Sudden death: Beer boss loved football, fishing, philanthropy

According to the Albemarle County Police, at approximately 9:30 on Monday morning, April 18, emergency personnel responded to a report of a shooting on the 1200 block of Hammocks Gap Road. While police decline to name the victim, multiple sources confirm it was Terence Y. "Terry" Sieg, the 69-year-old businessman, philanthropist, and former UVA football star.

While the family is remaining tight-lipped about a cause of death, which they say occurred a day before the discovery, and an autopsy report is pending, Police spokesperson Darrell Byers says foul play is not suspected, lending weight to the idea that Sieg's death was self-inflicted. The silver-haired Sieg was buried on the afternoon of Friday, April 22 at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Greenwood.

Born in California and raised mostly in San Diego, Sieg went on to become an all-state football star in New Jersey before accepting a scholarship to play at UVA in 1960.

"I was awestruck," recalls Sieg's first-year roommate, Joe Brown. "Here I get paired with this handsome, urbane, athletic guy who spoke Spanish and had the surfer lingo down from living in California."

Upon graduation in 1964 with a degree in English literature, Sieg was drafted by the Cleveland Browns, but a knee injury reportedly ended his professional football career before he could play a  game. That didn't curtail his passion for sports, says his son, Los Angeles-based filmmaker Derek Sieg, who says his father became a mainstay at UVA's home football, soccer, and lacrosse games– even following the lower profile sports.

"He was always calling me up asking if the tennis team won," Derek recalls with a chuckle.

Sieg would move to New York City to work in publishing– for Sports Illustrated, TimeLife, and Ms. Magazine– and his son says Sieg's stories from the era could be hard to fathom.

"He would tell me about people pouring martinis all the time," laughs Derek, noting that he finally believed his dad wasn't exaggerating when the television show Mad Men became a hit.

While working in Manhattan, Sieg met and married a fashion model, the former Barbara Beaman, and the couple moved to Charlottesville in 1976 so Sieg could assume the reins of the J.W. Sieg, the beverage distributing business that his father, James Wallace Sieg, had started a dozen years earlier.

In 1980, Sieg temporarily relocated his wife and three young children to Denver where he'd launched what Derek fondly recalls as a rugged New Yorker-esque magazine. Folding a few years later, Rocky Mountain Magazine would become one of Sieg's few business failures– though it won critical acclaim including a 1981 National Magazine Award.

The family returned to Charlottesville, where Sieg, who later divorced, refocused on beer distribution and launched another publication. This one was a hard-hitting newsletter that survives to this day, an ad-free, subscriber-funded review of hotels and restaurants:  La Belle France.

If he savored business, Terry Sieg also had a "nonjudgmental, fun loving" nature that made him a people magnet.

"So many friends have called and said he was like a father to them," says Derek Sieg.

Several years ago, Sieg gave digital cameras to a group of at-risk adolescents so they could document their lives, a project that helped earn him acclaim as Volunteer of the Year for 2008 from the Boys and Girls Club.

"Terry worked with about a dozen kids for eight months on that project, and not one of those kids dropped out of the program," says Kate Zirkle, Club president-elect.

His son says that Sieg also committed a million dollars to help a UVA alum build schools in Africa, but he didn't limit his philanthropy to youth-focused initiatives. Sieg was a board member and donor to the Southern Environmental Law Center and to Charlottesville Tomorrow.

His green– and at times liberal– perspectives could have created conflict with other fisherman, many of whom tend to be politically conservative, says Jamie Lyle, a fly-fishing guide who became friends with Sieg on a trip to Alaska about 25 years ago.

"I've seen him in some politically charged dialogue find a very direct way to stand up for what he believed in," says Lyle, "and I never saw him lose any respect for it."

Writing was another passion, and in addition to authoring a golf travel guide to courses around the world, his son says Sieg recently penned a screen adaptation of an Ernest Hemingway short story. The two had been hoping to obtain rights to the story so the film could be made.

