Remembering Roy Turner

By Suzy Barile

Dr. Roy C. Turner came into my life the summer of 1975, immediately after my graduation from UNC-Chapel Hill. He was married to Elaine Eiselstein, my mother’s best friend since kindergarten, and while I had met him when I was younger, not until I accepted a reporter’s job at The Messenger in Madison, and became a regular in the Turner home, did I truly get to know this good man.

Though I’d been away from my family in Northern Virginia since heading to college, there’s something about setting out on one’s own that brings a bit of homesickness. No sooner were boxes unpacked in my small rental house on Sunset Avenue than I was invited to dinner in Eden once a week: "Make certain to bring your laundry," Dr. Turner added.

At 15 miles, the distance between Madison and Eden was not great, but I made the weekly trip via a route that took me along the country roads between Madison, Wentworth and Reidsville, as I restocked The Messenger’s newspaper racks in a dozen or so country stores. By the time I reached Eden, I was famished and ready for one of the hearty meals Roy and Elaine enjoyed cooking together. My laundry promptly went into the washer, and for the next couple of hours, I was one of the family.

Eden became familiar territory over the next 12 months. Being “adopted” as I was by the Turners, I took part in a variety of activities. I never played golf, as was Roy’s custom on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons after a busy optometrist's schedule, but I learned my way around downtown, occasionally did stories on residents of the former Leaksville, Draper, and Spray, and eagerly looked forward to the weekly get-together for food and friendship and, often, wise counsel.

It was Dr. Turner who discovered I needed glasses when every photo I took for The Messenger was out of focus. It was he who helped replace my 1967 VW with a 1973 Carolina blue one when the old one developed a carbon monoxide leak. And it was he who advised me in no uncertain terms that I needed to look for another job when it was clear to him, though not immediately to me, that my reporting position was coming to an end.

In June of 1976, I left Madison and headed to the Daily Dispatch in Henderson, NC. Other newspapers and towns and states followed before I settled in Raleigh, and for the next 30 years, my visits to Eden were limited to about once a year, or when I’d make the drive to get my eyes examined. But year in and year out, the connection remained. When I had a little girl, when I remarried, when my mother died, Roy and Elaine were there. And when December arrives, my family patiently awaits delivery of a large bin of popcorn – “love from the Turners,” says the tag. Christmas is here, says my family.

No holiday or special event or family gathering will ever be the same, for Roy Turner will not be there. But those who encountered him during his 50-plus years serving the residents of Eden will remember a man who said what he meant, believed what he said, and gave his all to whatever he committed to do. He laughed heartily and hugged mightily and loved completely. He was a good man.

(Copyright 2010)

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