U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor Statement on Passing of Beloved Director of Constituent Services, Tery Sanchez
Sanchez aided tens of thousands of Tampa area families over decades of public service
Washington, June 13, 2022
“It is with a heavy heart that I announced the passing of our beloved Director of Constituent Services, Tery Sanchez.
“I could not have asked for a better partner and aide than Tery Sanchez. I would not be here without her. She was the best navigator for our neighbors when I served on the Hillsborough County Commission and then as a Member of the U.S. Congress – serving Tampa veterans, those in need of immigration and health care assistance and more. She was a fierce public servant who never gave up on getting answers, righting wrongs, and serving each constituent with professionalism, expediency, and dignity. She shared her knowledge with other caseworkers in my office so they too could gain from the gratification of helping people right away. And Tery remained positive throughout each endeavor, ensuring that every participant was appreciated.
“When you walked into Tery’s office at my Tampa District Office, you immediately felt the warmth. She kept and displayed every trinket a friend brought her from abroad. She always took a few minutes every holiday or season to decorate her office door. The large world map on the wall in front of her desk is full of flag pins for every country she made contact with through the U.S. State Department in the course of helping constituents. There are 101 flag pins on that map.
“In 2017, I established the American Dream Awards to recognize immigrants in our congressional district who have made remarkable contributions to our community through hard work and perseverance. At the time, the Trump administration had spoken harshly against immigrants and refugees, and this was a way to show that in Tampa, we proudly celebrate diversity and the American Dream. For my first year’s slate of award recipients, I included Tery because over her decades of public service she has helped tens of thousands of our neighbors and families. Her dedication has been unwavering, and this in and of itself is remarkable. I am grateful we captured every second of her astonishment mixed with confusion as I called her name for her recognition. You see, Tery is one of those every day, unheralded public servants who never receives the recognition they deserve.
“USF Football won the 2010 International Bowl but could never have done it without Tery Sanchez. Tery used her smarts, charm and incredible rolodex to fast-track and secure passports for around 100 football players, coaches and others so that they could travel to Toronto to defeat the Northern Illinois Huskies. You can’t win if you can’t get there and, as usual, Tery made it happen.
“In addition to her immense love for her family and her love of helping constituents, a very close third was her love of cooking. No meal was too big, no ingredient went to waste, expiration dates were overlooked and if you ever asked her about one of her recipes, measurements were explained in terms of about this much and a little bit of this or that. My District Office has been known for our family lunches.
“Tery was always in charge and everything always came out delicious and beautiful. Meals were abundant because she especially loved feeding ‘the kids,’ interns in my office, most especially if they were too ‘flaquito.’ Almost daily, my office staff broke into her office to satisfy 3 p.m. hunger attacks. They could find plenty of chocolates, tin cans of cookies, mints and puff pastries from Cacciatore’s. She knew well about these break-ins, but would simply replenish her stashes knowing they would soon be gone again.
“I am fortunate that in her final days, I along with many of her close friends and family were able to visit with Tery, still laughing and joking, including my husband, Bill, and my two daughters, Julia and Chrissy, who Tery knew since they were very young.”
Tery, age 79, worked as Director of Constituent Services until the day before her surgery on May 25, 2022. Maria, Tery’s niece who she called “Marichu,” was Tery’s devoted companion by her side for the last two years and saw her through all that life dealt. Tery battled her cancer and subsequent complications from surgery valiantly, always with a positive outlook.
We will miss Tery’s warmth, humor, intelligence and spirit. We will miss our teammate, mentor, and friend. But most of all, we are grateful for the time we spent with her and the countless lives Tery Sanchez touched.
Photos of Tery can be found here.
Teresa “Tery” Sanchez devoted her life to service of her Tampa area neighbors and helped tens of thousands of local residents as an aide to Congresswoman Kathy Castor for 20 years, and State Reps. Elvin Martinez and Sara Romeo prior to that. Tery had a unique gift of finding solutions to problems with unflagging determination and kindness. And throughout it all, she was loved by everyone she touched.
Tery Sanchez was born Aug. 27, 1942 in Havana, Cuba and attended the University of Havana. She was the youngest of four sisters. Although she was the youngest, she did not like to be called “Teresita.” Everyone knew her as “Tery.” During her formative years, Tery was vivacious, tenacious and feisty. She remained that way until she left us on June 10, 2022.
Her father was a tobacco broker who shipped tobacco to cigar factories in Tampa and Ybor City. He had a house in Tampa, and Tery and her family would travel to Tampa until the Cuban Revolution in the late 1950s. Ten days before the Bay of Pigs Invasion, Tery and her mother decided to seek political asylum in the United States. Everyone knows the dark turn that Cuba then took. Sadly, Tery never returned to her homeland. Like so many immigrant stories go, when you leave your homeland under duress, especially in such an unplanned way, it’s like having your soul ripped from you. And, like the story of so many Cubans, Tery's family lost everything in Cuba - their business, farm and houses. That experience informed her professional life for years.
Tery became like a mother to her nieces, Maria, Maria Teresa, and Liliana, and nephews Mario, Ross, Ricky, and Jose. They loved her with all of their hearts. She was devoted to all of them and was honored to help raise them as they came over from Cuba. She continued to do the same for their children, as well. It meant ever so much to Tery that her great nephew, Matthew Alan, was named for her son who died when he was only 8.
She loved her work and took great care and pride in every constituent case she managed. Solving problems for people wasn’t a job to Tery. Her work was a calling. In addition, Tery was the office linchpin that transformed Rep. Martinez’s Tallahassee committee staff members and legislators into a family.
The Tery Rule: Be nice and have fun while doing your important job. Yes, your work is valued. So are you!