Obituary of Terry Gritton


Terry Gritton was born in Jacksonville, Florida, December 10, 1944 and died surrounded by loved ones on

May 6  at his home in La Selva Beach after a long battle with prostate cancer.


Terry spent most of his life in California after his parents, Alice and Nelson moved to Los Angeles after the end of World War II. The family lived Culver City near where the present-day Sony Studios are now located. They moved to Quartz Hill in 1956 when Nelson got a job at Edwards Air Force Base testing the new ‘jet plane’ ejector-seats.


In 1958 the family moved to San Jose where Terry attended and graduated from Del Mar High School in 1963. His love of surfing began at 17 when he made the trek over the hill to Pleasure Point on “senior sneak” day.   


Not one to resist the pull of Central Coast waves, Terry packed all his possessions onto his bicycle towing his surfboard behind him on a trailer over Highway 17. His first dream job was as a dishwasher at the Casa Del Rey on Beach Street, which enabled him to surf in his off hours and eat his meals in the kitchen. This idyllic period ended with his draft notice in 1966. Although the Vietnam war had begun Terry was luckily stationed in the DMZ between North and South Korea.  He duties were in the military post office where he made many lifelong friends.


After Korea he returned to California to work in construction. There he learned many skills in the building trades, which he used throughout his life remodeling homes.  After awhile Terry returned to school, first at San Jose State, then Cabrillo. During this time he was hired at the Aptos/La Selva Fire department and was given the opportunity to  became one of the first three firefighter/paramedics trained in our county. He once again made lifelong friends in the department. Eventually Terry’s intellectual interests beckoned and he returned to school, graduating with honors in Computer Science  from UCSC. After working a few years in Silicon Valley in medical imaging he again returned to UCSC to complete a major in Molecular Biology.


Terry married the love of his life, Wendy McKay, in 1999 at their beautiful property on Empire Grade Road.  He and Wendy had a bit of wanderlust and went on the road and eventually moved to the the beautiful, high desert of Modoc County in 2002. They have maintained a presence in both Modoc and Santa Cruz counties ever since.


A life long learner, Terry would spend his last months researching the medical literature on promising treatments for his cancer.  Although too late for him, he maintained an optimistic attitude about the scientific progress being made, particularly relating to genomics and immunotherapy.


Terry will be remembered by his family and friends for his curious mind, his generous spirit, his “Grit” and determination, and his skill on the croquet field.  He is survived by wife Wendy Gritton, brothers Scott Gritton, Bruce Gritton, sister-in-law Shelley Kadota, nephew Logan Gritton (Allie Cooper) grand-nephew Oliver, niece Kaila Espino (Manual Espino), grand-nephew Jaxon, cousins Carolyn Crandall and Samantha Sommer, and various family members in Louisville, Ky and Phoenix, AZ.  The family is profoundly grateful for the compassionate and skillful care Terry received from the team from Hospice of Santa Cruz County, as well as caregivers Debra Heavens and Mary McCoy, and close friend who is a former hospice nurse, Vickie Simpson. In gratitude for their care, any remembrances in honor of Terry’s life can be made to Hospice of Santa Cruz County.


A memorial service will be held in his honor at a later date.