Villa Marie Claire

A Life with Passion

It would be easy to say that Teressa "Teri" Furr's passion was acting. Or singing. After all, she performed on Broadway. But she also devoted the same vibrant energy to her daughter, husband, extended family, friends and her second career as a high school counselor. In essence, Teri lived her life with passion.

"She was outgoing – an absolute extrovert," said her husband Rusty Reynolds. "If you were her friend, she was an incredible passionate advocate for you. She went to bat for her students. It's one of the qualities I love about her – that passion, she never took no for an answer."

Teri died in May 2019 after battling glioblastoma for 14 months but her family and friends still feel the love she shared so abundantly. They treasure their memories and honor her fighting spirit.

Many of her loved ones are also grateful they had time to say goodbye. Rusty moved Teri into Villa Marie Claire when he knew further treatment was futile and family and friends were able to visit at their leisure. Until her very last days, Teri was still able to interact with people who stopped by, especially on Mother's Day, which was also her birthday – Teri turned 54.

"I'm so grateful for the tenderness and compassion the staff showed Teri," Rusty said. "They provided such quality care and family support. There was a revolving door of friends and family that day and the staff was so accommodating to everyone. Teri was able to give people a hug and tell them she loved them. It was a really special day."

Family and careers

Teri launched her acting career soon after earning a degree in fine arts from Syracuse University. She performed in a few shows before landing her first Broadway musical – Gypsy, with Tyne Daly. It was a great experience for her, with Tyne "sort of mothering the entire cast and setting the tone for everyone," Rusty said.

She went on to perform in off-Broadway shows – where she met Rusty – and then Beauty and the Beast, Dreamgirls and Les Miserables. In the midst of all this work, Teri and Rusty had a daughter two years after marrying. Despite the exhilaration of being on stage, Teri realized she had a stronger calling – she wanted to be with her child more.

So she reveled in motherhood and became the family documentarian, capturing moments big and small with photos. She also developed a long-range plan, one where she could help others. She went back to school for a Master's degree in high school counseling and landed a job at Montclair High School, where she made a difference in the lives of many teenagers right up until her illness prevented her from working.

"She just loved shepherding the kids through the issues they faced," Rusty said. "She worked with lower-income families, one time helping a family get a laptop when they couldn't afford it so the student could keep up with assignments. She was also a big supporter of the LBGTQ community."

Tenderness after the fight

Teri endured grueling treatments to keep her brain tumor from spreading. She never lost her belief, however, that a song could make things a little bit better and her family would frequently break into song in the middle of the day, as they had always done.

Meantime, Rusty found research that showed the oil from marijuana had helped others with glioblastoma go into remission and started on a quest to get Teri medical marijuana. It's a difficult process in New Jersey and he wasn't able to get as much as she needed but he documented the times, dosages and her reactions to it. He found she didn't have any grand mal seizures while he was able to give her the oil but he had to stop giving it to her once she was hospitalized for a pulmonary embolism and then the seizures became frequent. By then her treatments had left Teri too weak to handle the side-effects from the cannabis oil. He intends to give his research to doctors to help them see the benefits of marijuana for patients with glioblastoma.

Once it was apparent that the tumor wasn't responding to treatment, Rusty knew he wanted a special hospice center for Teri, where her needs would always be the priority. He wanted a place similar to the center where his father spent his last four months – that one was too far away – and decided on Villa Marie Claire.

"I got the same sense of quality care and family support my dad had – all the necessary components in this type of scenario," Rusty said. "The grounds are beautiful and the staff was so tender and compassionate to Teri. She was very comfortable at the Villa and was grateful for all the care she received. She never really stopped fighting and thought she would improve, up until a few days before her death. She still had many things she wanted to do but her accomplishments and the love she gave to her relationships will live on."