200610161947Trina Robbins passes along word that comics pioneer Hilda Terry has passed away at the age of 92.

I’m very sorry to inform you that pioneer woman cartoonist Hilda Terry passed away on October 13. Hilda’s strip, Teena, ran in national newspapers from 1941 – 1966, after which she became a pioneer computer animator, animating baseball scoreboards for the Mets, for which she won a National Cartoonist Society award. There’s a little irony there, since Hilda was responsible for breaking the gender barrier of the NCS, which up till 1950 was a male-only organization. Hilda’s husband, the late cartoonist Gregory D’Allessio, submitted Hilda’s name for membership, and the ensuing fight between members about whether or not to open up their membership finally ended with Hilda being accepted into the society a year later, after which she submitted the names of all her women cartoonist friends, thus breaking the gender barrier.

Hilda always said that we don’t die, and that Gregory was still with her. Wherever she is, she’s with Gregory now.

Terry’s extensive website is still up. Her Lambiek page is here. Sadly, her webpage was more given over to her current interests in historical preservation and other, admittedly oddball matters, and very little to her art. There are only a handful of examples of it online. Terry never stopped learning and growing. After working in comic books for so many years, she switched to animation, for which she won an NCS award, and later launched her website and continued to write.
I saw Terry (above on the left) for the last time at Robbins’s slide show at MoCCA last June. She was clearly on the the last portion of her journey, and Trina was worried about her getting home in one piece. Someone from Lulu whose name I have shamefully forgotten escorted her home, and we were all glad. Hilda had made it down to MoCCA all by herself, however, at age 92, no mean feat and a tribute to her desire to still be part of things.

200610161956As I wrote then:

Hilda Terry, the creator of TEENA and the first woman to join the National Cartoonists Society, was at the lecture. Terry is 92 and by her own admission “can’t hear and can’t see.” She stood up and made a rather rambling speech during the Q&A, but we all figured, well, she’s allowed. She did say one thing that was so blunt and honest that I had to write it down. “If you do a comic strip, you don’t want it to be forgotten.”

Indeed. I sincerely hope Hilda won’t be forgotten. Even meeting her in her later years, she was an amazing and inspiring person, so I know I won’t.


  1. I had the pleasure of knowing Hilda as well; in fact I wrote an article about her a few years ago that she loved quite a bit:

    I found her personal philosophies on life and death, and creativity, to be quite fascinating, even if I didn’t always agree with her on certain points. After I wrote that article, we kept in touch on and off. I like to think I was a friend to her in her latter years. We would talk about her views on reincarnation and past lives. She believed a spirit from hundreds of years ago acted as a kind of muse for her when she worked on TEENA, and later in life, she made repeated attempts to contact that spirit. It may sound odd, but for her it confirmed her long-held belief that creativity comes from without, and that all we as artists do is take from what’s in nature and bring it to life through whatever our given mediums may be. I don’t know how much I ever fully believed this, but it gave me serious food for thought, especially hearing her talk about it.

    Hilda enjoyed life, and stayed active creatively. It was one of her primary ongoing goals to craft an online archive for the works of deceased artists – her “cemetery in cyberspace,” she called it. It was important to her to have the legacies of creative people endure in some fashion. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect she didn’t get very far on it, which is unfortunate, because I do know how much it meant to her.

    The last time I saw her would’ve been last winter. She was still teaching at the Art Students League here in NYC, and her class had an exhibit which I attended. Afterwards we had dinner. She certainly looked frail, but not that much moreso than any of the other times I’d seen her. I was out of work at the time and she insisted on paying. Now that I’m working, I had hoped to return the favor eventually. Guess I won’t.

    Wherever you are now, Hilda, thank you for the gift of your friendship, your wit and wisdom. I know I certainly won’t forget you.

  2. Theresa H. D’Alessio (aka.HILDA TERRY) was the way that my First Cousin ( once removed!) always signed her name and wanted to be remember. She had a wonderful life and marriage to Gregory, and over the years, the friendship and love of Carl Sanburg, Andres Segovia, the organist Ethel Smith, etc. She and Gregory were my teen-age and early twenties guiding stars. They alone , in our vast from Salem, Mass. family were the “artists!” Always encouraging, always offering me jobs (” do our lettering”) or suggesting ways I could make money (“do squibs for The New Yorker”), I’m afraid that Terry’s efforts, aside from her beloved class at Art Student’s Leaque, in the later years were devoted to her theories of reencarnation, and her ill-fated Cemetary in Cyberspace. Her devotion to MOCCA , especially after the showing of Gregory’s collection of CARTOONS AGAINST THE AXIS, continued until the day she died. She made numerous donations of her work, and other drawings, books and artifacts to their collection. She affirmed again and aain that she wished her estate and home to be donated to MOCCA, since ” they are the only foundation in New York which is pursuing my aims.”

