Reading all of the nice words that have been written about Harold Turner upon his death this week has made me hope that there is some mechanism available so newspapers can be read in Heaven. Harold loved being mentioned in the Tribune, and I would hate to think that he would miss this opportunity to read all of this positive press and add new clippings to his beloved scrapbooks.
Harold took more joy from being featured in our pages than any other prominent local figure that I’ve covered. It was impossible not to like Harold, especially for local reporters who found him to be such a kindred spirit.
Much has been made over the last week about what a legendary local athlete, great family man, and big-time sports fan Harold was. We’ve all seen the joy that would cross his face when he was sitting in his courtside recliner beside his wife watching NCCC basketball games. In many ways, he became a much more effective mascot for that school’s basketball program than the costumed furry panther. Harold served as a representation of a great athlete who managed to maintain dignity, courtesy, and humility.
However, I thought of Harold mainly as a newspaperman. That is how he first introduced himself to me, not as a great former athlete, but as a long-time Tribune employee. It quickly became clear that he knew the ins and outs of how a newspaper was supposed to look and the impact it could have on people’s lives, and he wasn’t shy about letting current Tribune employees know when we lived up to his standards. I’ve long suspected that the pride he took in his scrapbooks, full of articles and pictures that chronicled his life, ultimately stemmed from his great love of newspapers.
Even after the Tribune printing press that Harold worked on for so many years was gone, he would regularly stop by our office to sit around and joke about politics, sports, and everyday life like any good newspaperman. Unlike most of us who work in the newspaper business though, Harold never adopted a view of the world that was pessimistic or cynical. He seemed to accept his life at face value, and take joy from it whenever he could.
I remember coming out of some basketball games wanting to talk and commiserate about things that happened, like a bad call by a referee, a misguided coaching decision, or a series of missed shots that proved fateful to the game’s final results. Harold would never engage in those discussions, always brushing such comments aside to tell me how hard the players tried and how close they were to winning.
I never quite understood how Harold was able to maintain this consistently positive attitude. I am sure that his religious faith had something to do with his ability to live this way, as Harold was one of those rare Christians who actually practiced what the religion preaches. Having an amazing wife and a loving family certainly helped with it as well.
Still, in talking about his life for one of the newspaper articles that I am sure can be found in his scrapbooks, he told me very matter-of-factly about his impoverished background and the struggles he faced growing up. He didn’t seem bitter about this and went through life with a smile on his face that he wasn’t shy about showing to his community. He rose above and sailed through any bad circumstances with the same grace and grit that he once demonstrated on the basketball court.
Clearly, he handled his long battle with cancer in the same way. I often heard Harold make references to recent hospital stays or trips that he took to Wichita to deal with medical concerns. When he would say these things, he never sounded like he was whining or complaining. It was more like he was confidently facing down a competitor that he ultimately thought he would beat. Since I know that I would be the biggest pain-in-the-ass patient of all time if I were dealing with the circumstances he faced towards the end of his life, I was in awe that he was still maintaining his positive outlook.
I am glad that his funeral is being held on the home court of the basketball team that Harold always loved so much. Likely that’s the only venue in town that can accommodate the big crowd of people whose lives he positively affected.
News of his death hit particularly hard here at the Tribune, where he was considered a member of our family. Thinking of the way Harold lived his life has served to remind us all how lucky we are to have our names on the pages of his scrapbook.
Please send all questions, comments, marriage proposals, hate mail, or practical advice on how we can all live our lives the way that Harold Turner lived his to firstname.lastname@example.org