By ERIN ROLL
The Montclair community is mourning the loss of seven-year-old Terry Demming, known as the “funniest boy in class and a great friend,” who died over the July 4 weekend.
Terry Demming drowned in a swimming pool at a Lorraine Avenue home on the evening of July 4.
He is the son of former council member Kathryn Weller-Demming. His grandmother is Barbara Weller, a former principal in the school system.
The young man was preparing to enter second grade at Charles H. Bullock School in the fall, and he had been a player on the Montclair Bulldogs baseball team.
Police Lt. David O’Dowd confirmed that the Montclair Police Department and paramedics responded to an accidental drowning of a seven-year-old boy on July 4 at approximately 7:59 p.m. involving a residential swimming pool. Deputy Montclair Ambulance Unit Chief Frank Carlo confirmed that the unit responded to an incident in the area of Cooper Avenue on the evening of July 4, but was unable to give additional information due to privacy concerns.
Freeholder President Brendan Gill has been a longtime friend of the Weller and Demming families.
Gill’s nine-year-old son played sports with Terry Demming.
He had marched in the Fourth of July parade with the Montclair Democratic Club on the day of his passing, said Gill.
“He just knew a lot of kids in town,” Gill said. “He was a very outgoing kid and the life of the party.”
Services for Terry Demming were held at Trinity Presbyterian Church on High Street on Tuesday, July 10, with internment at Rosedale Cemetery. The viewing took place Monday evening and Tuesday morning at Trinity Presbyterian Church.
Terry Demming’s death was announced to the school community in a letter that Superintendent Kendra Johnson and Principal Nami Kuwabara sent to Charles H. Bullock families on July 5.
“Our sincere condolences are extended to the Weller-Demming family and friends of our beloved student. As we process this devastating news as a school community, we ask that you create space to discuss thoughts and feelings to assist all [to] cope with their grief,” the letter read.
The letter included grieving resources for parents and their children.
Charles H. Bullock School will have counselors available to meet with students when the new school year begins, said Nina De Rosa, secretary to the superintendent.
The district has arranged to have counseling available at the summer camp that Terry Demming attended, De Rosa said, and Johnson notified the director of the YMCA to help children who attend camp there as well. Additionally, a letter was sent out to families informing them that counseling would be available.
“It’s a terrible tragedy and we extend our condolences to both families [Demming and Weller] and will provide whatever support the families and the community need,” BOE President Laura Hertzog said.
The Montclair Democratic Party posted a tribute to Terry on its Facebook page on Sunday afternoon. “It is with great sadness that we share the news of the unexpected passing of Terry Lawrence Demming, the beloved 7-year-old son of Vincent Demming and Kathryn Weller Demming, At-Large Committee Member, and grandson of Al Weller, Committee member for Ward 1 District 6,” the posting read. “Terry was an energetic, smart, beautiful and charismatic little boy. He was a frequent staple of Montclair Democratic County Committee events. Many having watched him grow to the young scholar-athlete he has become. He will be greatly missed. Our sincere love, prayers, and support are with the Demming and Weller families.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children under the age of 14 account for one in every five drowning deaths.
It is ranked as fifth in cause of death in children.
The family is setting up a foundation in Terry’s memory. A GoFundMe page for Terry Denning had a fundraising goal of $1,000. Instead, the amount rocketed to over $50,000 within four days.
“Our plan is to create a foundation to support the things he loved most – sports, children and his community,” the GoFundMe page said.
Editor’s Note: A previous version of the story had the incorrect location of the pool where the drowning took place.