Myra Ruth Graham Lownes Terry was the third of four children, born on March 24, 1944, in Van Vleet, Chickasaw County, Mississippi, to the late Frank Graham and Cornelia Gordon Graham. She would recount spending her early years in Mississippi on the family homestead were she was nestled in the love of her parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, however, when asked if she would ever want to return to Mississippi to live, she would resoundingly respond, no!
In 1952, the Graham family, like so many Black families during the great migration, left Van Vleet and relocated to Albany, New York. She received her elementary and Junior High education from St. Phillip’s School, graduating in 1957. In 1961 she graduated High School with honors from St. Joseph’s Academy and in 1963 Myra graduated with honors from Albany Business College. In 1966, Myra wed Frank Lownes and from this union, two adoring daughters were born: Suzanne Cornelia Lownes and Ayanna Saluda Lownes. In 1991, Myra married, her “C.T.”, Cordell Terry.
Myra was employed by the F&M Schaefer Brewing Company, where she met one of her dearest girlfriends, the late Gail Elliott. She was later employed by the NYS Education Department where she worked in various positions, concluding with the Counsel’s Office. At the Education Department, she met and maintained friendships with Eng Cho Tuttle, Kathy Robbins, and Kate Surgalla, Esq. Myra retired in 2005 after 33 years of service and in her words, “she was blessed by God to have enjoyed her retirement years doing what she wanted to do when she felt like it!” She was also blessed during her post retirement years to serve as a dutiful daughter and caregiver to her Mother.
Myra possessed an unshakeable faith in the sovereignty and omniscience of God, was ever grateful and thankful for her salvation through the blood of Jesus and she was filled and sealed with the Holy Ghost! Upon their relocation to Albany, she and her family joined the Metropolitan New Testament Mission Baptist Church under the Pastorate of the late Reverend John B. Holmes. In March 1958, Myra joined the Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church under the Pastorate of the late Reverend Moses Scipio Hunter, where Myra remained a committed, ardent, and active Leader at her beloved Branch of Zion for 65 years!
One of her first jobs at MSMBC was an appointment by Reverend Hunter to serve as the Leader of the Youth Club. Myra loved the Word of God and was a faithful student at the Hunter Spiritual Bible Institute where she was ultimately appointed Assistant Dean, working with her friend, Eleanor Mason who served as Dean. Myra was also appointed Teacher of the Sunday School’s Beginner’s Class where she strove to instill a firm foundation in Jesus for countless children for over 20 years, and she always ensured that Suzanne & Ayanna were always prepared to recite their Easter, Children’s Day, and Christmas speeches!
Myra would join the MSMBC Senior Ushers Ministry embarking on a decades long service as a Kingdom Doorkeeper. She was serious in her deportment and ascribed to Paul’s instruction in 1 Corinthians 14:40 to “let all things be done decently and in order.” Myra was the Usher that would assist you with disposing of gum and candy in the Sanctuary and she would clear her throat if your chatter was disruptive during Service.
She was patient with young people and seeing the need, she reorganized the MSMBC Youth Ushers Ministry and served as Supervisor for many years. Myra led many Ushers’ workshops instructing senior and youth ushers on ushers’ protocols and served as Secretary and President. Myra so enjoyed the sweet and unique fellowship of the Ushers Ministry at MSMBC and was also an active member of the Ushers and Nurses Ministry of the Hudson River Frontier Missionary Baptist Association and the Empire Baptist Missionary Convention.
Myra was assured by God that her calling was the Ministry of Helps. She was a Champion for those considered less fortunate and would gladly and without fanfare donate to people, causes and organizations. Myra found joy in helping Seniors by providing transportation to doctor appointments and grocery shopping, visiting the sick and shut-in or lending an empathetic ear. Myra embodied the spirit of a missionary and was a member of the MSMBC Missionary Ministry where she tirelessly worked in the Church’s soup kitchen, clothing room, organized Thanksgiving baskets and Senior Appreciation Day. Myra assumed the position of President of the Fannie Sparrow Ford Missionary Ministry in 2016. Her final service was organizing MSMBC’s donations to Seniors living at the Van Rensselaer Heights apartments in Rensselaer April 2023.
Like her Mother, Myra knew how to make a dollar out of fifteen cents! She would praise God that although not rich, she lacked for absolutely nothing and she attributed that to tithing her time, talents, and treasure and for her spirit of generosity. She would often say “if you give, God will bless you with so much more than you gave!”
Myra was no nonsense. As she would say, “I stand for the Right!” She was quick to be critical of herself and she would share with you when you were wrong and still love you the same. MSMBC business meetings will not be the same without her! She strongly believed and may have been the progenitor of the tag line—You, do the right thing, don’t worry about the other person, you do what’s right!”
To God be the Glory for the life and for the living in the excellence that is God of Sister Myra Ruth Graham Lownes Terry!
In addition to her parents, Myra was preceded in death by a sister, Carrie Magnolia Graham, and beloved big brother, Franklin Roosevelt Graham. She leaves to cherish her beautiful memory: husband, Cordell Terry; daughters, Suzanne C. Lownes and Ayanna S. Lownes; beloved grandchildren, Nyra C. Alexander and Elijah M. Alexander; loving and devoted sister, Charlie Sue Graham; step-sons, Terrell Terry and Sean Terry; sisters-in-love, Dorothy Graham, Gladys Wimbush, and Laverne Terry; longtime and dear girlfriends, Gwendollyn Taylor, Cynthia NelsonDennis, and Joyce L. Banks, the MSMBC Senior Ushers Ministry, and the Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church Family.