP my sundance brother we shall see each other again…look down on us from time to time from the heavens my brother. will miss seeing you every year at Mato Woapiya sundance.”

Fellow Executive Council member John B. Johnson wrote on Star’s page that he was “deeply saddened to learn this news.”

“Terry was literally a rising star in the Episcopal Church. I will miss him terribly on Executive Council of the Episcopal Church. My heart goes out to all of his friends, classmates and family. May he rest in peace.”

It would appear that Star last posted on his page at 10:35 a.m. on March 3 and he last tweeted on his account at 1:46 a.m. on March 4 when he was listening to Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” on Spotify.

Star was prayed for at the Chapel of Christ the Lord at the Episcopal Church Center in New York on Ash Wednesday morning “for his journey to the spirit world and for comfort to his mother Charlotte Star in her time of grief,” according to Sarah Eagle Heart, missioner for indigenous ministries.

Eagle Heart said a group involved in native youth ministry that was meeting at the church center “will continue this work in his memory.”

Star, a member of council’s Joint Standing Committee on Local Ministry and Mission, was an advocate for people marginalized by society, especially native peoples.

At the most recent council meeting, Star helped lead an effort that resulted in the council joining what has become a nationwide effort that has reached to the White House to convince the National Football League’s Washington Redskins team to change its name.

“I’ve been fighting with this issue since I was in high school 22 years ago,” he said at the time.

Star was born in Seattle, Washington. He lived on 10 Indian reservations, in part because of his father’s career in tribal law enforcement, according to information on Star’s LinkedIn page.

Lillian Ironbull-Martinez, his maternal grandmother, raised him in the Episcopal Church and, according to his LinkedIn biography, he and other members of the Standing Rock Episcopal Community liked to joke that they are “cradle-board Episcopalians.”

When Star was confirmed at Our Father’s House/St. Michael’s Mission in Ethete, Wyoming, his grandmother predicted that someday he would be ordained in the Episcopal Church. Star was ordained into the diaconate in June 2007.

He is survived by his parents Charlotte and Woodrow Star of Pendleton, Oregon; his brothers and sisters and “many relatives and friends,” according to Diocese of North Dakota Bishop Michael Smith.

Funeral service arrangements have not yet been announced, but Floberg said they will take place on the Standing Rock reservation. He said Star’s parents were en route to the reservation on March 5.

— The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.


Comments (31)

  1. Ann Fontaine says:

    Like a shooting star leaving tracks on our hearts. Rise in glory, brother.

  2. martha knight says:

    This is so sad. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

  3. Dianne Aid says:

    Terry, may you continue to blaze a trail of witness for us. I am here with grieving mothers, that cannot be changed, but we know you now know the deep abiding peace awaiting you.

  4. Sandra t. Montes says:

    A sweet serious yet funny man. I love him. I miss him!

  5. rochelle rodriguez says:

    R.i.p terry i still can’t believe your gone ima miss you alot wish i could of seen you one last time your an angel now watch inng over your friends and family 🙁

  6. Betty J Dwarf says:

    RIP Terry, you will be missed by all, including the youth of Standing Rock whom you have done so much for. God has gained an Angel. I believe Terry is sitting with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This news of his loss is like nothing we will never understand. He worked to help the people of Standing Rock, but The Lord had other plans for Mr. Terry Star. You will be missed by many who lives and heart that you touched. God Bless his family and Friends. To Brandon & Angela
    Maui may The Lord comfort you.

  7. Michael Alphin says:

    Please accept my sympathies at the loss of such a good and important man. His service in the human and spiritual lives of those he knew will live on. I pray peace for all whose heart he filled.

  8. Terry was a great friend to many of us here on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation as well. He will be missed by many, especially myself and the rest of our classmates from Todd County High School. There are few people on this earth who can leave on their journey to the Spirit World who exit without a single bad thing to be said about them… Terry is one of these people.

  9. Stephanie Roubideaux Mosley says:

    RIP my dear classmate…I know you are watching over us as an Angel <3

  10. Margaret Brack says:

    What a guiding light you have been to us all! You will continue to shine in our hearts. May we be bold enough to continue the many causes you supported! We will miss you at Nashotah and here at the diocese in ND. Your presence will be remembered always. Rest in peace.

