Our City Councillor and columnist for the Seaway News, Claude McIntosh is advocating some honour to be bestowed in memory of the late Bob Turner. In his excellent article in the Seaway News of January 9th. Mr. McIntosh has credited Bob with bringing minor sports to Cornwall. Bob Turner was our city’s first Recreation Director.
Being black, Bob faced a lot of racial prejudice as did his wife, Dorris who was white. It was not all of the community who felt that way. I remember my Mother being so angry when she found out about some very biased and prejudiced things that were happening. Our mayor at the time, Archie Lavigne, intervened and put a stop to the outright bigotry. According to Mr. McIntosh’s article, the Mayor went on radio and said that the bigotry would not be put up with in Cornwall.
When Bob died in 1962, a centre , ‘The Bob Turner Memorial Centre’ was built in his honour. It has since been torn down and no new honour has been awarded in Bob’s memory. Mr. McIntosh is advocating something like a plaque be placed perhaps at the Civic Complex or other facility.
In 1962 I was on duty at the Cornwall General Hospital on the Paediatric Ward. I noticed that one of the male patients from the men’s ward had come to Paediatrics and was visiting with the children in the playroom. He was black and a very pleasant, nice looking man. He told me that he loved to watch children play and hear their laughter. His face lit up with joy as he watched the little ones who, despite their illnesses, were still playing and having some fun. He told me that he was facing surgery the next day.
After the Bob Turner Memorial Centre was opened, whenever I went skating there, I saw the memorial bust of him in the hallway. I was reminded of the happiness on his wonderful face that evening on the Paediatric ward as he watched the little sick kids play. I am so glad that he had those moments of joy before he became so ill.
After that shift that evening on Paediatrics, I was off for a few days but heard that Bob was very ill following the surgery. When I returned to work, I sometimes in the days that followed relieved his special nurse who was tending to him.
That is when I first met Dorris. Bob unfortunately died at the age of 35, leaving a widow and two beautiful little girls, Phyllis and Joy….and a community in shock and sadness. I remember how deeply the staff at the hospital felt his passing. We all went home with holes in our hearts that day.
Dorrris and Bob Turner
In the mid to late 80’s. I met Dorris again. It was at a Walk-a-thon in the parking lot at Woolco . She was President of the Handicap Club, now the Handi-social Club. Dorris and I talked and we found out that we were both hearing impaired. She invited me to join the club which I did. That was the beginning of a very busy life for me and a wonderful friendship.
She suggested that we start a Hard of Hearing Club , which we did. Then she wanted me to join ‘ PUSH’, People United for Self Help, which worked with the Secretary of State in Ottawa for People with Disabilities. I did but I told her I would soon have to quit my day job because I was so busy. She just laughed, with that sparkle in her eye I knew so well. Then she wanted me to represent the Handicap Club on a school board. How could I say no to this wonderful dynamo who gave so much of herself to helping others less fortunate?? Soon she was suggesting that we form a board to open an office for the Canadian Hearing Society. We did that too. Whew..She never stopped.!! Dorris was also instrumental in getting the Handi-transit for people with disabilities
Dorris spoke of Bob often and of his baseball career and the happy times they shared with their two little girls. Her face would fill with love and joy.
Dorris died in 2011 at age 83. She had contributed so much to the community until her need to attend to her own health stopped her. When she died I expected that the City of Cornwall would do something to honour her. It didn’t happen.
A few years ago I sent in an application to MP Guy Lauzon’s office for Dorris to receive the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal posthumously. As far as I know, it didn’t happen either. Some of our citizens received them including my late brother Sonny Herrington and rightly so. Each and every one of them deserved their medal but I was shocked, disappointed and saddened that Dorris was left out.
I would like to see the City of Cornwall honour both Bob and Dorris Turner. I believe that we owe it to them.