Seniors Situation Room by Dawn Ford October 1 is International Seniors Day! Remembering Bob & Dorris Turner

DawnFord_SSRCFN – October 1st. will be National Seniors’ Day and also United Nations International Day of Older Persons. June was “Seniors’ Month” and there were many articles in the media about seniors. At the Villa there was a bulletin board with a salute to the many characteristics of seniors. I read it and then, later tried to recall all it had said. I ended up mostly with my own version but it told me that although they had spelled out what each letter of the word “Seniors” had meant, there were still a lot more to Seniors. This is what was on the board:

S: Sensational

E: Experienced

N: Nostalgic

I: Intriguing

O: Outgoing

R: Respected

S: Sentimental


I guess we all know some seniors who exemplify this profile and have even more wonderful traits.   I thought about one senior in particular, the late Dorris Turner.


In the early sixties, I was often on duty on the Pediatric Ward at the Cornwall General Hospital., my favorite place to work. People would ask me how I could work with all those poor little sick kids. Children are not big, big babies, like adults. They may be sick but they still want to do the most important thing; they want to play. Eating and being sick come last.  A supervisor told me that I had a lot more evening and night shifts because I was single and this enabled the married nurses to be home more with their families. Fair enough. I liked it anyway because my nurses’ aides and I got to feed all the babies in the nursery. Sometimes we had a premature baby, a little darling ‘Premie” from the Obstetrics Ward who you could hold in the palm of your hand. Pure  joy.  And it was relatively quieter than the hectic day shift. More families were around to be with their children and help keep them occupied and calmer…sometimes leaving a glove or some personal article so the child would know Mom had to come back for it. I loved Peds. It was sometimes heartbreaking, yes. We sometimes went home with holes in our hearts.  Most often, though, it was a joy when a little child made a full recovery or was well on their way to one.

A little sweetie on Pediatrics


One evening in 1962 I was on duty on the Pediatric Ward. A male patient walking down the corridor paused at our playroom where some children, with their parents, were playing despite their illnesses. He told me how much he loved to watch children play and hear their laughter. I wondered if he was thinking about his own children since he was away from them in hospital.  He was very nice and I remember, as a young lass, thinking that he was also very handsome. I didn’t know who he was. I later learned that he was Bob Turner, our city’s Recreational Director who had been mainly responsible for opening the Cornwall Recreation Centre in 1961, several months earlier.


I was off duty for a couple of days but heard through the grapevine that Bob was very ill and had special nurses with him.  When I returned on duty, I would sometimes relieve his nurse so that she could go on her break. One evening, I met Dorris, his wife, for the first time. We would hold his hand and gently encourage him to hold on, that he would make it. But he didn’t. Bob was 35 years old. Dorris was left a widow with two precious young daughters, Phyllis and Joy.

The Cornwall Recreation Centre was re-named the Bob Turner Memorial Centre, honoring Bob.

Every time I went skating in that centre and looked at the bust of Bob in the hall, I thought of how he had spent some happy moments  before he had become so ill, watching the children play  in the playroom on our Pediatric Ward and  hearing their laughter, his wonderful face lit up with joy.


I lived out of town for many years returning in the mid-eighties. One day I went to Woolco (now Walmart) and in the parking lot which had been emptied of cars, I saw that the Handicapped Club (now the Handi-Social club) were having a walkathon fundraiser. There was Dorris Turner, President of the Club overseeing the event. After some conversation, we realized that we had something in common, both us had hearing losses. She invited me to join the Handicapped Club. At the time, I was working in St. Raphael’s and had other commitments. Yet, I remember so well that I somehow couldn’t say no to her. In the years to come, I never did figure out how to say no to her. She was so willing to work hard to help people who were less fortunate than herself, especially people with disabilities and she worked tirelessly to do it.  How do you say no to that kind of spirit?

I was so grateful that I had joined the club because I met so many wonderful people, some battling courageously everyday as they struggled with various disabilities. Even to-day when I meet some of them. I want to give them a hug. I learned gratitude and to stop whining about my little hearing loss. And we always had a lot of fun.


It didn’t stop there. Next thing I knew, Dorris wanted me to join her in the People United for Self Help (P.U.S.H) organization, which advocated with the Secretary of State in Ottawa for people with disabilities. We had to go to conferences and seminars, sometimes out of town. Once we got stuck in Kingston in a big snow storm and couldn’t get home for an extra day.


