Terrence Barry: A Surgeon’s Hands, A Servant’s Heart


Terrence Barry, a prominent orthopedic surgeon from South Florida, was not planning to change his life when he stepped into a medical school classmate’s car in Salt Lake City thirteen years ago.

But the discussion that ensued, as well as the events that preceded and followed it, are circumstances Brother Barry now sees as “the hand of the Lord at work.” They led him and his family to the waters of baptism.

Baptism drastically changed not only his life, but the lives of many others. It has also afforded the 57-year-old physician the opportunity to serve in callings from basketball coach to president of the Ft. Lauderdale Florida Stake. Terrence Barry took the long way to becoming a doctor—Harvard University, United States Air Force pilot, brief financial work on Wall Street, commercial pilot, and then a return to school and his first choice, medicine. He received his medical degree in 1963 at age 33.

While serving as an intern, he met Matrina Evanoff, an attractive nurse. They were married in 1964. Their family grew to include Trisha, born in 1965; Michael, in 1967; and Greg, in 1969.

The Barrys’ first experience with LDS missionaries came in 1974 as a result of Trina’s continuing interest in education. Intrigued by Latin American cultures, she enrolled in a course at the Institute for Mayan Studies in Miami. Her husband accompanied her to some of the classes, and at one of them, everyone was introduced—including two LDS missionaries. “Of course, we all know why they’re here,” said the man making introductions. But the Barrys didn’t know, and as they were socializing later, they asked the missionaries about that comment. That inquiry led to visits from the elders in their home. The missionaries told them the story of the ancient inhabitants of the Americas and began to teach them about the Church. But at this point the Barrys had no interest in learning more.

“They gave us the Book of Mormon, but we never read anything more than a few of the italicized headings. There was no incentive. We were of another faith, and active in the parish of our church,” President Barry recalls.

That lack of interest was to change soon, because of some of those unusual circumstances President Barry now understands were more than mere chance.

The family had planned a combined business and pleasure trip to the West. Doctor Barry would fly the family to Denver in his airplane and attend a medical convention. Afterward, he would rent a recreational vehicle and they would visit two sites the family wanted to see: Yellowstone National Park, located largely in northwestern Wyoming, and Dinosaur National Monument, straddling the Utah-Colorado border. When the medical convention fell through, the Barrys went ahead with the vacation anyway, except that they flew to Salt Lake City, more centrally located, to begin their trip.

A stopover in Salt Lake City was not on their itinerary. But on their return from the Yellowstone visit, they were tired and decided to stay in Salt Lake City overnight. Learning that there were some medical meetings in town, Doctor Barry thought he might attend and get some professional good out of the trip after all. It was then that he remembered a medical school classmate who lived in Salt Lake City, a Latter-day Saint. They had had no contact for several years, until the other doctor had felt prompted to send the Barrys a Christmas card the preceding year. Doctor Barry called his classmate, and they arranged to meet for lunch.

On the dashboard of the Salt Lake City doctor’s car was a typewritten message: “What would Jesus do?” Apparently it was a reminder of a family home evening lesson.

“I was amazed that a member of twentieth century society would have that concern,” Brother Barry recalls. He and his former classmate discussed Latter-day Saint beliefs. Before they parted, Terrence Barry was told that if he were to begin investigating the Church, he could expect some unusual things to occur in his life.

Doctor Barry talked with his wife about the experience later, and about the discussion concerning the LDS Church that had developed. Trina Barry wanted to visit Temple Square to buy some small remembrance for an LDS woman, a convert, who worked in her husband’s Florida office. With the added impetus of Dr. Barry’s recent experience, she took the whole family along.

The Barrys and their children were entranced with what they saw there. “My wife and I both felt that we were in a special place. The kids kept taking us around from one [visitors’ center presentation] to another.” The children were most taken with the presentation on family home evenings. Sister Barry, who was raised in one faith and converted to her husband’s when she married, had long been searching for answers to religious questions. Her interest had led her to study about temples built by the ancient Israelites. When she considered the Salt Lake Temple, she recalls, she knew it was part of the true order of the worship of God. She also was “very impressed with how happy people seemed to be. I could feel it when we walked into the visitors’ center.”

President Barry recalls seeing the Articles of Faith etched in stone on Temple Square and thinking that even though they were LDS beliefs he either agreed with them or didn’t understand some of the principles involved. Still, “I liked some of the concepts, but I had no intention of pursuing the Church.”

The Barrys went on to visit Dinosaur National Monument, then flew home to Hialeah, Florida. “The bags were still in the hallway,” unpacked, when two LDS missionaries knocked on the door.

Doctor Barry remembered that his children had filled out a card on Temple Square giving their address. “You mean to tell me that Salt Lake City got hold of you fellows this fast and sent you here?” he asked incredulously. The missionaries did not know what he was talking about. They told him they had been working in the neighborhood and “just had the strong impression to come to the door.”

He made it clear to the missionaries that the family was not interested in joining their church, but simply in learning more about it. So when, a few visits later, they challenged the Barrys to be baptized, “I almost fell out of my chair. I was amazed that they would even bring it up.” But still he continued hearing the missionary discussions. One of the things that helped the Barrys learn and accept the gospel was that one of the missionaries had a speech impediment. “He stuttered, but he emanated such a strong spirit that both my wife and I sat on the edge of our chairs so we wouldn’t miss a question and make him feel bad.”

