Respect, humor mark service for GJ dentist

Few open seats were left Saturday morning in the more than 600-seat Avalon Theater when friends and family took the stage to honor Terry Fine.

The turnout, remarkable to each speaker, was as strong a testament to his effect upon Grand Junction as the words that described his life and character.

Caring and good-spirited with a zest for life were common themes in each eulogy of the longtime local dentist who was shot to death Oct. 11 along with family friend Flo Gallagher, victims of a Lakewood man with no known connection to them.

“Wow,” Fine’s son Brad said of the audience. “Thank you all so much for coming here. You know, this is sad, but we have to celebrate. I am so proud to have been his son.”

Fine’s wife, Linda, did not speak at the service but took the stage with Fine’s children.

Linda Fine was wounded Oct. 11 during the shooting, as was neighbor Paco Larson, outside the Fines’ Chestnut Drive home in north Grand Junction. Larson and Mike Gallagher, Flo’s husband and the man who drove Linda Fine to the hospital that tragic day, attended the service as well.

Rather than try to make sense of his death, longtime friend Mike Blackburn said Saturday’s memorial service was meant to celebrate Terry Fine’s life.

Popcorn was one of Fine’s favorite foods, Blackburn said, so the snack was handed out by ushers, along with memory cards for attendees to write their favorite memory of Fine to share with the family.

“(The popcorn) assures other dentists’ future income as well,” Blackburn said. “It’s Terry’s way of making sure you get paid for coming today.”

Jane Foster, Fine’s former wife, said Fine was accepted into the first-ever class of the University of Colorado’s dentistry program after he returned from the Vietnam War, where he was a volunteer medic.

A classic story from Fine’s days as a dental student, Foster said, unfolded with his first practice patient when, instead of using tools to clear away the dust of a drilled tooth, Fine blew into his patient’s mouth.

“That story has been told over pitchers of beer year after year,” she said.

Anthony Naranja, Fine’s business partner at Fine and Naranja Family Dentistry, said new hires at their practice often found Fine intimidating until their first staff retreat.

“It was customary for rookies to sing karaoke or dance with Terry,” he said. “After that, they weren’t intimidated anymore.”

Fine “personified the word care” and was an exceptional dentist who greeted each patient with a smile and often forgot his dentist mask hung around his neck, Naranja said.

Tears mingled with laughter and fond remembrance as family friends shared stories of boating and camping trips, run-ins with law enforcement in Cozumel, Mexico, and home improvement projects with neighbors.

The service concluded with a slideshow of Fine’s life and a reception at the Blue Moon restaurant.

The memory cards bought each person a drink, Brad Fine said, because “Terry was always good for the first round.”

“It’s a Fine time to splash in the river of life,” Naranja said, “and as Terry would say, ‘It’s time to get on with it.’ ”


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