Life was busy for me. But it got even busier. Dorris thought that we, along with some other people should start a Hard of Hearing Club., which, of course, we did. We had many people at the meetings who were hoping to find solutions to the problems associated with hearing losses. Rob Meagher of Davidson Hearing Center offered support and help which aided our members. We also had other speakers as well who had good suggestions to offer.


Then she talked about having an office here for the Canadian Hearing Society and asked me if I would work with her and others to form a board. Could I say no to this dynamo??? We got the board in place and eventually opened an office on York Street.


One day, Dorris suggested that I could represent the clubs once a month at the meetings of a school board. I did it but I told her that I would soon have to give up my day job because I hardly had any time left to work. She just laughed with that twinkle in her eye that I knew so well.

If Dorris wasn’t busy with all the clubs and organizations, she was often trying to help someone get a wheelchair repaired or find a walker for another in need. She seemed to never stop caring about others who needed some kind of aid. About 5 or 6 years ago I remember her calling me about a lady who was blind and needed some help. My husband was blind, so she thought I might have some suggestions.

Dorris and I had a lot of fun together. I used to tease her about watching my beloved Yankees play baseball instead of her Mets. She was older than I was but somehow our friendship just clicked. We swam together and went to Tai Chi classes. As her own physical disability got worse she had to give up Tai Chi but she kept on swimming which she loved to do.


Dorris loved her family. She spoke often about Bob who had been an American and had played baseball when he was younger in what was called, at the time, the Negro League. The League ended when the Brooklyn Dodgers signed up Jackie Robinson. Bob pursued his baseball career until about 1955 when he decided to take a different career path.  Baseball’s loss; our gain. It was easy to see that she had precious memories of him.  Dorris loved her wonderful daughters and their families and she talked about them so often that I felt like I knew them even though they lived out of town.  Her grandchildren were the delight of her life.


A few years ago I called up the MP’s office to see if there would be any public transportation available on Sunday and the July First holiday. The lady didn’t know but she said that she would call me back. She did. She had called Dorris to ask her.  There was none. Dorris called me afterwards and told me not to give up trying to get public transportation for Sundays and holidays. Why give a big party in the park or have the stores open if some people couldn’t get there? Someone told me that Dorris was the one who had been instrumental in getting the Handi-transit bus for us years ago. What a woman!!


Dorris died on October 20th, 2011 at age 83. Everyone I meet who knew her, worked with her and loved her, miss her so much and miss her inspiring spirit.

To Dorris and Bob Turner, our gratitude for all that you did to make our community a more wonderful place in which to live… With much love, Kudos.

Lately, I have been talking to God and telling Him that He is keeping me too busy. After all, I am retired and should just be painting and hanging out. Then it occurred to me that it might not just be God. I think He has two little helpers up there, my Mom and Dorris still saying that I should get off my fanny and do something. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit.



A very important eight week program, called “Move and Mingle” is available for seniors free of charge. Yes, you are reading that correctly. It is a free program at the Seaway Valley Community Health Center. It is a Fall Prevention Program offered to enable seniors to increase their awareness of personal safety issues. And it gets better. If there is a senior who cannot get to the center because of financial restraints or other reasons – re transportation, the center will help get you there, according to Nancy Herrington, Health Educator/Promoter. This is a vital program in my mind as a nurse, because it can help to not only prevent serious injuries but be also life saving in some cases. Please call Nancy at 613-930-4892 ext. 151 for more info and the next available class.


It looks as if we may have a Tai Chi Instructor in our community who is available to teach Armchair/Wheelchair Tai Chi.  It would be so wonderful for people with disabilities and seniors who can’t do Stand -Up Tai Chi. I will keep you posted as things develop. Keep your fingers crossed because it will bring big health benefits to anyone who practice this method of Tai Chi.


A little religious humor:

Did Noah fish?

A Sunday school teacher asked, “Johnny, do you think Noah did a lot of fishing when he was on the Ark?”

“No,” replied Johnny. “How could he with just two worms?”


Have a good week, Dawn

1 Comment

  1. Always enjoy your stories, Dawn. Such tenderness in your observations and recollections. Rare these days. Thank you

Leave a Reply