TURNER, MARY NELL - Hempstead County, Arkansas | MARY NELL TURNER - Arkansas Gravestone Photos

Mary Nell TURNER

Old Washington (aka Presbyterian) Cemetery
Hempstead County,

August 5, 1919 - March 12, 2016

Mary Nell Carter Turner was born on August 5, 1919, in Hope, Arkansas to Walter and Mary Briggs Carter. She died on March 12, 2016, at Circle of Life Hospice in Springdale, Arkansas. She was known for her strength of character, her candor, and her embodiment of the human spirit. Her love of life was exemplified in everything that she did, and her curiosity and sincere interest in others won her many friends.

Mary Nell grew up during the Great Depression and although she and her friends had limited resources, she managed to have fun, as she did her entire life. She and her sister Jane would walk two miles to school and often stopped at a neighborhood grocery on the way to buy a five-cent pickle, an extravagance at the time.

On August 14, 1936, she met the love of her life, McDowell “Mac” Turner. After high school graduation both enrolled at nearby Henderson State Teachers College in Arkadelphia. She thrived in the college environment, describing her life in college as “being as free as a bird out of a cage.” At the end of their junior year, Mac got his draft call. He wisely decided they should get married before he left for military service, perhaps because he thought she might not be available when he returned. The wedding was Saturday, August 30, 1941, before they were to report back to college after a break. They bought a license, found a minister, and were married in the Hope Methodist Church at 9 p.m. because the preacher had a revival meeting earlier. Mac’s brother announced he was best man. There was no maid of honor. Mac’s dad, John Turner, was on police duty and slipped into church in his uniform complete with pistols. They were married for 65 years. About their relationship Mary Nell said, “He allowed me to be me, and to grow in so many ways.”

Mary Nell began her teaching career at Guernsey, Arkansas. She was offered the opportunity to teach at Hope High School if she would supervise publishing a newspaper and yearbook. She agreed to the job and spent several summers studying journalism at the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University. Mary Nell loved her work and her students. They published award- winning newspapers and yearbooks, year after year. She even took her more interested students (usually four, enough to fill just one cab at the time) to the Columbia Scholastic  Press Association Meeting in New York City. They did attend the meetings, but also allowed time for tourist tours, Broadway plays, an opera and symphony concert at Carnegie Hall, and the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. She was tagged for membership in Arkansas Press Women and Society of Professional Journalists, earning the privilege by writing feature articles in the Arkansas Gazette and the Hope Star. In addition she was editor of the Journal of the Hempstead County Historical Society, researching local history and editing about eleven journals. In 1996 she was named “Hempstead County Citizen of the Year.” She still gets calls for help with local history.

When McDowell died in 2006, Mary Nell enrolled at the University of Arkansas at Hope at age 89 and set the curve in her history class. As a teenager Mary Nell had to borrow money from her aunts and uncles to attend college because her father did not think that women should get a college degree. Because of her struggles, she and Mac were determined that their daughters would be able to go to college. When Mac died, Mary Nell honored their mutual interest in higher education by establishing a scholarship at UA Hope for women who were pursuing a career in education.

In 2010, Mary Nell moved to Northwest Arkansas to be closer to her daughter, Ellen. Her “new” home at Concordia in Bella Vista was a special place with special friends. Mary Nell joined the local chapter of DAR and continued her genealogical research at Concordia. She especially enjoyed participating in naturalization ceremonies in Fayetteville. She loved meeting the new citizens and said of them “You could see HOPE in their eyes. I can’t imagine leaving home and going off to another country like they are doing. But all of us have ancestors who did just that.” She was fearless and enthusiastic about life. She line danced at Concordia on Fridays, she learned to hula dance in her nineties, and she was the first person in the entire family to purchase a computer. Many of her friends kept up with her via Facebook, which she accessed with her iPhone.

Five days before her death, she dined with family and friends and because the weather was nice, declined to drive back to her apartment, preferring to walk instead. She had just completed another article for the Concordia Newsletter and shared the story with her family. She lived life with no regrets, held nothing back, and could truly shop till everyone else dropped.

She was preceded in death by her husband McDowell Turner, her sister Jane Browning, and her daughter Susan Turner Purvis.

Survivors include her daughter Ellen Turner (Tom McClure), son¬-in-¬law Joseph H. Purvis, grandchildren Paul Neaville (Marisa Luzzatto), Elizabeth Purvis, Benjamin Purvis (Rachel), Emily Neaville, Conner McClure (Hooman Poor) and Scott McClure (AnaiaVestertjele), great-grandchildren Evelyn and Calvin Neaville, Luna McClure, and Ellery Poor. She is also survived by her nieces, Mary Browning McKluskey and Joan Turner Hampton, and her nephews James and Bill Browning.

A celebration of her life will be held at 10 AM on Saturday, March 19, at Concordia Retirement Community in Bella Vista. A celebration in Hope will be held at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Mary Nell and McDowell
Turner Scholarship at the University of Arkansas, Hope, or to a charity of your choice.

“Ask yourself: What do I want to do with the rest of my life, starting today?
Stay alive and vital with a new dream and keep dreaming.”—Mary Nell Turner

Contributed on 2/12/17 by MryAl8
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Record #: 1175853

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Submitted: 2/12/17 • Approved: 2/13/17 • Last Updated: 2/16/17 • R1175853-G1175853-S3

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