Seniors Situation Room by Dawn Ford – Bob Turner Needs to be Honoured FEB 14, 2016


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.

bob obitWhen 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.




  1. Perhaps naming one of the three ice pads at the Benson Centre after Bob Turner, another after Si Miller and the third after ??

  2. Author

    Great idea Hugger. Makes you wonder why they wouldn’t have done that from the start? Or have a statue or artwork rendered in the facility…

  3. Probably has something to do with he previously had an arena named after him. Or they`ll name the new (proposed) sports complex at the old Bob Turner site after him. But IMHO that sports complex will never see the light of day or for that matter ever be brought up to council again..

  4. Mom and I remember Bob Turner very well and if she were alive today she would tell you the same thing that I am going to tell you. We spoke to Mr. Turner and we used to go to the Bob Turner park which you call St. Denis near the old General Hospital. We used to go and win cases of coka cola and other things. We had some conversations with the man personally and he told us about how the people of Cornwall treated him being black. Mom told Mr. Turner that the people of Cornwall were very racist even what she went through as a child and she never forgot any of it. I told Mr. Turner what I was going through living in Cornwall and that I wanted out when I was an adult. Mr. Turner told us that he was from the state of New Jersey in the US and thought that if he came to Canada then life would be better for himself and his family. He said that he was very shocked to see that Canada was not much better than the US as far as racism was concerned. Mom came out with the fact that she was French Canadian and was treated very badly as a child and has seen it through her adult life and when people of the same country or the same race or similar race cannot get along then how are they going to get along with people of other races and cultures. Today in 2016 we see this so clear in Cornwall where the French people have their own art and the English their own art and everything clashes including the art from Aultsville Theatre instead of being together. The Vincent family who are anglo Canadians were doing their best (more than their best) for their kids and neighbor kids and to see that they were safe at home on their rink and when you do good things for others you get knocked down. Cornwall knocked down a good building just to put up a building for a certain family in its place on highly pollutted land that was polluted for over a hundred years and nothing but cancer and a place that was good was taken down for nothing. You would not catch me living in Cornwall paying for that building on Domtar land at all – no way in hell and on land that Willie Wise purchased with stollen money – how low can one stoop. Benson when I hear or read that name I feel like I am going to be sick. The people of Cornwall have ostracized that man and his family something awful. I know what we went through in Cornwall and never again NEVER AGAIN!

  5. I strongly agree with Dawn. I watch the Bob Turner being build and last year saw it being dismantled and wondered if his name would be honoured. I left Cornwall for a number of years and did not realize what Mrs. Turner had accomplished following his death and sorry to hear that no one acknowledged her efforts. Not only did he encourage young ones in sports but also in the arts. He was a great and very honest man and unfortunately could not finish what he set out to do. He was missed and was difficult to fill his shoes. Please keep up the effort to honour his and her memory, if anyone deserves this, they certainly do.

  6. The Bob Turner arena was a good building?? When was the last time you were in it or the Si Miller arena? Those buildings would have taken mega bucks to bring them up to code. And that would be to just bring them up to code. To bring them to a level of acceptability so they could be used as they should be would cost even more. Bringing them up to code would have been one chore, bringing them up to a level of design / functionality and use that today’s arenas require would have been another chore. Sure, we lost two good arenas. But the BC has three pads under one roof.

    I guess we disagree on what “ostracized” means. If he was “ostracized”, as you say would they have named an arena after him? Nope.

  7. It is a mighty grave insult to name an ice pad at that polluted dump that{MODERATED} name after Bob Turner and Si Miller as well. If these men knew about that they would be rolling over in their graves with disgust. These people did more for Cornwall than everyone put together and this is a mighty huge insult. No wonder I spit on Cornwall and left. That is a mighty disgusting insult an ice pad on polluted {MODERATED}

  8. I read your column about the Turners and I agree they should be honoured. I know my Dad (Sonny Herrington) sat on the baseball executive and had many meetings. with Bob.
    I enjoy your articles un the paper.

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