Theresa ‘Terry’ Adamson, East Boston’s Assistant Chief of Probation who arguably changed the way the courts dealt with drug offenders has died.
Mrs. Adamson died on Friday, September 25 after a long battle with cancer.
Terry, as she was affectionately known by friends, family and colleagues may have been small in stature but had a huge personality and spent her career at East Boston District Court fighting to help non-violent drug offenders back on the path of leading productive lives.
“She invented coercive before it was fashionable,” said East Boston’s Chief of Probation and longtime friend of Adamson Thomas Tassinari. “Before her no one was trying to help people with addiction problems stay out of jail.”
Tassinarri said that Adamson was a no nonsense probation officer that commanded respect but had a big heart and gave respect back to those who earned it.
“It was tough love,” said Tassinari. “But when former defendants are coming up to me sharing their grief and offering their condolences that shows you how big of a heart she had.”
Former Chief of Probation Dave Arinella, who began his career in probation with Adamson 30 years ago, said while she only stood four foot nine she was a dynamo.
“She was this tiny woman but had this big voice, this big personality and utilized every second of every day to do the absolute best job she could for people with addiction,” said Arinella. “She may have seemed hardnosed but she helped a lot of kids recover from drug addiction whether it was finding them a treatment program or a bed in a rehab she worked for them because she cared tremendously about them.”
North Suffolk Mental Health’s Kim Hanton, who worked closely with Adamson finding programming for addicts through NSMH said her work in the courts on behalf of addicts, was a game changer.
“She was a force to be reckoned with,” said Hanton. “She acted tough as nails but there was this side of her that addicts and families of addicts would see. She had a big heart and helped so many families.”
Hanton tells a story of a young 21-year-old former addict that overdosed and was in a coma.
“She had no family and no one to be at her side,” said Hanton. “And there was Terry sitting beside her bed everyday until she pulled through. That’s the kind of person she was.”
Both Hanton and Tassinari told another story of one former addict whom Adamson spent several years chasing around the streets of East Boston.
“She’d chase you and would not give up on you,” said Hanton.
Tassinari added that after years of keeping this man in rehab and on the path to sobriety he turned out to be a success story.
“He opened a barbershop on the South Shore and named it ‘Terry’s’,” said Tassinari. “That’s a testament to her character and the type of person she was.”
Aside from helping addicts for three decades Adamson was a mother figure for the entire court.
“Even when she was sick she would cook these big elaborate meals on Tuesday nights and bring them into work on Wednesdays,” said Tassinari. “She would send one of us to the store to buy bread and then we’d sit down like a big family and eat.”
Adamson worked right to the very end, not because the courts let her but because she wanted to.
“People would come up to me and thank me for letting her work until she no longer could,” said Tassinari. “I didn’t have a choice in the matter (laughs). She called the shots.”
She was also known for her bombastic sense of humor.
“She was single handedly the funniest person I have ever met,” said Arinella. “When she walked into a room you knew she was there. She made me look forward to coming to work everyday throughout my career.”