Terry Gruters

Full Bio

Terry was born in Washington, DC, in the mid 1940’s. His father, Bertram Gruters, was then a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army and had recently been assigned to work in the Pentagon, after having served twenty-eight months in Africa and Europe fighting in World War II. His father was an artillery officer and was reassigned to the Signal Corp. He had graduated from Georgia Institute of Technology with an engineering degree and had worked with New York Telephone for many years before joining the war effort.  Because of his background, experience and education, he was then assigned to the Pentagon.

After the war, Terry’s father returned to his previous job with New York Telephone (an AT&T subsidiary), in New York City.  However, he commuted an hour each way to New York City from Fair Lawn, New Jersey, where he and his wife, decided to live so as to provide a better environment and Catholic schooling for their family.

Terry attended Saint Anne’s Catholic school from the first through the eighth grade in Fair Lawn, New Jersey.   His parents and the wonderful nuns at Saint Anne’s school helped him to know, love and serve God from his earliest days.  Terry still remembers saying the family rosaries and getting up with an alarm clock, while it was still dark, to ride his bike to St. Anne’s Church to serve as an altar boy for the early weekday masses.  He will always be thankful for having grown up with parents and teachers that helped him to love God and neighbor, and to know and strive to live the Ten Commandments.

Terry always did well in school, loved the library and read endless books.  Terry was very active in Cub and Boy Scouting and became an Eagle Scout.  He spent much time camping and trapping in the nearby woods. From an early age, Terry was always interested in nature and wildlife. By the time he was ten or eleven years old, he had an extensive insect collection consisting of insects that he had caught, identified from insect books, preserved and mounted.  He also caught wildlife such as salamanders and turtles. Most of these he let go, but he kept some of them for pets, usually on a temporary basis, to better observe them. As he grew older and more experienced, he also became familiar with many species of snakes and captured and kept some of the non-poisonous ones.

Terry grew up in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, from his early childhood until his father retired from New York Telephone. The family then moved to Sarasota, Florida. The reason for this move was because his father’s parents were getting older and all agreed the climate of Florida would be healthier for them than the climate of New York. Terry’s Father took an early retirement from New York Telephone and the family moved to Sarasota, Florida.  Sarasota is where Terry’s mother had lived most of her life before she married in the early 1940s just before World War II.   Terry’s mother’s mother, lived in Sarasota as did one of Terry’s maternal aunts, and  both of Terry’s maternal uncles, so this move greatly reunited his mother’s family.  Terry’s maternal grandfather, had moved the family to Sarasota in the 1920’s because he had been recruited by John Ringling to be the chief tentmaker of the Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus.   He had died at a relatively early age and was deceased before the Gruters’ family re-joined his wife, Terry’s grandmother, in Sarasota.

Terry remembers the new found relatives as very fervent in their faith.  His grandmother, would talk extensively with him about God and ask that he say prayers for certain family intentions.  He remembers that one of his aunts, was especially fervent in her faith and attended daily mass her entire life. His great uncle also lived in Sarasota with his wife.  Also fervent Catholics, he remembers talking with them about the Catholic Faith and our great God. His mothers family was very involved with Father C.L. Elslander and the St. Martha’s parish that had started the same time his mothers family moved to Sarasota in the 1920’s. Father Elslander was the founder and first Pastor of St. Martha’s Church, and Pastor for forty-one years.

Terry attended all four years of high school in Sarasota, Florida. He was a very good student.  He was on the track team and also a member of the National Honor Society.   He was  elected president of the Sarasota High School chapter of the Society by his classmates. He continued to love the outdoors and spent many weekends camping. Sarasota was a wonderful natural habitat for wildlife. It had many wildlife areas and even had and still has  a huge state park, Myakka River State Park with 37,000 acres, close by. Sarasota also offered marine habitats par excellence. Terry took marine biology in high school as one of his courses and extensively explored the marine environment in the local bay and Gulf of Mexico. He also had a good friend, Bruce Vomacka, whose big sister was married and lived in the country very close to Myakka River State Park.   Terry and Bruce camped endlessly on the weekends.  They observed and captured many turtles and snakes, and kept some of them as temporary pets.

