“At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, verily I say unto you, except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:1-4
SHELBURN - John H. Turner, 76, of Shelburn, IN recently passed away peacefully in his sleep at home. I, Wade Slover Turner, am John’s much younger brother, long appointed guardian, and am writing this obituary. John had a slight grin on his face when he was found deceased. I suggest John was having a pleasant dream upon passing away, or the Lord said, "Well done, good and faithful servant, it is time to come home", or perhaps some combination of both. John was born with a substantial disorder that normally limits a lifespan to less than 60 years, yet John lived to almost 77 years. One of his MDs told me that John's age, given his disorder, would translate to someone without this disorder living well in his 90s if not over 100. John never reached the "age of accountability", for anyone who understands that Biblical concept. He was approximately 6 years old mentally as documented by many specialists. Toward the end of his life, John regressed to a toddler, then an infant, and finally a newborn before passing away. Those who knew his situation, well understand. Four themes defined John's life: 1) John was always happy, without any concern or worry, and never complained of anything, 2) John believed in Jesus as his Risen Savior, 3) John lived a beautiful, long Christian life with love for all, and 4) John helped others always, especially the disadvantaged and lower income. He didn't understand what a "worry or concern" was, as he was always cared for and protected by me and my parents and grandparents before me. John was truly a "child servant of the Lord", with a “childlike faith” as referenced in Matthew 18 above. His home, in the Lord’s arms, was always assured.
John is preceded in death by our father Howard R. Turner of Shelburn, his mother Patty Ann Fry of Jasonville and Linton, and our grandparents Orville R. and Ada Dolores Turner of Shelburn. John is survived by another brother Patrick Fry Turner of Linton and several nieces, nephews, and cousins.
John was born on September 3, 1944 in Dayton, OH, as our father Howard was on active duty at Wright Field, now Wright-Patterson AFB, at the time during part of his World War II service. John spent most of childhood and young adult years in Shelburn, IN (our core family hometown) and worked for several years at Turner’s General Store in downtown Shelburn, a small town mercantile which opened circa 1920s and closed in 1965. Turner’s General Store was an incredible friend to local residents, offering primarily food staples, but also limited hardware, clothing, etc. - a small "Wal-Mart" of sorts for the time. Many folks who had little or no money were kept in food and supplies on "credit", with no demands to repay, during the Great Depression. One Shelburn resident told me many years ago that his family stayed in a small apartment room, on the building's second floor, again without demands for payment but rather a "pay when you are able” handshake arrangement and which kept this family in an apartment during very hard times. Our grandfather Orville ran the store along with his three brothers - Vernie, Leslie, and Clyde, our great uncles. Instilled in John were deep Christian values and an understanding of a Christian helping-hand to those in need.
In 1968, John took those values to Goodwill Industries in Terre Haute and worked there without interruption in service for over 51 years, holding the dignity of making his own way in the world. Quite a testimony and work ethic, for one with a substantial disorder, wouldn't you agree! Circa 1974, Terre Haute experienced a terrible blizzard, and John was the only employee (along with one other in management I believe) who reported to work at the old Goodwill store on the southwest edge of the ISU campus. John loved working at Goodwill more than anything (except for perhaps playing bingo, which John played quite well at various venues and festivals). Around 1990, he transitioned to the new main Wabash Valley Goodwill store location on South 3rd street and continued to work in the store and on the collection truck for years, traveling to Goodwill stores as far away as Robinson and Mattoon, IL. In later years, John transitioned to the recycling center and also the main distribution warehouse. He always had a smile for co-workers and patrons alike and for many years was responsible for raising the US flag each morning. John's work, from Turner’s General Store to Goodwill Industries, very much helped those in need, especially the disadvantaged and lower income, with quality goods at low cost.
