A light at the Pontiac Area Chamber of Commerce has gone out with the passing of its executive director, Mindi Terrell. Terrell, 51, died Tuesday morning after a long bout with cancer.
"She had this cancer she's been fighting for years, she had to have all kinds of surgeries," said Chamber member Joan Bullard, who was recently honored as Business Person of the Year. "She always tried to keep a positive attitude, upbeat."
Terrell came to the Chamber nearly 3 1/2 years ago and had announced her retirement last month, stating that March 15 would be her last official day.
"I've been battling cancer for the last couple of years and it has decided to come back, it really opened up the opportunity to say, 'what's my priorities,'" Terrell told the Daily Leader when announcing her retirement. "It just made sense to leave and focus on my health. Life doesn't always work out that way, but it so happens to be working out that way so I can stand back and focus on my health."
"I'm shocked," Bullard said after learning of Terrell's passing. "I know she had an uphill battle because it had metastasized and was in her brain and everywhere. I also thought, well, she's beat it three times already, maybe she'll beat it again."
Terrell was able to keep a strong bond with the City of Pontiac and with the United Way, which shared its office building on Plum Street.
"The one thing that stuck out most was her enthusiasm for the community. That spilled over with PROUD in decline," Pontiac City Administrator Bob Karls said. "On behalf of the Chamber, she really tried to step in and fulfill that gap where possible; to fill that void when PROUD left. I thought that was pretty significant.
"In the last several years, we've really developed a strong group of retailers downtown, and her stepping in and filling that void was pretty important."
Terrell was a member of the United Way, which allowed for the Chamber and United Way Director Deb Howard to work together on a number of projects.
"The Chamber and the United Way have always worked together for more than 50 years," Howard said. "She would roll up her sleeves, volunteer for things whether it was slinging lunches to running stuff here and running stuff there and stuffing envelopes. She worked hard, she gave that 100 percent plus.
"It was an adventure working with Mindi, we had a good time. She'll be missed."
A search had begin for Terrell's replacement due to the retirement. But her health seemed to take a turn for the worst in recent days. She wasn't even able to attend the annual Chamber banquet last week.
"She wanted to come to the dinner so bad, but she just wasn't able to," Bullard said. "She was so nice to work with, she tried to please everybody. She had a real big heart."
One thing that Terrell was working on with Bullard and a group of women was a scholarship drive that was started after the passing of longtime Chamber secretary Margo Kennedy.
"When Margo passed, a group of us ladies started a special scholarship," Bullard said. "We went to past ATHENA winners to help get it started. She was very active in that. She just picked up the ball and ran with it."
Terrell's funeral will be at noon Saturday at Duffy-Baier-Snedecor Funeral Home in Pontiac with Rev. Tom Goodell officiating. In honor of her wishes, the family has requested that all attending the service wear red. Burial will be at 4 p.m. Saturday at Cullom Cemetery, Cullom.