After graduating from Sarasota High school, Terry wanted to follow his older brother, Guy, and attend the Air Force Academy. However, Terry was only 5 foot 3 inches as a senior in high school, and he had to be 5 foot 4 inches to qualify for the Academy. His father and older brother were over six feet, so it seemed strange that he was so short. According to his mother, the reason was because Terry had received sulfa drugs as an infant, when those drugs were all the rage.   Unfortunately, those drugs were not safe.  They had killed many infants and young children and had hindered the development of many others like Terry. To remedy the situation, Terry applied for and was accepted to the Air Force Academy Preparatory School because of his outstanding grades and other qualifications.

To attend the Preparatory School, he had to enlist in the United States Air Force and attend basic training at Lackland Air Force Base.  He hoped that another year would let him grow tall enough to qualify for the Air Force Academy. Terry did enlist in the Air Force and excelled at the Preparatory School. He ran endless miles and noticed that after running hard, his body would break into a rash.  He believed that this was the result of sulfa drugs being expelled from his body. In any case, Terry grew more than 7 inches in one year and was accepted to the Air Force Academy the following year.  He had also applied to the United States Military Academy  at West Point,   and to the Georgia Institute of Technology as backups in case he was not accepted at the Air Force Academy. He was accepted at Georgia Institute of Technology and was also offered an appointment to the United States Military Academy. He opted to attend the Air Force Academy like his brother.

Terry excelled there in academics, athletics and leadership. He graduated with honors (Cum Laude) with an engineering degree.  He was also named a division one All American in cross country his senior year.   He was co-captain of the cross country team that finished second in the national championships. Terry was even interviewed in the December 11, 1967 issue of the Sports Illustrated magazine. Here is a brief quote from that issue of Sports Illustrated:

“Ryan followed Gelling across the line and immediately turned to wait for Air Force teammate Terry Gruters, who ran the best race of his life to be 14th, good enough for the All-American ranking, which goes to the top 15. “I’m so happy,” panted Gruters.” “I just never figured on something like this. In fact, I was going to quit cross country this year. But I knew we’d have a good team, and I didn’t want everybody saying, ‘We have a good team now because Gruters quit.’ And now I am an All-American. This is really far-fetched.” (From Sports Illustrated magazine, December 11, 1967, page 73)

In addition to his academic and athletic achievements he excelled in leadership and was respected by his classmates. He was the squadron commander of the outstanding squadron his senior year at the Academy. There were 42 squadrons. This was a great achievement as all the squadrons are rated based on their academic, athletic and military performance during the year, and only one squadron is named the outstanding squadron at year end. Terry was also elected by his classmates to be the treasurer of the class of 1968.  Terry also attended United States Army Jump School at Fort Benning, Georgia, while he was at the Academy and received his airborne jump wings.

Despite all this success and these honors, Terry was devastated when his older brother was shot down and captured in Vietnam during Terry’s senior year at the Academy.  He vowed to complete pilot training and get to Vietnam as soon as he could to do his best to free his brother from captivity. One thing that gave him great hope was finding out that his mother and aunt had vowed to say a daily rosary until they died for Guy to come home.

After graduation, and before pilot training began, he took a break and traveled to California, Hawaii and Australia,  and spent a lot of time on a surfboard riding waves.

Like his brother Guy, he attended pilot training at Valdosta AFB, Georgia.  After graduating from pilot training, he took an assignment that would get him to Vietnam the quickest. This assignment would be flying the O1E aircraft in Vietnam as a Forward Air Controller (FAC).  After attending O-1 FAC school in Pensacola, Florida, he left for Vietnam. He could have avoided the combat zone, because the Congress had passed a law (The Sullivan Act, due to seven brothers all dying on the same ship in WW II) requiring only one family member to be in a combat zone (Vietnam) at any time.

