The Eulogy for Richard Charles Turner

20
Dec

The Eulogy for Richard Charles Turner

August 14, 1956 – December 16, 2018

Rich spent the majority of his youth living in Summit where he experienced a lot of happiness with his mom and dad and his brother David.  His father owned a popular book shop in town where often both Rich and David would work for their Dad.  At their house on Maple Street there was a basketball hoop over the garage where lots of happy hours were spent by Rich playing basketball or having a catch with his Dad, his brother and his friends, including sometimes myself.  Rich would draw upon these happy memories when it came time to raise his own sons.

Rich enjoyed his four years at Elmira College, afterwards staying connected with the many friends he made there, attending just this past June his 40th college reunion.  Early on in his time there somebody called him “RT” for Richard Turner which was misheard as “Artie” and it stuck.  For the rest of his college career Rich was affectionately known as Artie.

Rich was one of five roommates who developed such a close bond that they roomed together for three out of four of the years.  One of these roommates – Ron Ford — wrote upon hearing of Rich’s death:  “He was an “outstanding man… (He) could be the smartest person in the room, and he could also be the life of the party.  His smile and laughter would light up the room… He would do anything for you… We were lucky to have had a glimpse into his warm heart, generosity and the goodwill he extended so graciously to all around him.” 

Brian Donavan, another college friend recalls one of many happy memories he shared with Rich – a trip they made driving across country after graduation in order to go camping through the national parks.

Eventually Rich gravitated towards employment in Finance ending up with a job at Prudential Securities where he met Louise, the love of his life who was also employed there.

Louise distinctly remembers the first time she laid eyes upon Rich.  She was in this very large room the size of a football field bustling with activity when she spotted this tall handsome man walking — in her words — “with strength and confidence.”  And she thought to herself, “That’s him! That’s the man I’m going to marry.”  She asked her boss who the striking young man was. “That’s Rich Turner.”  “Is he single?” Indeed he was, and so in order to give Louise opportunity to meet Rich her boss invited him to join a group of employees that were in the habit of going out together on Fridays after work to the Yankee Clipper Restaurant.  After two such shared outings, Louise called Rich up at work and asked him if he would like to go out for a drink.  “Huh?” was Rich’s startled response.  And then, “Oh yeah!”  Only later did Rich confide with Louise that he had at that point been trying to get up the nerve to ask her out.

And so began a journey together that would contain a shared love beyond measure.  They made a great team and took particular joy in creating a home together – a place where their sons would feel loved and a space where they could invite their extended family and friends for shared celebrations of the gift of life.

Christmas was a special time for Rich and Louise.  It began with playing Christmas records by Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby, a tradition passed down to Richard from his parents.  Rich and Louise would proceed to decorating the house with lights, and then have the annual debate as to when to put up the tree.  Louise was ready for it to go up right after Thanksgiving.  Rich always came at such things from a practical point of view:  If you put up the tree too early it would dry up by Christmas.  Generally Rich’s practicality would prevail and the tree would go up about two weeks before Christmas.

The memory that stands out clearest for Louise regarding Christmas were these quiet moments she and Rich would share sitting on the sofa, contemplating just how blessed their lives were together.

In Louise’s description – a description that rings true with just about everybody who knew Rich – he was always a giver and never a taker – a giver, perhaps to a fault.

Rich gave to Louise in so many ways – for instance by making the time to accompany her to doctors’ appointments when she could have easily gone alone.  In Rich’s mind that’s simply what you do when you cared about someone.

When you are a giver, Louise noted, you know what is involved in giving – the time and energy something takes – the fact that somebody doesn’t have to give that time and energy but freely chooses to do so.  Knowing this well, Rich was all the more appreciative when he was given unto.

Louise took great pleasure in preparing dinners for her husband because she knew how appreciative he would be, and that the dinner would be their special time to connect and catch up on one another’s lives.  Recently Louise had begun preparing a different “Blue Apron” dinner each night and afterwards they would rank each meal on a scale of 1 to 5.  Richard never gave a meal a score lower than a four.  It was a nourishing meal lovingly made.  What could there be to complain about?

Rich was at heart a man of simple tastes.  I was told that a eulogy about him had to contain mention of his love of peanut butter and jelly, as well as mashed potatoes.

The lives of Rich and Louise, of course, revolved around their beloved three sons:  Matthew, Brendan and William.