As they became more and more interested, Doctor Barry recalled his classmate’s prediction that unusual things would happen in his life if he investigated the gospel.

“As I read the Book of Mormon, I felt strongly that it was inspired. But I still felt that the Joseph Smith story about the hidden Gold Plates was far-fetched. Finally, I accepted the challenge in Moroni 10:4 [Moro. 10:4]. And one day while I was praying vocally and asking whether or not those things were true, the Spirit manifested it strongly.”

The Barrys’ conversion led to a chain of other baptisms.

One day not long after they joined the Church, their next-door neighbors, Ray and Yolande Poirier, visited them and asked what was new in the Barrys’ life; they had perceived a change. The discussion that ensued soon led the Poiriers into the Church. Baptism brought a profound change in the Poiriers’ lives—a reversal of an earlier decision not to bring any children into “this terrible world.” They have since been sealed in the temple and are now the parents of three children.

Brother Barry’s enthusiasm for the gospel also led him to talk to a young woman in a hospital lobby when he saw that she was reading a book dealing with life after death. That conversation led to June DeLong’s baptism. Later, as a visiting teacher, she helped reactivate Rhonda Rousay. After serving a mission in Italy, Rhonda introduced fellow postal worker John Hutton to the gospel. He was to become not only a Latter-day Saint but also her husband; a year after his baptism, they were married in the Washington Temple.

Terrence Barry’s diligence as a home teacher led to the reactivation of C. Duane Brinton, his first counselor in the stake presidency. Inactive for “about thirty years,” Brother Brinton had nevertheless sent two sons on missions. But he felt his career was more important than church and “resented home teachers interfering with my privacy.”

Brother Barry—later Bishop Barry—became a good friend. When Brother Brinton made excuses to avoid scheduled home teaching visits, his home teacher simply dropped by. “I found I enjoyed the visits and began to look forward to them. I was impressed with him as a person.” Terrence Barry learned Brother Brinton’s interests and spent time talking about them. “As the months passed, I grew to love him and his family very much.” The challenge to return to activity was low-key, but gently repeated—“Are you ready?”—until finally, with the influence of a visit to his family in Salt Lake City fresh in Brother Brinton’s mind, the answer was, “Yes, I think I am.”

President Barry is “a very warm, a very dedicated person. He is consistent, and he has enthusiasm. He just makes you feel good,” Brother Brinton says.

Perhaps the most precious thing the gospel has brought into the Barrys’ lives is Catherine Alice. Sister Barry and her husband had decided that three children were enough. But after they were sealed in the Salt Lake Temple in 1976, the Spirit witnessed to her that she should have another child. Their younger daughter was born in 1978.

The Barrys’ older children, who remember life before they were Church members, say baptism made some important differences.

As to how the gospel has changed her father, Trisha (now married to Blake Johnson, a student at Brigham Young University) says, “I know he cared a lot before, but now he seems to care more.” Where he once seemed almost unapproachable, “now I feel I can talk to my dad about anything, things that kids outside the Church would never think to talk to their parents about.”

After the Barrys joined the Church, she recalls, “everything changed. The family did things together. It seemed like everyone was trying harder.” Michael, serving in the Brazil Porto Alegre Mission, comments that the change was “good for the family. We lead a much better life.” Greg, a student at BYU, echoes the sentiment. “We weren’t that close before we came into the Church. The family is a lot happier now.”

“I would find it very difficult to live today without the Church and the prophet to give direction in life,” Sister Barry says. She credits the Church and the individual challenges it presents with giving her “more confidence to do things.” One of those was to become a licensed pilot, like her husband. But, more important perhaps, “the gospel has also helped me overcome my fear of death and dying.”

Life hasn’t always run smoothly since the Barrys joined the Church. One crisis severely tested their faith. While serving as bishop of the Hialeah First Ward, Terrence Barry suffered a heart attack.

“My daughter Catherine was two, the same age as I was when my father died of a heart attack,” Sister Barry recalls. Her first reaction was fear that her history was going to be repeated in her family.

“At first, I asked ‘Why?’ We were living a good life, doing the things we should,” Sister Barry says. But she knelt and prayed, and received a comforting answer. “I knew everything was going to be all right.”

While he recuperated, Brother Barry found that the ward and his medical practice kept going without him. He resolved to put more priority on his family. Between the demands of his medical practice and his Church duties, Sister Barry recalls, the family had been “seeing very little of him. I believe the Lord in his wisdom stepped in.”

Doctor Barry gave up part of his orthopedic practice to concentrate on a development he felt was medically important—an innovative technique, pioneered by a Utah doctor, for microsurgery on the knee. He had learned of the technique about the time he joined the Church, adopted it in his practice, and soon found he was spending much of his time lecturing on it. While recuperating from his heart attack, he decided to forsake the rest of his practice to concentrate on knee surgery. This solution gave him a medical practice he could handle while still having time for Church duties and, more important, for his family and himself.

In the end, the heart attack had proved a blessing. It was, he says, the “hand of the Lord at work” again in his life. That is a presence and power to which he and his family feel more and more they must turn for guidance in using their time and talents.

[photo] Terrence and Trina Barry

[illustration] Illustrated by Mark Buehner

James P. Gay serves on the high council of the Ft. Lauderdale Florida Stake.