According to former UVA roommate Brown, Sieg also wrote a children's story. Ostensibly about a hummingbird, a pigeon, and a goose, the story follows the feathered trio as they leave a Montana ranch to fly south together for the winter. Brown says the book– which Sieg had submitted to a publisher– contains lessons about life, death, and grief that he applied to his own pain upon losing his friend.

"I turned to my wife," he recalls, "and said, 'Terry will certainly live in our souls.'"

While Sieg went into semi-retirement after selling the beer distributorship two years ago, his son says he remained in a mentor role at the office, as his daughter, Ashley Williams, and her husband, Smith Williams, developed wine distribution for J.W. Sieg. He is survived by a third child, a daughter, Kendall Duffy, and three grandchildren.

Additional free time allowed Sieg in recent years to spend more time fly fishing, and a recent trip to New Zealand turned out to be his last. Fellow fly-fisher Lyle agreed to share a portion of a letter he sent to one of Sieg's daughters in the wake of the tragic news.

"I don't know why he chose this path," Lyle wrote, "but his legacy for me will be his love for life, his smile and laugh, his inquiring mind, his strength in standing up for what he believed in, his compassion for others, and his easy companionship."

The family advises that contributions may be made to the Southern Environmental Law Center at 201 West Main St., Suite 14, Charlottesville VA 22902.

Correction: Police responded on Monday, April 18, according to the family. Sieg's death occurred on Sunday, April 17.–ed.

Read more on: J.W. SiegTerry Sieg


Terry was so welcoming to me and my family when we moved to Charlottesville in 1991. His smile and spirit were infectious and I shall always remember his kindness. Although he hailed from California he gave the name of "Southern Gentleman" the proper meaning. He was a gem for Charlottesville. Many more should emulate Terry; it would be a better world.

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Deleted by moderator.

Thanks Moderator...1st amendment at its best!!

Oh sorry that's right we live in bad

All I read was ....blah blah blah... we dont really know anything but we are going to guess what happened... why not wait for the facts or honor the dudes privacy... meh I dont really care but I kinda do just a bit

Sad that a nice article about a good man who will be missed stimulates 6 comments, 3 of which have to be deleted and another one whose "handle" mocks another local who took his own life.
Disappointing but par for the course I guess in the cesspool that the Hook comments section has become.

Best down to earth and decent person in the community. He and his dad were the class of this town. Will not be replaced.

Terry was one of the best human beings I have ever had the pleasure to be around. He and My father were great friends this community has really lost one of the best. I think this article touches on many great things that he accomplished, but I really hate the fact that you all had to speculate on "What Happened." Terry is gone, and digging into "What Happened" is tacky and disrespectful. I think that more thought should go into articles like this when you still have a family out there grieving.

My Dad is pictured with Terry, DS Shiflett was one of Terry's biggest fans and considered him to be like a brother. Terry was there for my Dad until the day he died, I will never forget Terry's devotion to my Dad in his last days. May he rest in peace....

Class act. Will miss his smiling face around town. Kind thoughts and prayers to his children and grand children.

He was born in San Diego, and his last name was Sieg.

Our deepest sympathy to Mr Sieg's Family it is sad to hear such sad news,the fishing guide came into our restaurant where mr sieg dined at night after his fishing days we had a few conversations only that he enjoyed his fishing and the lovely spots that he was taken to and to finish at our place for diner.It was funny that we got into a conversation with Russell Anderson about fishing not knowing that who Mr siegs went fishing with and only to be told he had passed away.My memory of him was that everytime he ordered a bottle of wine he only drank a couple of glasses then told me the rest was for me to drink after work ,that went on for three days you can imagine how much wine i had to drink when your not a drinker but.what a lovely person he enjoyed it here in Taihape N.Z so maybe one day his family might come out here to see what he enjoyed and be welcomed by his N.Z family in maori language Kia Kaha ' Be strong Arohanui