All of their sons were deeply involved in a wide variety of extracurricular activities during their school years and later in college — Scouts, cross country, marching band, orchestra, basketball, baseball, lacrosse, swimming — which meant that for nearly two decades most weekends were spent supporting their sons in these activities.  Often this involved a great deal of travel.  Sometimes this travel involved actual running – I heard about two races Brendan competed in as a senior in high school, both involving obstacles to climb over: One a 12 mile “Mud Run” and the other a 5 mile “Zombie Run” that involved Rich and Louise literally running over hill and valley to be on hand to catch the next glimpse of their son overcoming an obstacle – a good metaphor, I think of parenthood.

Rich and Louise’s message to their sons throughout was, “We’re here for you.  No matter what, we’re here for you.”

Rich was a pretty mellow dad, with rare exceptions.  When Brendan and William were four and five the house the family lived in had an upstairs window that opened out onto the roof.   One day Louise and Rich were calmly sitting in their sun room when Louise caught a glimpse out the window of what she described as the boys “tap dancing out on the roof.” Horrified, Louise told her husband who was swiftly heading out into the yard, “Whatever you do, don’t scare them!”  She was afraid they might be startled and fall off the roof.  She hurried upstairs intent on calmly coaxing the boys back in the window but before she could get there she heard Rich yell at the top of his lungs, “Get the hell inside!!!” He startled them all right — right back inside that window and into the certainty they would never tap dance on the roof again. 

Rich’s three sons were his pride and joy.  As they grew up, he took particular pleasure in recounting the stories of their activities and particular achievements.

For instance Matthew clearly remembers the pure delight his Dad took twenty years ago in the little wooden car Matthew built as a cub scout that took first place in the Pinewood Derby, or later in middle school the enjoyment his dad would take in recounting a certain basketball game in which Matthew scored 25 points, or a baseball game he pitched in which he had a dozen strike outs.

There was similar delight for Rich in talking about Brendan’s many swimming records over the years or in telling the story of the night Brendan’s normal one hour shift as the DJ on his college radio station stretched out to six hours when his replacements failed to show up.

He was so proud of William when at the age of fourteen he made the all-state orchestra, and took great pleasure in playing the record produced by the orchestra.

Rich celebrated his sons’ accomplishments but he always did it in a way that didn’t place any undo pressure on them.  Rich conveyed to each of them that without a doubt that they were unconditionally loved by him.  They knew with total certainty that their Dad had their back.

The stories Rich told about each of his son’s activities were perhaps most often told to their brothers.  There was a specific purpose to telling these stories beyond the pleasure Rich found in telling them. With the busyness of their lives leading them in different directions Rich was aware of the possibility of his sons slowly drifting apart.  Rich’s stories helped keep the sons connected.

There are countless happy memories of wonderful vacations shared as a family.  Rich always liked to be outdoors so the trips tended to feature opportunities to get out into nature for hiking and fishing.  There were trips to Cape May, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maine, and Canada.  There was a Caribbean cruise and two big adventures to Colorado where at an “Alligator Farm” Rich once sat on the back of an eight foot alligator holding its jaw open.  Immediately afterwards Rich referred to this as “The dumbest thing I’ve ever done.” There was an ill-advised rafting trip in which their raft overturned in the rapids – a result that could have been disastrous if not for some personal heroism on the part of Rich.

Back home, Rich loved to get outdoors whenever he could.  A distinct memory of all Rich’s sons is of coming downstairs on a Saturday morning and finding their Dad sitting on the back porch with a cup of coffee peacefully gazing out into the woods.  Whenever possible – in Spring, Summer or Fall — Rich preferred to have meals sitting out there on the back porch.  He was always happy to fire up the grill.

Rich liked working in the yard, insisting that his boys join him in the work, perpetually underestimating the time certain tasks would take.  “Come on – it’ll only take a half hour,” he’d say.  The most recent such shared experience was just three weeks ago when they all went out to rake the leaves. A garden rimmed by heavy rocks in the backyard that the whole family worked together ten years ago to construct remains to this day a reminder of all those shared times working outside together.

Rich was handy around the house and he was frugal — refusing to overpay for a tool with more bells and whistles than were required, or to have somebody come and do a job that he – often with the help of his boys – could do himself.  Painting the outside of the house, for instance — another task that took much longer than Rich had estimated.  He built closets for the bedrooms of Brendan and William.

Rich was always concerned that his sons feel at home in their house, and willing to go above and beyond to make sure this was so.  With the deaths in the past three years of both of Rich’s parents, Rich needed to find places to store a lot of inherited family treasures and the sons’ bedrooms provided short term storage space.  But when Rich knew his sons were coming home from college he would go out of his way to unclutter their rooms.  The thought of his sons feeling as though their rooms had been hijacked was really upsetting to him.