Terry arrived there in January of 1970. Serving first as a Forward Air Controller for the South Vietnamese Airborne Division operating out of III and IV Corps and in Cambodia, Terry flew over three hundred and fifty combat missions during his duty with the South Vietnamese Airborne.  On one mission in Cambodia, Terry’s only engine in the O1E quit,  and he and the new pilot, who had just arrived in Vietnam, who was with him had to make a forced landing in a field.  Fortunately all went well, and they were rescued by a helicopter.

After his first tour of duty and since his brother was still held prisoner, he tried to stay in the war zone and even volunteered for a top secret mission being planned to rescue the POW’s. But the Air Force needed B-52 pilots and sent Terry back to the states for six months of training.  After finishing this training, he was qualified as a B-52 copilot and immediately volunteered for Vietnam duty. He was deployed to Anderson Air Force base in Guam, where his assignment was to fly missions to Vietnam.  After this tour was completed, he again volunteered to return to Vietnam. This time he was assigned to Utapao Air Force base in Thailand, where he again flew missions over Vietnam.

Flying bombers was a demanding job. The flight from Guam to Vietnam was between five hours and six hours. Then after the bombs were dropped it was another five to six hours  to return to Guam. Between preflight inspections and post flight briefing it was between14 and 15 hours altogether. These missions began at all hours of the day or night,  and were scheduled every other day with one day of rest between missions.  This stressful flying schedule caused the sickness of many crew members. However, Terry was very healthy, and in good shape and never had to take sick leave. The missions in Thailand were much shorter, since Thailand is close to Vietnam. These missions were only 5 to 6 hours long. However, these missions were flown every day, so it was still a significant effort.

In December, 1972, Terry participated in what was called by three different names, the “11 Day War,” the “Christmas bombing”or “Linebacker II.” These names refer to the repeated air raids by B-52 bombers over heavily defended targets in North Vietnam, lasting 11 days. The result of this massive series of attacks, claimed by historians to be the greatest air war in history, was to force the North Vietnamese to sign a peace treaty and release the American POWs.  The price was that many B52’s were shot down and there were many casualties. Terry had accomplished his ultimate goal of freeing his brother, but almost died doing it.

On the ninth day of the operation, Terry’s crew was assigned a very dangerous target, a SAM (Surface to Air Missile) site close to Hanoi.  This was such a dangerous mission that three of the six crew members assigned for the flight reported to sick call, and had to be replaced by crew members that were not assigned to fly that day. John Mize, the pilot, and Terry, the copilot, discussed the danger of this mission before they took off. They agreed that if they were hit by a SAM and still able to fly the plane, they would fly it as far as they could away from the Hanoi and North Vietnam area.  They decided this even though they would be taking a significant risk for death that could happen by an explosion if their plane was seriously damaged and they did not immediately bail out. They believed that the alternative, if they did bail out, would most likely result in their being quickly killed on landing.

They listened carefully to the briefer who explained how to evade being hit by a SAM (Surface to Air Missile) that was launched at their plane.  There were certain evasive maneuvers that could be taken to avoid being hit.  However, it was stressed by the briefer that during the last few minutes of the bombing run on the target the plane must hold course so the bombs would hit the target. This meant it was not possible for the pilots to make an evasive maneuver on the final run-in, even if they saw a missile coming at the plane.

After Terry’s B-52 entered North Vietnam territory,  a SAM was launched at it. John and Terry evaded this missile with the evasive maneuvers. This happened a few more times as their B-52 approached the target. When they were in the near vicinity of the target and on their final bomb run, there were about thirty SAMs launched at once. Terry remembers laughing to himself, thinking “There we were, all college graduates, and none of us asked the briefer, ‘What do we do if more than one missile is fired at the same time.’”