John enjoyed watching “Charles Stanley” each Sunday morning before departing for Breden United Methodist Church (UMC), where he was most recently a member. John was a long time member of Shelburn UMC and then a member at Memorial and Breden UMCs in Terre Haute. I took John to Breden UMC much in 2020, the last time being late August, due to progressive decline after August. When we would leave Breden, he would always point back at the church and say, "They love me there, don’t they.” I would affirm, "Yes, John, they love you." Over Labor Day weekend in 2020, which fell on John’s birthday, he was able to enjoy a final family vacation to the US Air Force Museum in Dayton, OH, where we spent 2 days along with dining at nice restaurants and enjoying Dayton in general. I served at Wright-Patterson AFB during part of my military career and thus know Dayton well. John was able to drive a motorized cart and follow me all over the nation’s premier aviation museum. Normally, we would go to Holiday World for his long birthday weekend celebration each September, but due to COVID, a new vacation venue worked well, and John loved it.
For several years, John drove from Shelburn to Terre Haute and back on his Kawasaki motorcycle, taking Highway 63 versus 41 due to the lower traffic - about 50 miles daily. He was able to obtain a special DMV motorcycle driver’s license and never had an accident or even a minor incident - a perfect driving record. He truly enjoyed his Kawasaki. John obtained his own apartment home in Terre Haute circa 1987, following some time at "Volunteers of America"
homes in Terre Haute. With assistance, he was able to live in an apartment home for 32 years. With age, he eventually changed a bicycle to get to work, as he lived close to the main Terre Haute Goodwill store.
With my human frailties and those of my predecessors, we did our very best to care for John and to love and protect him. John often said, "I love everybody". That he had no recognition there are those in society who would take advantage of or harm those such as John, his statement speaks to a state of perpetual happiness, as he was always cared for and protected. All worked out well for the beautiful, long Christian life he was able to enjoy. On the day of our father Howard’s passing in 2009, my father asked me to promise to continue to care for John to the best of my ability. I believe I kept that promise well.
However, at my best, and the best of my parents and grandparents before me, none of us could begin to approach the care, protection, and wonderment John is experiencing now, in the Lord's arms and with family members he has rejoined, who also believed in Jesus as their Risen Savior. I hold faith, that with my admitted daily sins as a mortal on this very imperfect Earth, my belief in Jesus as my Risen Savior along with prayers for forgiveness of sin will afford me a path to meet "my buddy" again someday. I have tears at this point writing this obituary, as I greatly miss John and our good times, our kidding each other, and his perpetual childlike state. Even as each year he grew chronologically older, John remained about 6 years old mentally until the very end, then regressed further. John and I shared much love, and he passed away peacefully in his sleep following a great Christian life. We should all be so fortunate.
Many years ago, I took John to well-established restaurant in Terre Haute after a long, hard day. I do not know why, but I realized that I had not eaten at this decades-old restaurant for over 10 years, since my mother Euleta Slover Turner passed away in 2002, just due to my work, life events, etc. As we sat in a booth, I told John over 10 years had passed since I had eaten at the restaurant. John, with his "puppy dog" eyes and warm smile, said, "Wow Wade, you must be really hungry.” While seemingly amusing, that one story of many I could relate well describes John's "level of understanding". Yet I found it refreshing that he lived in a state of continual bliss with the care and protection provided him. I came to envy that quality in John, as the realities of life are much different for about all of us in this imperfect world. Yet John's world was a truly beautiful, special place with "love for all". "Well done, good and faithful servant.”
A "Celebration of Life" service will be held at the Shelburn UMC on Saturday April 17, 2021 from 1 - 5 pm with refreshments served. There will be no structured program; folks can come as go as they please. A private graveside service will occur later. Flowers are appreciated but would need to be delivered the morning of Saturday April 17th before 1 pm please. In lieu of flowers, donations in the "Name of John Turner" may be made to the Shelburn UMC, 202 N. Thomas Street, Shelburn, IN 47879. Pastor Julie Puttmann will oversee the service. Greiner Funeral home assisted with arrangements. Online condolences may be posted at www.greinerfuneralhome.com.