By John Aguilar
Camera Staff Writer

Terry Kimball, near Hamilton, Mont., in 1996. (Courtesy of Karen Johnson)

I’ve spent half a life time searching,
Wondering where it will end.
Looking beyond tomorrow,
Wondering if the scars I’ve left behind
Will ever mend.

The poetry of Terry Kimball rings true with Karen Johnson, his wife of 11 years.

Terry was a wanderer, said Johnson, who met him in 1992 on the shrimp boat docks in Brunswick, Ga.

The Navy veteran, 60 when he died, started his career in the late 1960s as an officer with the Colorado State Patrol. In the early 1970s, he worked for the Longmont Fire Department.

But for most of his life, he traveled the country as a jack-of-all-trades, working as a maintenance man on a Texas oil well, groundskeeper at a Kansas retail outlet and construction foreman on several job sites in California.

“He was very good at building things and fixing things,” said Johnson, 64, who lived with Terry in Georgia, Indiana and Alabama. “He was a carpenter.”

But her husband also had a soft touch around the house, Johnson said, and was generally a “happy-go-lucky person.”

An amateur chef and a green thumb, Terry made his own jams and canned peaches, elderberries and blackberries. He threw together a memorable dish of spicy nachos and cooked gumbo with rice and shrimp.

“He liked to concoct some very elaborate dishes,” Johnson said. “I did the eating, and he did the cooking.”

Terry had a daughter, Stephanie Pelster, who could not be reached by the Camera.

In a police report, Scott Kimball’s brother, Brett Kimball, called their uncle a “drifter” who “was not able to keep employment.”

But Terry loved his grand-nephews, and he ended up at Scott Kimball’s home in Colorado because he wanted to be with Kimball’s 10-year-old son as the boy lay in a coma after suffering a severe head injury.

When Terry never returned home, Johnson filed for divorce, figuring he had once again hit the road.

Terry Kimball's poetry, found by his former wife, Karen Johnson. (Courtesy of Karen Johnson)

She found out about his death two years later, and she got official word last summer that his body had been found. Once the remains are returned to his family, Terry will be buried in Lafayette Cemetery, next to his parents, Everett and Ruth, Johnson said.

Terry’s death — and knowing one of their own caused it — has been difficult for the whole family, Johnson said.

“I’m just kind of sad for everybody,” she said.

Although Terry never wanted a funeral, his own words — found by Johnson on a floppy disk at their home — provide a fitting epitaph.

I’ll keep moving around,
To those far away places.
I’ll keep falling in love,
With all those friendly faces.
I guess I’m just a drifter,
Drifting from town to town,
Looking for new experiences,
New places to lay me down.

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