In any case, they could not perform any evasive maneuvers anyway, since they were on the final bomb run. They released their bombs as scheduled and almost immediately were severely damaged by a SAM that exploded under the left wing. The B-52 has four engines on each wing. On being hit, two of the engines immediately shut down, were lost, and the other two were on fire. This was dangerous because the engines are mounted on the plane’s wings directly beneath the giant fuel tanks in each wing. Terry shut down these two engines and the fires went out. However, John and Terry were reduced to having to fly a plane with four engines working on one wing and no engines working on the other wing. This caused an extreme imbalance in thrust. To make a long story short, with agreement of the pilot, Terry turned the two badly damaged engines back on. They flew for a few minutes before the fires restarted. Terry then turned them off. This “playing with fire” was extremely dangerous, but John and Terry felt it was their only chance of surviving. Terry kept turning them on and off to keep the aircraft flying. After a few cycles of this, one of the two remaining engines would not restart. Now only one engine on the left wing could be restarted, and it would catch on fire after a short time. Terry kept turning the remaining engine on and off until it too finally quit, and they had to fly the plane with only the four engines on the undamaged wing, and none on the other side. Both John and Terry had to manipulate the controls constantly to keep the badly crippled plane in the air.

With great difficulty and endless prayers, the damaged B-52 finally made it to the border of Thailand.  Because of the lost engines, the plane had descended from an altitude of about fifty thousand feet to about three thousand feet before the last man bailed out. All the crew members lived. This was very rare in this type of emergency.

John, the pilot, was awarded a Silver Star for his efforts. Terry was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross for his efforts.  The awards were given to John and Terry because they stayed in the plane until all the crew had bailed out, and also did a great job of keeping the plane flying after it was severely damaged by the SAM. John stayed with the plane until Terry bailed out, so he deserved the higher award. It is always the job of the pilots to stay with the plane until all others bail out because otherwise the plane would immediately go out of control and the resulting lack  of control  would make a safe bail out impossible for the other crew members.

Terry flew more than two hundred missions in the B-52 over North and South Vietnam.   He quit counting combat missions after he reached five hundred. By the end of his three tours, he had been awarded a total of three Distinguished Flying Crosses and many other awards and medals. The story of Terry’s experience in the December 1972 air war has been told in several magazine articles and in at least two books entitled Linebacker by Karl J Eschmann and The 11 Days of Christmas by Marshall L. Michel III

By March, 1973, Guy had returned home. Hence, Terry elected to leave active duty, but stayed in the Air Force reserves for a few more years, before leaving the service for good.

Terry had a great desire to help people. He wanted to become a doctor. As a result, he attended the University of South Florida for a year to try to get into Medical school. But after running into one roadblock after another, and also having recently married his wife, Robin, he obtained employment as an IBM salesman.

He stayed with IBM for three years. Then seeing the opportunities in the Computer Software business, he started a new software company with his older brother, Guy. Terry built this company up with Guy for several years. The companies main software program was an accounting package that He and Guy had originally purchased from Allison Crane, and that Terry had completely rewritten in a new computer language because the computer language of the purchased program was obsolete. They also had an insurance agency software program.  The company was very successful and grew. There were more than twenty employees. Then the company began to write an income tax preparation program after hiring additional programmers.  This program was very good, the future seemed very promising.

But a great trauma occurred. The main programmer of the tax program literally stole the program and took the other programmers of the tax program with him. They sold the tax program to a billion dollar corporation for approximately two million dollars, even though they did not own it. To make a long story short, after seven years of legal proceedings, the truth won out and Guy and Terry were awarded a large settlement. They were able to continue to live a normal life and pay their debts.

During this time, Terry was a dedicated husband and father. He and his wife were blessed with six children. The children were all schooled in Saint Martha’s Catholic parochial school and the Cardinal Mooney high school. All six have also attended and received four-year college degrees. Four of the children have married and have wonderful families.

