DEL MAR — Family members, friends, colleagues and community leaders gathered at Powerhouse Community Center on Jan. 5 for a standing-room-only memorial service for Louis Terrell, a former Del Mar mayor who died two days earlier trying to save his dog from an oncoming train.
Terrell, 75, was walking Abe off leash along the bluffs near 11th Street shortly before 3:30 p.m. when a northbound Amtrak train sounded its horn. Investigators believe the Labrador retriever was startled by the noise and moved toward the tracks.
Terrell was struck by the train as he tried to retrieve Abe, who was unharmed. Del Mar paramedics tried to revive Terrell but he died at the scene.
“He was the kindest, gentlest, warmest man I knew,” Terrell’s nephew Joshua Groban said. “He was completely without hate, without cynicism, and was the most upbeat and positive person.”
Terrell was a political science professor at San Diego State University and served as chairman of the department.
He was also president of Planned Parenthood of San Diego and Riverside counties and served on the board of the Foundation for Change and the American Civil Liberties Union in San Diego and Imperial counties.
An SDSU colleague described him as “a really intellectual, friendly and passionate guy.”
Terrell was a Del Mar City Council member and served as mayor in 1981. More than three decades ago he founded the Del Mar Foundation, the city’s oldest nonprofit organization, which promotes civic pride, acquires and preserves open space, improves beaches and parklands, raises and grants funds and sponsors cultural programs and community events.
“He packed many lifetimes into one,” Charlotte Lewis, a family friend, said.
“He was highly regarded in the city, and the huge turnout at his memorial on short notice attests to that,” former Mayor Bill Arballo said.
Fighting back tears at the Jan. 6 City Council meeting, Mayor Lee Haydu, on behalf of the city, extended “deepest sympathies” to his family and friends.
“Lou was a very active member of our community,” she said. “He made a tremendous difference in our community.”
At the Jan. 21 meeting the city will present his family with a proclamation to honor his contributions. A representative from state Sen. Marty Block’s office said Block plans to adjourn the Senate in Terrell’s memory Jan. 13 “to reflect on his life’s accomplishments and his outstanding contributions to our region.”
Terrell is survived by his wife, Carol Isackson, and children Amy and Joel Isackson. His family held a private tribute in the water just off 19th Street prior to the celebration of life.
In September 2012, Del Mar implemented a system to reduce horn noise as trains pass through the city. However, “a train engineer may at his/her discretion use the horn at any time due to an unsafe condition,” North County Transit District Executive Director Matt Tucker said.