Memorial services for will be held later this year at the Reed-Turner Nature Center.
While Barb loved flowers, she would’ve much preferred donations to The Reed-Turner Woodland Preserve or your local environmental charity.
Barbara Reed Turner (“Barb”), a wife, mother, aunt, grandmother, great-grandmother, friend, mentor, naturalist, quilter, avid reader, letter-writer and philanthropist, died at home at the age of 100 on April 9th. It was unexpected but not a surprise, and those who knew her would tell you she was grateful for the time she was given and content with what she did with it. As her dusty work boots and binoculars can attest, she spent most of it outside.
She was born in Nebraska on June 13, 1919, but moved with her parents (Guy & Florence) and older brother (Bob) to Illinois as a child. They eventually built their home on 36 acres of forest that had far more charm than a plot that size could hope for thanks to a meandering stream, towering bur oaks, and a quiet pond off of Salem Lake. Time passed, and she left home for Wells College in New York’s Finger Lakes region where she studied art history. After graduating, she returned to Illinois and married Harold Turner in 1943. They made a life in Long Grove, raising two children (Tom and Leslie) and holding jobs. Harold was the organist and pianist for WGN and Barb was the original librarian at the local elementary school (a post she held for nearly 30 years).
By 1980, her parents and husband had passed away, and much of her time was dedicated to tending the woodland around her house. A few years earlier, Barb and Harold donated it to the Illinois Nature Conservancy. Today, you can walk through the Reed-Turner Woodland (and she would want you to!–no dogs), a pocket of green nearly undisturbed since before the first Europeans arrived. The same can be said for her summer home in Northern Wisconsin. “Land-rich and money-poor” is how she always described herself, but it is by her grace with which we share the wealth.
In later years Barb enjoyed family gatherings, seeing friends, and coordinating local conservation efforts. It is a testament to the community that when her stamina faltered, the book club relocated meetings around her favorite chair. Her family is incredibly grateful to all those people that spent time with her, with special thanks going to Maria Galateanu. Barb was the proud mother of Tom (Mary) & Leslie (John), doting grandmother of Scott (Shelly), Ben (Claire), Amy (Jessie), Conor, Evan & Jordan (Britney), and ecstatic great-grandmother of Brooklyn, Autumn, Madison, Reed, Tyler & Flynn.
She was a human living at once in different eras. Case in point: a few years ago, she signed up for Netflix but didn’t know what to watch. So, she found a number, called them up and someone in technical support gave her recommendations. “He was a very helpful young man,” she said. She lived through The Great Depression and World War II, and they indelibly stamped on her a sense of hard work, thrift, ingenuity and community service. At the same time, she was anxious to understand the technology that was able to store and deliver information that had to be so manually curated in her librarian days. “Best before” dates were ignored completely in favor of the smell test. Golf, drinking beer, and driving stick were all enjoyed in moderation. 24-hour news channels were watched with mild fascination, until her eyes would roll and it was back to stalwart PBS. She could be found reading Aldo Leopold one day, and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo the next. Her appetite for knowledge was unappeasable and her dedication to her work was unending. They made so many, once. They make so few, now.
She left this life in the same place she had spent most of it: at her family home. The library shelves are still filled with books; Harold’s old Steinway still sits in the living room. Pictures of her family and friends cover the walls. Outside a breeze shoos away the fallen leaves to make room for this year’s wildflowers. The boots and binoculars are in the closet by the door, always ready for her next walk in the woods.