Phil Luciano: Avid hunter gets one last shot

Phil Luciano

Terry wanted to go out with a bang.

The avid outdoorsman had one dying wish: to have his remains scattered over his favorite hunting grounds. But he wanted no gentle goodbye.

So, according to his will, his ashes were packed into shotgun shells. Soon, a couple of dozen pals will raise their firearms, pull the triggers and thunder Terry's ashes across a lake.

"He wanted to go out hunting," says pal Mike.

Mike, 58, lives in Peoria Heights. He met Terry, a Missouri gent nearly 20 years his senior, through their work in the insurance industry. Terry did booming business. In fact, in his self-penned obituary, Terry called himself "the greatest salesman in the world."

Though he worked only six months a year, he was a millionaire. He plowed profits into land in rural eastern Missouri, where he set up hunting grounds. There, he also created a 15-acre lake, which he stocked with fish. He dubbed it Turkey Lake, for all the wild fowl dashing about.

He'd also hunt and fish all over North America, often taking along Mike and other pals. Mike's living room boasts a black bear taken in Manitoba. But that's nothing compared to Terry's house in Missouri, where nearly every inch of wall space displays mounts of sheep, mountain goats, moose, elk, turkeys, deer and quail.

But Terry hunted not just for wall trophies.

"All he ate was what he hunted," Mike says.

They'd also often head to the Florida Keys to seek red snapper. The next such foray was on Terry's mind in November when he got harsh news from his doctor: brain cancer. And it was moving fast.

When he told Mike, Terry asked, "Will you take me to the Keys one more time?"

Terry said he might not be able to help with some chores, such as driving his own boat.

"I can't hold on to things," Terry said. "I keep dropping things."

Mike said he'd make it all work, even allow Terry to fish with weakened hands. Mike said he'd outfit Terry with thick gloves, then use duct tape to affix a pole in Terry's hands. Terry liked that idea.

But it didn't happen. Quickly, Terry's health nose-dived.

"I can't go," he told Mike in mid-December.

So, Mike went to visit Terry one last time. Terry died in January, at age 76.

Mike got the news in a phone call from one of Terry's sons. But there would be no funeral.

"He was just that way," Mike says, shrugging his shoulders.

But weeks later, Mike received an invitation from Terry's family in Missouri. It explained Terry's wish to have his ashes blasted over the lake, during a party planned by Terry. The invite included a poem by Terry, which closes:

So drink my booze and eat my food, for good time's sake,

and shoot my ashes in the Turkey Lake.

Notice that this tale has no surnames. Mike and Terry's survivors worry about the ash blast violating environmental laws. So I asked the Missouri Department of Natural Resources about open-air interment of remains via shotgun.

"I don't think I've ever had that asked before," a spokeswoman said. "I don't think we'd have any regulations on it."

Regardless, Terry's place is in the middle of nowhere. So I doubt anyone would even note the shotgun blasts.

But Terry's friends will. They'll remember this forever.

Phil Luciano is a columnist with the Journal Star. He can be reached at, (309) 686-3155 or (800) 225-5757, ext. 3155.