As most have now heard, NAIFA lost a very loyal friend and industry icon in Terry Headley this past Saturday, March 18. For those who knew him as a friend, he bravely faced his three-year illness with courage.
It is hard for me to put into words what his passing means to me personally. But even more for NAIFA, it is indescribable to speak of our loss and, yet, not appreciate the impact of this one individual on NAIFA over the past half-century.
In my 48 years of membership, I have been fortunate to know many of NAIFA’s leaders. A few like Tom Wolff and David Woods were quite special but all have served with distinction and honor. Since around 1995, I have called many of our past Presidents personal friends and have enjoyed relationships with many on a first-name basis. This was particularly true of my good friend from Nebraska. Terry Headley was a very, very special person. He exuded qualities and demonstrated unique leadership skills that clearly placed him in the top tier of leaders over NAIFA’s long and distinguished 133-year history.
His strongest attribute was his strong support of NAIFA’s advocacy efforts. For some twenty-five years, he was the point man for NAIFA’s story on Capitol Hill. Furthermore, he backed up his persistence and persuasion with his wallet. That’s why the Terry Headley Lifetime Defender Award was established two years ago to recognize his financial giving as the Co-Commander-in-Chief of contributions nationwide to IFAPAC alongside his close friend, Robert Miller. What two recipients better exemplify the Terry Headley Lifetime Defender Award than Robert in 2022 and former NAIFA Trustee Bob Roach in 2021? One of Terry’s favorite quotes concerning legislative involvement was, “Either you have a place at the table or you are part of the menu,” a priceless comment on the reality of Washington, D.C., politics from a genuine industry leader. He carried the mantel of legislative responsibilities with a sensibility to economic well-being and the perpetuation of “common sense” American values.
The respect he carried throughout NAIFA and the greater industry was legendary. In addition to his many years of work with NAIFA advocacy, he later served as a NAIFA Trustee for four years after which he joined NAIFA’s top leadership from 2008 to 2012. He was National President in 2010-11. At our annual career conference and annual meeting, it always took a good bit of effort to carve out time to visit with my friend, Terry, because he was always being sought out by so many. Such was a man so loved and respected by colleagues from throughout the country.
In summary, Terry Headley was a giant of a leader in the overall financial services industry, a longtime member and visionary National President of NAIFA as well as his home chapter, NAIFA-Nebraska. For years, he was quite active with NAIFA committee assignments along with innumerable task forces. He was a recognized point man for NAIFA’s legislative agenda for years in Washington and the Halls of Congress. He was an established production leader with his primary company, Principal Financial Group, and the youngest agent to ever enter the company’s Hall of Fame. He was a longtime and respected Qualifying and Life Member of MDRT as well The Society of Financial Services Professionals. He was honored as the John Newton Russell Memorial Award recipient in 2020. For years, he was a contributing writer of textbooks and moderator’s guides for LUTC courses and conducted numerous seminars and consumer-education presentations around the country, which also included TV and radio appearances. As you can see, Terry was a very busy individual.
Truly it can be said that a Mighty Oak has fallen. But what an example he was. Each of us within NAIFA is immeasurably blessed because of the life and influence of Terry K. Headley. With courage and a renewed fervor for the task at hand, may we carry his example forward with NAIFA and to the financial betterment of the people we are entrusted to serve.