Terence Westerhoek is the only worker at the Magna subsidiary that the receptionist knows who can’t wait to get to work. Every Friday, he arrives all smiles at the P & F Tool and Die plant. First, he greets his oldest brother, John, in his office with a big hug and kiss. Then, he sets to work, cheerfully bundling the workers’ gloves or washing the windows. Whatever he’s assigned to, he brings real joy to the workplace. He’s very sociable and will even joke with the general manager. Finally, at the end of his shift, Terence proudly takes his paycheque to the local bank where the tellers all know him.
Terence is the fourth of five sons, born to Jack and Anne Westerhoek. “To us, he didn’t have Down’s syndrome,” said John. “He grew up in a very normal environment.” He just did everything that his four brothers – John, Roy, Andrew and David – did, whether it was swimming, cycling or skating.”
Certainly, on the ice at the Sackville Arena in Thornhill, number 19 has his eye on the net. He hopes to score the winning goal for the Freswood Custom Cabinets Team in the Salvation Army Hockey League. “I’m going to shoot the winning goal. And then my team’s going to jump all over me.” The 14- and 15-year-olds love having such a positive influence on their team.
When he scored the winning goal a few years ago, the league kept the puck, mounted it and presented it to a very proud Terence at the awards banquet.
For the past eight years, Terence, 33, has enjoyed the privacy of his own basement apartment where he can prepare a grilled cheese sandwich or flip some pancakes or relax playing his organ. He keeps his apartment immaculate, but he eats most of his meals at his parents’ home around the corner.
Terence not only helps his father Jack with landscaping, he also runs his own business. He has four regular customers for whom he cuts grass, rakes leaves and shovels snow.
Jonathan Goldstein is very impressed with the young man. He not only does the Goldsteins’ yard work, he pitches in wherever he can, moving furniture if need be. “He’s very reliable and very strong,” said Goldstein. “In fact, he’s one helluva guy! His dad keeps him very busy and he’s quite independent. I see him with his young nieces and nephews, too, and he’s fantastic.”
Terence is a sharp businessman. No sooner has Goldstein pulled into his driveway, then Terence arrives for his pay.
Terence is very careful with the money he earns. He pays his own phone bill and contributes to the family groceries and the church collection. In fact, as a deacon’s assistant, he regularly takes up the collection at Willowdale Christian Reformed Church.
Sometimes he’s called upon to read the lesson. Once he moved the congregation to tears playing Amazing Grace from memory on the church’s huge pipe organ. Then, after the morning service, he visits a regular circuit of friends for lunch.
Dan and Betty Carter share their pew with Terence. “When he sings, he’s truly praising God,” said Betty. Terence was particularly distressed when the Carter’s youngest child was diagnosed with leukemia. He bought the six-year-old a stuffed toy tiger. Since then, not a day has passed that he has not prayed for Christina. “He has such a genuinely caring heart,” said Betty.
As a child, he practically lived at the local pool, and as a teen jumped off “suicide rock” at Kilbear Provincial Park. Now he holidays with his parents in Florida, where he loves swimming in the salt water as brown pelicans dive for fish.
He’s an avid wrestling fan and enjoys Monday Night Raw on television.
Tuesday nights, you’ll find him singing at a Friendship group that meets at his church. Terence has been voted chairman, which means that if you want to help him set up the chairs, you had better ask his permission.
Gail is another attraction at the group and together they love to sing, play games or make crafts together. The group always has a Bible story, often illustrated with a slide show that is followed by a lively discussion.
Gail lives in a group home run by Christian Horizons, and she and Terence chat on the phone each evening. Some weekends, he will take Gail out for dinner on double-dates with John and his wife.
Anne says that her fourth son went through all the same stages as her other boys; he would just take a little longer learning. But once he got the hang of something, the whole family would celebrate.
Generally, Terence sensed when things were dangerous, but his parents still removed the stove knobs so he wouldn’t burn himself. As a youngster, he would wander, climbing over the locked garden gate and disappearing. His family lived only a few blocks from busy traffic, but neighbours and police knew to keep an eye out for the lad.
Even as a young child, Terence was quick to pick up on social cues. He called his father “dad” at home but at the school where his father worked as a caretaker, he called him “Jack” as everyone else did.
Terence graduated from Richmond Hill Collegiate, where he loved to play basketball. And the caretakers could always count on Terence if they needed an extra hand.
Today, he’s still the one giving the helping hand. Whenever Terence hears the bells tolling at Holy Trinity Anglican Church, he dashes across the street to help lift the casket. Not surprisingly, he knows John Kane of the Kane Funeral Home personally.
When he was 17, Terence made a public profession of faith. Today, at the desk in his apartment, he copies some Scripture in a neat script. “I’m learning to trust Jesus more,” he says. “I love Jesus with all my heart.”
“Terence has really been a blessing,”‘ said John. “He’s very loving with an unconditional love. Terence kept us together as a tight, caring family.”
Growing up, John was the big brother looking out for Terence. But sometimes Terence would watch over John. Some days after school, the older brother would come home and in all the hustle and bustle, no one seemed to notice if he’d had a bad day or if he felt sick.
“I’d go upstairs and lay down on my bed,” said John, “and when I woke up, there would be Terence watching over me. He’d sense when something was wrong and he’d patiently keep vigil.”
Anne says, “There were a lot of things we never thought Terence could do. We’ve learned that there are no limits. You just expose him and properly teach him.” Jack adds, “And some things just come naturally to him.”
Besides playing organ, piano, guitar and trumpet, Terence loves to conduct. In 1995, a Dutch military marching band performed at the CNE to mark the 50th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. Just before the final encore, Terence asked to borrow the conductor’s baton. Then the young man himself conducted the 60-member band to a rousing ovation.