A Life To Celebrate - Marie R. Turner

Editor's Note: This story and its associated photographs are presented here with permission from Stephen Bowling, Editor of The Jackson Times.

By Malcolm Kilduff
The Jackson Times (Thursday, April 5, 1984)

They came from Jackson and Canoe, from Lost Creek and Quicksand. They came from Athol, Beattyville, Hazard, Campton, Booneville, and Buckhorn. They came from Lexington and Frankfort and Louisville and Washington, D. C.

More than 750 of them. The people. The people she loved. Old, young, rich, poor. Successes, failures. Leaders and followers. They were all there to say goodbye to the lady who loved them - "Miss Marie."

In the cavernous gymnasium of the LBJ Elementary School, they waited in absolute silence for the service to begin, and to hear former Governor Julian Carroll tell them they had come to celebrate, "because Miss Marie had won another victory - the greatest victory of her life."

"The celebration of her life" was also Publisher Louise Hatmaker's theme for the March 29, 1984, issue of The Jackson Times, published on the day of Mrs. Turner's funeral, and quietly handed to attending as they left the service.

Sprays of roses and orchids, carnations and gladiolas, chrysanthemums, and gardenias were carefully placed on the stage and around the walls of the room, with a floral symbol of the Democratic Party - the rooster - made by Jo Osborne of JoRay Florist in Jackson, above the casket and in front of the podium. The floral rooster, made of brown and gold chrysanthemums was given by Governor Martha Layne Collins and the Democratic State Central Committee. Miss Marie would have loved it.

The service began with a student quartet from the Kentucky Mountain Bible Institute at Mt. Carmel singing Amazing Grace. The members of the quartet were Jeff Tomliam, Mark Self, Billy Crane, and Brad Shafer.

Reverend Fred Waggoner, Mrs. Turner's minister, spoke of her life and accomplishments. He described her as a great lady, a gracious lady, a good woman, a devout person, whose faith in God was simple and trusting. He read the 92nd Psalm, which he said expressed her faith and her life.

Pastor Dennis Creech of the Quicksand Church of God, his wife Lula (who works at Citizens Bank) and their son, Dwayne, sang a trio "On Heaven's Bright Shore" to Mrs. Creech's accompaniment on the guitar.

Former Governor Carroll spoke eloquently about Miss Marie, his long-time friend, saying that "although we mourn the death of Marie R. Turner, we come in celebration, because 'Miss Marie' has won another victory - the greatest victory in her life."

Governor Carroll said that Mrs. Turner had called him a few days before her death to share her tremendous joy and peace as she prepared herself for her final victory.

Carroll continued by saying, "She knew that by giving her life she would save it. Each one of us possess a spirit of life that will live eternally. Each one of us has the choice of eternal damnation or eternal life, but when Jesus said 'Whoever wishes to save his own life shall lose it, but he who loses his life for My sake shall save it,' He was not talking about physical life, but about your own self pride. We should give of ourselves to others, just as Marie Turner so devoted her life to others. Her message was to not quibble, but to be concerned about important things. Not to crucify each other, but to heal our wounds. With a humble spirit she showed her love.

"We celebrate her life as we mourn our loss. A great part of our heritage is gone forever.

"Some are apostles, some are prophets, some are evangelists, some are teachers. Marie's teaching was of the highest calling. Educating the young was the most satisfactory occupation to which she could aspire. Look around to see the results of her determination. For as much as you have done unto the least of these, you have done it unto me.

"Marie Turner loved people, wanted to help; devoted her life to educating young people.

"While a part of us had died with her, she has given us vision of what we can be."

Throughout his sermon, Governor Carroll stressed "the celebration of her life" and the determination and vision with which she lived her life. He closed his remarks by saying:

"She loved Kentucky and Breathitt County. Governors and Presidents heard from her what she wanted. She loved life and always made me joyful. Her precious heritage lives on. She gave us hope. Her desire for us was expressed by St. Paul, when he told us to keep on praying and asking God to help us understand what He wants us to do. We come to celebrate her life and to witness her final victory. She gave us hope for the glorious victory yet to be won."

Before the service began, Governor Martha Layne Collins was escorted to her front row seat by State Senator Woodrow May. Included in her party were State Representative Jim Maggard and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Alice MacDonald and John Cooper. Former Governors Edward T. Breathitt and Bert Combs were there, along with United States Senators Walter D. Huddleston and Wendell Ford. Miss Marie's old friend, U. S. Representative Carl D. Perkins was there with his State Senator son, Chris Perkins. John Y. Brown, Sr., was there, also, as was State Treasure Frances Jones Mills.

As Miss Marie's friends entered the gymnasium, there was a blackboard near the door, with the following words written thereon, "Let's remember all of the good things that Mrs. Marie R. Turner accomplished for education in Breathitt County."

At the conclusion of the service, Governor Collins led those assembled by the open casket for their final farewells to the great lady they all loved and respected.

Finally, Miss Marie was interred in the Jackson Cemetery beneath the hills she loved so much.
Active pallbearers were Ted Edmonds, J. B. Morgan, Dennis Gross, Bobby Turner, David Neace, Paul Weaver, and Bert Bellamy.

Honorary pallbearers were the Directors of the Citizens Bank of Jackson.

Indeed, she lived a life to celebrate and while saving "goodbye" to her was difficult, the task was eased considerably by remembering former Governor Julian Carroll's words that "Miss Marie had won another victory."

Funeral Photograph Thumbnails

Crowd gathered at LBJ for funeral

Gov. Collins' party on front row

Visiting VIPs sat opposite family

Mt. Carmel singers open service

Former Gov. Julian Carroll gives eulogy

Gov. Collins pays last respects

U. S. Representative Carl D. Perkins

John R. Turner greets Gov. Carroll

Entering the cemetery grounds for burial

Honorary Pallbearers at gravesite services