Thomas R. "Tom" Turner, a retired Poplar Bluff businessman who gave many years of service on community boards, died Saturday, Feb. 6, 2021, at Poplar Bluff Regional Medical Center.
Mr. Turner, 80, had been in declining health for several years. He died of complications after recent surgeries.
Born on March 25, 1940, in Columbia, La., to Thomas and Maxine Turner, he moved with his family to Poplar Bluff in the 1950s. He graduated from Poplar Bluff High School in 1958 and attended Southeast Missouri State University.
For many years, Mr. Turner and his first wife, the late Joann Gowan Turner, managed Gowan's IGA Supermarket on Highway 53. They sold the business in 1993. Mrs. Gowan passed away in 2003.
Mr. Turner worked briefly for Gregory Logistics and American Superstore and later served Cotrell Funeral Service as a funeral director for many years.
On June 21, 2004, Mr. Turner was married to Christy K. Murphy, who survives him.
Mr. Turner served six years on the Board of Trustees of Three Rivers Community College. Judith Scott, an instructor and administrator at the college during his tenure as trustee, recalled his service on the board.
"From the perspective of the faculty and staff, Tom was a really good board member. He was a strong advocate of public education and had tremendous intellectual curiosity.
"Tom took an active role as a college trustee, did his homework on the issues and always was well-prepared to make decisions," Mrs. Scott said, describing him as a "person of great integrity."
John Stanard, a high school classmate of Mr. Turner's, served with him on both the college and Public Library boards.
"The Poplar Bluff Public (now Municipal) Library never had a more loyal patron and trustee than Tom," Stanard recalled. "I've never known anyone who read more books. He often came to trustee meetings an hour or so early so he could check out books. After the meeting, I sometimes helped him carry the books to his car. And I don't recall that he ever missed a trustees meeting in his 10 years on the board."
Mr. Turner served on the Poplar Bluff R-1 Board of Education and the Community Advisory Boards of both the old Lucy Lee Hospital and Poplar Bluff Regional Medical Center. He also was a former board member of Commerce Bank in Poplar Bluff.
For many years Mr. Turner was a member and deacon in the First Baptist Church, where he also served as Sunday School superintendent for 17 years.
For the past 15 years he has been a member of Sacred Heart Catholic Church.
Mr. Turner was a student of American history and was especially knowledgeable about the Civil War. One of his favorite pastimes was perusing out-of-the-way bookstores in hopes of finding a Civil War book he had not collected. He also studied and collected World War II firearms and loved to hunt and fish in earlier days.
A veteran of four years in the U.S. Air Force, Mr. Turner served in Labrador, Canada, and in Cut Bank, Mt.
In addition to his first wife, Mr. Turner was preceded in death by his parents and a daughter, Chrissy Adele Turner, who died in infancy.
Surviving are his wife; four children, Thomas R. Turner, Jr. (Wendee), Columbia, Ill., Jody Turner Adams (Larry), Springfield, Mo., Jonya Turner Woodruff (Paul), Poplar Bluff, and Julianna L. Murphy, Tucson, Ariz.; seven grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; a brother, Don Turner (Cheryl), Richmond, Va., and a sister, Vicki Graham (Eddie), Poplar Bluff.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday at Sacred Heart Catholic Church. Father Daniel Robles will serve as Celebrant. A private burial in City Cemetery is scheduled later.
The family has asked that any memorials to Mr. Turner be in the form of donations to the Poplar Bluff Municipal Library, 318 N. Main St., Poplar Bluff, MO.63901.
Cotrell Funeral Service is honored to serve the family of Thomas Turner.
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