A Pinochle Partner, A Chess Opponent, An Ordained Minister, A Good Friend, A Convict

By James F. Love IV

Terry Lee Touvell

   Terry Lee Touvell​ was my best friend for over 25 years. We met at Warren Correctional Institution in 1990. I was there for 4 years.  He was my Pinochle partner, we played Chess against each other, and we became friends. Terry did 27 years in the Ohio Prison System. Even after we were separated by being transferred to different prisons, we stayed in contact.

   Terry was released and still we stayed in contact with each other. He and his brother were ordained as ministers and started a small church that welcomed everybody and anybody. There was a period of my imprisonment when I had not had a visit for over 11 years. Terry and his wife started driving from Cambridge, Ohio, to Cincinnati, Ohio, picking up my 84 year old mother and driving to Lima, Ohio where he would rent a motel room and bring my mother to see me the next day. That was a round-trip of 800 miles. He did this several times a year until I was released in 2015.

   He performed countless marriages and funerals. In his backyard there was a small graveyard of countless animals he found killed beside some road, and brought home in his trunk to give a proper burial.

   When I was released, I had no where to go. Terry, and his wife Moe, took me into their home and gave me a place to live. I can still hear him yelling up the stairs when I was absorbed in something on my computer, "WHAT YOU DOIN' BROTHER!" He and Moe would sit all evening and watch the Hallmark channel.

   One evening we were sitting in the living room having a beer. We were discussing an idea I had of starting a nonprofit with the intentions of changing the criminal justice and judicial system, and helping ex-cons get jobs that would support their families. He had worked at many small jobs and places in the time he had been out, but everywhere he turned his ability to better himself was blocked by some job restriction because of his record. Terry had just passed his CDL test and had been looking forward to driving trucks and making enough money for his family to live better and have a future. But he found out because he was an ex-con, he could not get a Hazardous Materials License, and was literally barred from entering many manufacturing plants. He could get a job driving trucks, but he was barred from the top paying jobs. Terry looked at me and said, "It's a damn shame brother. I have been out of prison for 11 years and can't get a job because of my record."


Romona (Moe) McClements-Touvell

   I took Terry and Moe to Harbor Frieght and bought them a lathe, band saw, drill press and some other woodworking equipment. They were like kids in a candy shop. We went to the lumber yard and bought plywood and 2x4's and Terry built a wood floor in his workshop that would not even groan under the weight of his Harley. A friend of his worked at a lumber yard and we bought an entire truckload of lumber, including some beautiful Black Oak. I walked into the living room and Moe had dragged a huge plastic storage container out of the back room and had things scattered all over the room mumbling to her self. I asked her what she was looking for and she said, "Wood patterns." "I know I have more than I have found so far." and went back to digging in a box bigger than she was.

​   That brings me to an aside I cannot skip. Terry and Moe had been childhood/high school/young adult friends and lovers. They had separated over 30 years before, and after Romona's husband passed away, found each other again. I don't think I have ever met two people more in love. I regress.

   The morning of March 26th, 2016, Terry and Moe were planing Black Oak through the Planer in their new wood shop. That afternoon both of them took off for a ride on Terry's Harley and were killed in an accident at Country Club Road and SR 821 just outside Byesville, Ohio. The Black Oak they were planing that morning was used to make the crosses that are at the place they died.

   Over 600 people came to Terry and Moe's funeral. People he had married, families for whom he had performed funerals, came to show their respect to a man who was loved far and wide in his community by the real people who make society work. Terry was the phone number you dialed at 3:00 AM when your water pipes froze and burst. He was the guy with the jumper cables in a snowstorm. He was the horn beep outside your house every evening, the wave, and the smile.

   Yet in Ohio, 11 years after being released from prison, 11 years after society told him he had paid his debt to society, 905 jobs, careers, licenses and professions were foreclosed to him and he struggled to pay his bills and feed his family. Terry made it. He came a long way and left a trail of friends behind him. He left a trail of love behind him, this old convict that the politicians were so eager to see fail.

   This is why Article III is here. To see that other men and women, the 68,000,000 citizens in the United States with some type of criminal conviction, are able to support their children, help their mothers and fathers, and be a good neighbor and member of the community, without them being stopped before they are allowed to try.

​   After all, isn't this the promise of America?

​   This is for you my brother.

Terry Touvell and Jim Love

  Terry, Moe and I discussed Article III for long hours into the night. In time we rented a conference room at a local hotel, and invited our Director, Greg Cohen, our Treasurer, Cris Myers, a few local convicts, and had our first formal meeting of Article III. I even had T-Shirts printed and we wore them. This was more of a concept meeting than anything else

   Terry and Moe had both done woodworking in the past. Moe had worked with wood making baseball and bat holders for kids, end tables, lamps and still had many of her wood patterns. She had been married to a man named Jack, who had passed away. She had done woodworking as a hobby in the garage behind their home. I had mentioned to Terry the day before that I needed to go to a store and find some shelves to get some of my things off the floor. Four hours later, Terry was installing a really nice set of corner shelves in my room that he had built from scratch.