We all have people in our lives we don’t deserve, people who stick around in spite of our weaknesses. I have a long list.
At the top of that list is my dear friend Jocelyn. We met in 1987 on my first day of teaching. The school was in Hollywood, and Jocelyn and I connected from the start. I was new to Los Angeles, and Jocelyn took me under her wings and introduced me to a city I still love and adore. I didn’t know it then but I loved her, too. I still do.
This week, on one of my sporadic visits to Facebook, I learned that Joc had lost her husband to pancreatic cancer. He was just 49. Jocelyn married Dan Turner in 1995, the same year I married my wife. He was, as is Jocelyn, brilliant. He wrote editorials for the L.A. Times and I followed him, from a distance, for the past 10 years. Simply put, the L.A. Times lost a giant.
As I write this, I feel I don’t have the right to put myself in the company of such a great man, but I can’t pass up the opportunity to honor him. I met Turner once a very long time ago, but through his writing I feel as if I know him well.
Here are some of Turner’s finer moments as identified by Nick Goldberg, opinion editor at the L.A. Times.
“Happy days are here again for the makers and sellers of guns and ammunition, and why not? There’s nothing like a good school massacre to really move those Mausers off the shelves. The timing of the Newtown, Conn., atrocity, moreover, couldn’t have been better, coming as it did just two weeks before Christmas, when gun enthusiasts slumber with visions of high-capacity magazines dancing in their heads.”
“Badminton, which stands with cricket as the most British of sports, conjures images of heiresses in lace playing on manor lawns that stretch to the horizon, or blond young gentlemen at Eton in blindingly white sweaters and shorts. Developed by the British aristocracy in India in the 19th century, it has traditionally been a gentleman’s — sorry, gentleperson’s — game. So when eight women players from three Asian countries did something not quite cricket at the London Olympics, it hit the cloistered organization that oversees the sport like a shuttlecock slam to the groin.”
Ironically, Turner died on the same day as my father — March 30. As with my father, it was also Holy Saturday. It would seem saints die on Holy Saturday. In another ironic twist, one of Turner’s last columns was about the town in which I grew up.
Turner wrote, “But the public-space skirmish has taken such a bizarre twist in the tiny Central California town of Orcutt that it has left Christians, liberals, atheists and conservatives alike shaking their heads.”
And in his last line, a classic Turner twist: “Frustrating as it is, then, Caltrans appears to be doing the right thing. And furious as the Orcutt townsfolk might be about it, they can probably live without a pro-military monument. They can come up with other ways, or places, to display their support for the armed forces; the monument was a 10-year-old idea that just didn’t pan out. Semper fi, Be All You Can Be — and get over it.”
Turner’s final words to his colleagues at the Times, penned shortly before his death, are noteworthy as well. “Whatever happens now, I want you to know that working with such a smart, thoughtful, funny, expert group has enriched my life for years, which is a large part of what makes it so difficult to make a clean break from the L.A. Times,” he wrote. “Our work has kept me tethered to the world during some very rough times. I’m not going to blather on about cancer and death with you because I’ve done more than enough of that already and I could use a break, but it’s a terrible experience made more bearable by the likes of you.”
Turner’s memory, much more than most, deserves to endure. He deserves that as does his brilliant, beautiful, thoughtful and caring wife, Jocelyn. Some people shine far brighter than we could ever hope. Jocelyn and Turner are among them.
— Tim Durnin is an independent consultant for nonprofit organizations, schools and small business. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him on Twitter: @tdurnin, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.