Texas Jewish history expert Donald Lee Teter died in Houston on January 26, 2012, at 86.
Don was a founder of the Texas Jewish Historical Society and the Baytown Historical Museum. Over many years he organized efforts to locate, describe and preserve Jewish cemeteries, synagogues and other historical sites throughout Texas. I first met Don in the late 1980s when I was researching the history of the B'nai Abraham Synagogue in Brenham, Texas, of which my great-grandfather was a founder. Don also was an expert on the Jewish history of Baytown, where he had worked as chemical engineer after graduating from Rice University. His 2008 paper "OIL GEVALT: The History of the Baytown, Texas, Jewish Community, 1928-2008" can be read here.
I followed Don's work in Texas throughout the 1990s. When I was collecting information on abandoned Jewish cemeteries in Eastern Europe, Don was doing the same for Texas. Together with his wife Gertrude, to whom he was married for 63 years and who survives him, Don compiled the massive Texas Jewish Burials, published by the Texas Jewish Historical Society in 1997. The 448-page book includes information on all Jewish burial grounds in Texas, including consecrated Jewish cemeteries separate from any other cemeteries, sections of non-sectarian cemeteries consecrated and dedicated as Jewish cemeteries and Jewish burials in non-Jewish cemeteries. The Teters collected the name and birth and death dates for each burial they and their colleagues located. From this survey work developed many subsequent programs for cemetery clean-ups, sponsored by synagogues and other religious and civic groups.
Don Teter will be missed by his large family and circle of friends. For his warm spirit and abundant energy, and because of his work in Jewish history, heritage and community; he will be long remembered.
Donations in Don's memory can be made to Congregation K'Nesseth Israel, P.O. Box 702, Baytown, TX 77522 or other charity of your choice.