It had been seventeen years since I was welcomed into the Turners’ living room to interview Donald and Vivian for our “Regards to Broadway” book. Today, seated on the back deck with his dear wife, Vivian, and their children, Bruce and Dawn, the memories of him flowed. We sat in view of the brick home where Donald’s parents, Hobart M. and Nellie (Ours) Turner, had lived. The Turner roots run deep in this town, and this wonderful man touched many lives.
On my first visit, Donald had shared a special memory of his grandfather, Ben Turner. Ben bought a new 1940 GMC pickup truck with a four-speed transmission. One day he was delivering some cattle on the hoof from Broadway to Cootes Store, and he wanted to follow along in the truck. Ben did not like to drive, so he asked “Donnie.” Donald was only nine years old, but as he put it, “I’d driven a tractor as far back as I could remember,” so he did not hesitate to hop into the driver’s seat. He chugged along in first gear, going “just about as fast as the cattle walked.” When I asked whether he was tall enough to see out the windshield, he replied, “Not until I let the clutch out.”
Donald and Bennie Getz were cousins. They liked to wrestle with Bennie’s brother, John, when they were kids. Though John was bigger and would always win, it did not bother them. They loved to wrestle and would always go back for more.
Eventually, family and cousins would take a backseat to a new love in his life. Donald recalled his first date with Vivian Baker at Bennie’s Beach in 1952. Vivian was from Sweet Chalybeate near Covington, Virginia, and was in nurse’s training in Harrisonburg.
Vivian graduated as an RN from Rockingham Memorial School of Nursing in 1953. On October 14, 1956, she and Donald were married. She worked full-time at Rockingham Memorial Hospital until she traded it for a higher profession: motherhood.
Today, the family reflected on Donald’s passion for serving his community. He joined the Lions Club in 1960. He served two terms as President, on many committees, and as Secretary from 1988 until his death. Vivian enjoyed sharing many of the club’s activities with him. In 2007, Vivian was the first woman to be received as a member.
The Turners were a camping family. They were members of a local camping club called the “Plains Plodders” who traveled together. They even had vests with patches to identify themselves. Dawn admits that they probably camped in every campground in Virginia, but their favorite spot was Myrtle Beach, where they reserved the same campsite each year.
Arriving on one trip, Bruce recalls that the refrigerator was vapor-locked. His Dad was knowledgeable of the intricate workings of a camper. He proceeded to jack the camper up at about a 45-degree angle, leaning it against a picnic table. The sight amused many passersby, but in time it corrected the problem.
Vivian had a toy poodle named Mimi who went everywhere with the family. She often appeared seated with Donald or Vivian on a bike ride. When they left the camper on camping trips, the air-conditioning stayed on for the dear little family member. And yes, Mimi had her own doggie vest with a badge.
Another favorite family activity they all shared was motorcycle riding. Vivian owned a 250 Honda and Donald chose a Gold Wing. Blue Ridge Community College had a course on Motorcycle Safety and Defense. Vivian taught there and performed all the demonstrations, earning the nickname “Range Monkey.”
She was delighted to see that a motorcycle driving school had opened in Broadway. With an appreciation for the importance of proper safety instruction, Vivian wishes all potential drivers would complete the two-week course.
There was no question that day, as the family shared their memories, that Donald had left a legacy in this close-knit family. He will always have a special place in their hearts and in those lives he touched.