Mark Anderson Turner was born on a snowy night in a hospital in Louisville, Kentucky on Jan. 31, 1953.
His Dad, Jim, was a teacher in the Indiana University extension across the Ohio River in New Albany, Indiana. Initially, it was a rural life until the Turners relocated to a Chicago suburb when his Dad began work on a two-year research project at the University of Chicago law school. His brother Paul was soon born after their move.
It was pretty normal for those times, with lots of playmates, and no health problems of note. His Mother, Sara, worked part time while he and baby Paul were cared for by a friend and neighbor.
Mark was in the second grade and his teacher called him “the cat’s pajamas.” It was a compliment. This was Tom Sawyer country and Mark and friends wandered freely to nearby ponds to catch turtles, join the Cub Scouts and he began delivering a paper route in the sixth grade. Mom helped stuff the inserts on Sunday and even drove him by car on snowy days. Dad was on the academic administrative ladder and took the family camping at every opportunity.
Moving to Arcata in 1965 meant losing good friends but there was so much to explore here! Those early years took the Turners to Vancouver Island to fish, eastern Oregon to find snakeskin rocks, Mexico’s Rosarita Beach, the Trinity wilderness to pan for gold. It was a great time for everyone.
The late sixties and early seventies were a troubled and difficult time for everyone and the Vietnam War especially aroused young people who often tried mind altering drugs in rebellion. Mark filed papers to register as a conscientious objector. He’d had a major convulsion as a child and after years of medication was now drug free. He was never called by the draft.
High School was good for Mark. He had many friends. He loved scuba diving and cast his own lead weights. He traveled with HSU students to a dive in Mexico during spring break, did ocean dives off the Mendocino coast. He learned to weld, to type and had acceptable grades and behavior throughout. He was glad to graduate and eager to go on to college.
Evergreen State College was his choice and by all accounts he did well. His enrolled in a four quarter sequence in Communications and Intelligence. This new school had few formal classes and no letter grades. Parents were never informed as to what was happening with students over 18 years old. Two quarters later, Mark dropped out of school. Hindsight reveals many possible options that were not sought and a misdemeanor offence resulted in a weekend in the Olympia jail. When called, Dad rushed to his rescue, plea bargained him free of the offence and arranged for his move back home. He was then delusional, later diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.
Not recognizing his need for treatment for this major mental illness, Mark spent years hitchhiking about the nation, usually alone, unsuccessfully trying to find work, sometimes getting arrested and then calling home. He encountered many good people who gave him rides and food. Once, he was robbed of everything, including clothes, and was rescued by a sheriff’s deputy who clothed him and tried to get help. Mark often remarked on his years of being “on the road” and we tried to give it a positive spin.
There is no way one can describe briefly the trauma of this period of time and the determination of his family to help him accept treatment. Eventually that was accomplished and helped by a Public Guardian. During over a decade in a small Eureka group home Mark’s relationship with his parents remained sound. When the opportunity to live independently with a caregiver and a friend to help was offered, Mark returned to live in Arcata in the summer of 2006.
The last decade of Mark’s life was happy. He was a loving, generous soul. Bear hugs were his specialty. After his Dad died in 2003, his Mom continued to be an important support and helped him to get his driver’s license, get a car, do volunteer work, enjoy the Arcata pool, go to movies and have friends at the Senior Center.
His work at the Salvation Army thrift store for two years was followed by over 10 years at the Hospice thrift store where he enjoyed being useful in cleaning the grounds. He attended the Arcata Presbyterian Church regularly and felt accepted. He believed strongly in the importance of prayer.
Never a robust person, Mark would have survived on cereal alone had he not had others cook for him frequently. He abstained from alcohol and illicit drugs for half of his life but when he resumed smoking his health declined. It was a contributing factor in his unexpected death from pneumonia. Mark was much loved all his life and knew it. He usually ended any encounter with “God Bless” “Be Safe” or “I love you.”May he rest in peace.