Rich was also an extraordinarily devoted son to both of his parents as they aged, attentive to their needs, conscientiously setting aside time for them. His parents had been divorced ever since Rich was in college and therefore the time and energy required to look after them was essentially doubled. Unlike his mother who had happily gotten married to Press, Rich’s father never remarried and lived alone.  For nearly twenty years every Sunday Rich would meet his Dad for breakfast, a tradition for which his father was deeply grateful.  When Press died several years back, the time Rich’s mother required increased especially as her health declined and Rich was always there for her.

Rich’s brother David always felt loved by his brother – recognizing a deep connection with his brother regardless of the time that would sometimes pass without seeing one another.  They laughed a lot together, something Rich’s sons particularly enjoyed witnessing.  “Lame Dad humor” is what Matthew called it.

Richard took pride in doing things well.  It was his nature to go above and beyond what was required – especially in the high-pressured environment of his work in information technology.  In the end, these admirable qualities took a toll on him.  Richard had less time to recharge by getting together with the friends and family he loved.

As his family looks back on his life, their gratitude for the loving sacrifices Richard made on their behalf is exceeded only by their sorrow over his sudden absence.  An extraordinarily vibrant and loving man was taken from his family way too soon.

As I’ve been reading online postings about Rich by his co-workers, it is clear that many, many other people are experiencing a strong sense of loss as well, as well as a profound sense of gratitude for the good fortune of having come in contact with Rich in the course of their lives.

I want to quote just a few of the things they said:

One wrote, “I am truly honored to have met and worked with such a great man of integrity and compassion. He was such a delight to work with and always had a positive attitude even during stressful times on the job.  I admired his eagerness to help me when I needed it. He was a genuinely nice guy.  I have immense respect and admiration for him and am grateful to have crossed paths with him in my life. He will truly be missed.” (Kevin Chapman)

Another wrote, that Rich was “a fine, gentle, hardworking, diligent, honest and overall, a GOOD man, he will surely be missed… He was a beacon of positive behavior… not a single ounce of anger or bitterness from this man… Richard is an example of not only the model colleague, but a model civil human being.  (Michael Rieue)

Another wrote, “Rich was a great leader, mentor and friend. I still vividly remember seven years ago on my first day at Jefferies, Rich greeted me with warm smile and high spirits. Rich’s integrity, dedication and creativity are instrumental in helping us through many difficult business situations… He was a good person.”

Another wrote of “the privilege of working with Rich…”  “He was a genuine, sincere and caring person, and always a calming presence to be around in a sometimes hectic work environment… He frequently would stop by my desk to chat and check to see if there was any way to help make my workday easier. Every conversation would end with Rich saying ‘Let me know how I can help you.’  He was selfless, and made everyone else’s needs his priority… (He) exemplified what it truly means to be a good person.

(I was struck by how often the word “good” occurred in peoples’ descriptions of Rich. There was this basic goodness to Rich that shown through to all.)

Another co-worker called Rich a “cool guy” and a “kind gentleman”, praising his “sincerity”, “honesty”, “patience” and “humor.”  “He was so helpful and made my work life much easier in a lot of tough situations… He was always there for us, no matter what and when.”

Another referred to Rich as the “the most helpful person I have had the opportunity to work with.”

Another testified to how Rich was “always a good listener.”

Another described Rich as being like a “father” in the workplace.

Another wrote of how when he first came to work Rich “was the first to greet me by name as if he knew me forever, always saying ‘hello’ as we cross paths. Rich was a class act and a special person.”

And yet another, “The influence he had on me is beyond words. He has always been so calm and gentle even under pressure… Words cannot describe how our team’s is feeling.”

Louise spoke to me of the remarkable care with which Rich would pay attention to — and then remember over time — the details of peoples’ lives.  I experienced this myself when I got together with Rich three years ago after having not seen him for essentially 35 years.  He recalled details of my life like the name of a girlfriend I had in college.  He made me feel good about myself – that in his mind I was a person worth remembering.  I’m sure there are countless others who had the same experience.

Richard had an ability to leave a lasting impression on people even when the contact he shared with a person was relatively limited.  His family told me about a visit they made this week to the owner of the local restaurant where the reception will be held following the service.  In recent years the family had hosted a couple of parties there.  Rich’s interactions with the man weren’t extensive, but when the family told him of Rich’s death the man burst into tears.

Such was the impact Rich had on people.

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