Terry, of course, spent his life working to support his wife and children, including the high cost of Catholic parochial and high school and also their college educations. But there has been great fruit, because as a result the children have all excelled in their careers and family life.

Two of his sons have become professional accountants, CPA‘s, and work in Sarasota, Florida, in this profession. One has become very active in politics.  At the present time, he is the campaign manager of Donald Trump presidential campaign for the entire state of Florida. One of his daughters received a tennis scholarship to Chaminade University in Hawaii, paying part of her college expenses. After receiving her four year degree, she earned a Masters Degree and specialized in teaching in the Montessori teaching method. Terry has worked with her to write a book about this teaching method.

Terry has also authored a book titled Divorce or Disaster There is No Choice. The book was written after his younger brother, Peter, suffered the horrible trial of being divorced by his wife in the prime of his life and career. Terry has also written a book entitled John Ringling, The Good Times, The Bad Times and His Legacy, about a famous Sarasota resident named John Ringling whom the Gruters family feel they had great ties to. This was because Terry’s grandfather was the chief tent maker for the Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus. This is why the Gruters’ family feels their hometown will always be Sarasota.

During this same period of time, generally in the late 90s, Terry took it upon himself to care for his father in his old age.  He moved him into a large trailer on his property and cared for his every need.

Since Terry was an All-American athlete, it was natural to be very active with his children in local sports programs. Three of his children were All-State athletes, Kelley in tennis, Jackie in swimming and cross country and Timothy in cross country. As mentioned, Kelley received a partial tennis scholarship to attend Chaminade college in Hawaii and was eventually named captain of her college tennis team. Jackie received a partial swimming scholarship from Villanova, which eventually became a full scholarship because of her collegiate success in swimming. She set an individual team record in the 200 yard backstroke and was named co-captain of the team in her senior year.  Joseph was a swimmer in high school.  He also played football. Timothy was a cross country runner and soccer player in high school and also played college soccer at the Franciscan University of Steubenville.  Stephen was a cross country runner and soccer player in high school. Sally was also a cross country runner in high school.

Terry has continued to run the software business all these years. It has been very successful and his company’s program was rated the second best program in its field in a user’s choice survey sponsored by the CPA Practice Advisor magazine seven years in a row. The voting was based on the number of votes received, and the top winner in each of those seven years was QuickBooks, which has many, many, more users than PC Software Accounting, Inc.

During this period, Terry has also been very active in parish activities. He served as a parish council member at Saint Martha’s Church.  He attends daily Mass and helps out serving as a lector and altar server. Terry spends most of his spare time with his children and their families. He and his wife, Robin, who have been married for 42 years, now have 10 grandchildren, the oldest of whom is only eight years old.

Terry is in constant communication with his brothers Peter and Guy, and does what he can to help them in the effort “To Save The Family. “His two brothers are very dedicated to that effort (See Guy’s and Peter’s BIOs).  Terry, as previously mentioned, authored a book about stopping divorce and has also participated in many other of the writing projects that are intended “To Save The Family.“

Terry also attends the annual proposed Father’s Feast Day Celebration in Virginia where Peter has initiated the new Stations of Creation devotion. He is very united in the goal with Peter and Guy to do whatever they can “To Save The Family.“  A great deal has been accomplished. Terry keeps up with the efforts and plans to stay very active doing what he can to nourish and spread God’s love.

Recently, Terry has been involved in the new Heroic Love film project, assisting with the writing by providing testimony to the screenwriter and input to the core team in all of the many activities that it takes to get a major motion picture produced.

Terry is very excited about the new film and convinced it will do a lot of good, witnessing to his family members, relatives and many others of the good resulting by the formation of children with strong traditional family values, like those he and his brothers were raised with. He looks forward to continuing to assist as a consultant during the entire film making and production process while, of course, still caring for and enjoying his family as best as he can.

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