Former Calvert commissioner, state GOP chair dies

Onley, MD - Joyce Lyons Terhes, the first woman Republican to be elected to the Calvert Board of County Commissioners, died Wednesday, July 25. Terhes, who lived in Montgomery County for the past 16 years, was 78. Friends said she had been in poor health for some time.

Terhes was first elected county commissioner in 1986. Terhes was the top vote-getter in that year’s General Election and again in 1990 when she won reelection. After serving two terms Terhes then embarked on a long tenure as chair of the Maryland Republican Party. She was later chosen a committeewoman representing Maryland on the Republican National Committee RNC) and subsequently elected to the RNC’s Executive Committee. The Maryland Republican Party formally honored Terhes in 2012.

“She was an inspiration to many women and a confidant to political leaders,” said Judy MacWilliams of Owings, who explained it was Terhes who convinced her to register as a Republican.

“Joyce and I worked very hard on getting a foothold for the Republican Party in Calvert County,” said North Beach Mayor Mark Frazer, who, like Terhes, served on the party’s local central committee and then ran successfully for county commissioner in 1986. In 1982 Democrats won every local elected office. Frazer recalled that at that time Calvert Republicans didn’t have a phone number or headquarters. In 1986 Calvert voters elected two Republican commissioners (Terhes and Frazer) and a Republican Orphans Court judge.

Terhes was one of Arthur and Mildred Lyons’ four children. The family’s farm was located on land that was later donated by the family to the county—on which the Dunkirk Volunteer Fire Department’s fire house and Dunkirk Park are located. The family also sold some of the land to developers. That tract has been occupied for nearly 30 years by Dunkirk Marketplace.

MacWilliams said that Terhes was a founding member of the Dunkirk Area Concerned Citizens Association (DACCA) and help found Jesus the Good Shepherd Church in Owings. Terhes was also active with the American Cancer Society. Before becoming involved in politics, Terhes taught social studies at Frederick Douglass High School in Prince George’s County.

Frazer said for a time during 1980s he and Terhes teamed up to do political consulting for Republican candidates.  MacWilliams’ husband Richard told about one of Terhes’ more unconventional campaign gimmicks in which he and his family participated. “Judy and I and our youngest son, Mike, who wasn’t even a teen yet met Joyce in Prince Frederick near Safeway. She gave each of us a stack of papers about the size of small bumper stickers. On them they said, ‘Now that you can see clearly, vote for Joyce Lyons Terhes.’ She gave us all a roll of paper towels and a bottle of Windex and told us to wash the windows of the cars in the parking lot and put one of the papers under the windshield wiper. Weeks after that she was the highest vote-getter for county commissioner.”

In July of 2012 the Calvert County Commissioners held a dedication ceremony for a wooden bench that Richard MacWilliams had made to honor Terhes. The county’s Department of General Services allowed the bench to be placed in Dunkirk Park. Terhes was on hand to cut the ribbon. Noting the presence of five Republican county commissioners at the ceremony, Terhes declared, “we have made a difference.”

A small service will be held Sunday, July 29 at All Saints Church in Sunderland where Terhes will be buried beside her parents. A memorial service will be held Monday afternoon, July 30 at Oakdale Church in Olney followed by a reception at Brooke Grove Retirement Community in Sandy Spring.

Contact Marty Madden at

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