  11. Vicky Star says:

    I miss you uncle Terry.. I need you back.. We all need You Back. You Made Us All Smile. Your smile Was Always The Biggest and brightest. I Love You Ate And I always will Have You In My Heart. We All Will.

  12. Cn. Shirley M. Watts says:

    I am shocked and saddened at the news of Terry`s death. We worked together in domestic and foreign mission programs several years ago. His passion for mission, his dedication to the Episcopal Church, and his perseverance in following the call to ordained ministry will be remembered. Condolences to his family, his friends, and his companions in Christ.

    Cn. Shirley M. Watts
    VFM (Ret.)
    Canon for Mission & Outreach (Ret.)
    Episcopal Diocese of WNY

  13. Cynthia Bear Robe-Jones says:

    My condolences to Woody & Charlotte Starr, Terry was such a good happy going young man he always had words of encouragement an comfort if u were down an out an always uplifted ur spirits wen needed, happy journeys to u my friend an I know u will be watching down on us with that big happy smile u always had, rest easy till we meet again. <3

  14. Janice Meisner says:

    May the peace and comfort that only God can provide surround those who knew and loved you best!

  15. Davey Joseph says:

    May his memory be eternal, and may his parents, family and friends be comforted. Deepest sympathy.

  16. Pickett Wall says:

    The St. John’s Northwestern community is grateful for Terry’s service and dedication. His presence here on campus was a blessing. May our dear friend and brother rest in peace and rise in glory.

  17. rhonda moore says:

    my deepest sympathy to woody and charlotte, and the rest of the family, he will be missed.

  18. Cruzito alderete says:

    Rest in peace Uncle Terry , thanks for all the help and all the talks we had , I will miss you

  19. Margaret Fasthorse-DeCora says:

    RIP Terry Starr….you were an inspiration to all of the kids and parents of Cannon Ball…you had a smile for everyone when you saw them…You will be missed in Cannon Ball Community….:)

  20. James Cowan says:

    Terry the peace-maker, Terry the humourist, Terry with the strength of lions has been a gift to us. Let us rejoice in the lasting effects of that gift even as we mourn Terry’s death, and let us commit him to God’s gracious keeping until the last day.

  21. Danny L Anderson JR says:

    I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.
    I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth. And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another.
    We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the Name of the Lord.
    Man that is born of a woman hath but a short time to live, and is full of misery. He cometh up, and is cut down, like a flower; he fleeth as it were a shadow, and never continueth in one stay.
    In the midst of life we are in death: of whom may we seek for succour, but of thee, O Lord, who for our sins art justly displeased? Yet, O Lord God most holy, O Lord most mighty, O holy and most merciful Saviour, deliver us not into the bitter pains of eternal death.
    Thou knowest, Lord, the secrets of our hearts; shut not thy merciful ears to our prayer; but spare us, Lord most holy, O God most mighty, O holy and merciful Saviour, thou most worthy judge eternal, suffer us not, at our last hour, for any pains of death, to fall from thee.
    I heard a voice from heaven, saying unto me, Write, From henceforth blessed are the dead which die in the Lord: even so saith the Spirit: for they rest from their labours.

    1. Keith Charles Edwards says:

      4th sentence is my favorite.

  22. Edward Wos says:

    It is sad that we have lost such a valued member of our church. May his life be a guiding light to all of the Diocese of North Dakota. Although I did not know him well personally, I had contact with him at various retreats and meetings. My prayers go out to his family and community. He is now living in peace with the Lord. Terry’s life is a tremendous inspiration to me as I continue my studies to be a deacon.

  23. Keith Charles Edwards says:

    I did not know the man, but I feel an akin to him an all who loved him. I pray that he did not suffer.

  24. Patti Bush says:

    Such a gentle man, with a warm, infectious smile. He was a friend to all he met, I am sure, and will be truly missed by all for a long,, long time. To me, he was a very gentle giant of a man, with not a mean bone in his body, and I am truly grateful that our paths crossed. Peace be with you, Terry.

  25. Tery & Curt Olson says:

    Heavenly Father we know another angel by name ; Terry Star whom is in heaven now .
    Please grant all spiritual Family
    and all whom knew Terry Star strength and continue to hear and know God love and bring forth goodness and helping all in knowing and having God in our Life .
    Thank You God for letting us know a Angel here on Earth.
    family of Terry Star you are in our prayer’s.

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