  3. Regretfully, I was totally unaware of Hilda Terry’s passing until just a short time ago. Saddened as I am by this loss, I am thankful that she decided to respond to a letter I had written her back in the summer of 1994, and that she actually chose to follow that up with a phone call to me a short time after that, which came as a complete surprise to me.

    I had first found out about Ms. Terry and her comic strip creation, Teena, back in early 1993. I was perusing old microfilm reels of old issues of the Omaha World Herald from the 50′ and ’60s at the main library there (I’ve lived in Council Bluffs, IA since late 1990) and just happened to stumble across a panel or two which they published in the Sunday Magazine of the Midlands from 1944 to 1964. The character caught my attention and I started looking up more of the old strips in more reels.

    I really came to love Teena and decided to try a search in Who’s Who of American Women, where I found she was still living and the book gave her address. I enthusiastically sat down and wrote her, and, prior to the call, she sent me a nice response along with some copies of stories on her and her husband, a copy of a Teena strip that I told her was missing from one of the Omaha film reels by date, and an autographed copy of her book “Strange Bod Fellows”. I mentioned in my letter that I had an idea for an animated feature film featuring the characters from the strip and even mentioned whom I’d have loved to have cast in the voice roles. She told me she knew another person who was interested in animating her, but she was doubtful it would work today.

    This was around the time of the baseball strike, so I was compelled to get her thoughts on the matter since she had a connection with the sport. I found that part of the phone conversation difficult to follow, but I managed somehow.

    The brief time we connected will go down as one of the best memories of my life in the ’90s…and certainly one of the better moments of 1994, a year that was also marred by a couple of decidedly low points I hit, which I won’t discuss here.

    A much-belated farewell to you, Hilda Terry. Though I may have discovered you and your talent much later than others closer to you, you left an indelible mark on my years here, for which I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  4. When I was 14, in 1944, I wrote Hilda a fan letter about her comic TEENA. Since my name was Tina, I felt she had created it for me.( I wanted to be an artist also.) She answered and encouraged me to keep sending my drawings and updates on my life. We corresponded for 5 years..she even created many comics with characters and events I suggested, even my sorority banner on TEENA’s wall when I went off to college. I was to visit NYC in ‘51 (I was a Veterans of Foreign Wars contest winner). Since we were kept very busy I didn’t call Hilda as she suggested. I was embarrassed not to have done so and lost contact. I had 5 children, taught art at a public school, divorced and moved to NYC in 1989. I looked her up and surprisingly she was still in the city and teaching at the Art Student’s League.( I had spoken to Gregory who encouraged me to sign up for one of her classes.) I did so , taking many of the laminated personally created TEENA comics she had done for me. We became close friends , going once a week to China town for acupuncture treatments. Sadly her health was delicate at the end. I feel blessed to have known such a talented inspirational lady, who touched my heart as a teenager and in my later years.

  5. I’m in my mid 30’s and was told all my life that I was named after my mum’s FAVOURITE comic strip ‘TEENA’, as she was growing up as a teenager.
    Funny enough one of my favourite aunts is named Barbara and we were known fondly as I hit my teens as, Teena and Barbara the Terrible Teenagers’, by most of my family.
    I have ALWAYS had to spell my name and ALWAYS get, ‘WOW, that’s an interesting way of spelling it’. Over the years I have came across a few Teena’s, but not too many of them.
    Now a busy mum of 3 boys and having the use of the internet recently, it’s only just today I thought I would set aside time to see the comic illustrations and the cartoonist that realistic has shaped me (we all start from a name). And now I am excited, yet sad to find the beginnings of my soul, as from what I can read Hilda Terry was a most wonderful woman. A pioneer in fact, that touched the hearts and souls of so many people and young girls including my mum. She made life real and dreams a possibility. I am only sad that I had left this part of my journey this long to discover. I am honored to be named after this comic strip character, not like as a child would turn red when my mother told people that she got the unusual spelling of my name from a comic.
    I love the above story that Tina Ekstrom has shared with us, Thank you for sharing this memory and I am delighted that you had the opportunity of meeting Ms Terry. Wow what a woman to to have as a mentor, you were lucky. I can only learn from this journey i have travelled today and am Blessed that my mother was touched by this wonderful woman too!
    RIP Hilda Terry – “The Brunette Stooge” – YouTube.(Comicology.TV August 23, 2007)