Aug. 24-30, 2001
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Ray Turner is still in the game

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Ray Turner is still in the game

By Matt Kelly

Ray Turner now has the best of both worlds — work he still enjoys and time for fishing.

Turner, honored recently for 45 years serving the University, works in chemical inventorying for the microbiology department. He retired from that full time in 1999, but he keeps his hand in, working three days a week.

“I started [at the Medical Center] in 1956, after graduating from Nelson County High School,” Turner said. “I wanted to be a brick mason, but I couldn’t tolerate heights, so I started work in housekeeping.”

Over the years, Turner, 64, moved around, training to work in the clinical labs under Dr. Oliver B. Bobbitt and later as a lab aide “B” in the clinical storage room, lab technician and lab technician supervisor.

“We had to sterilize all the glassware, so we were working autoclaves and dishwashers,” he said. “We had to set up the glass slides for the students in clinical pathology. We had to mix all our own chemicals; now you just order what you want from the supplier.”

Turner, who has had an abiding interest in baseball, also kept active on the diamond.

“Baseball is my No. 1 love in sports,” he said. “I like football and basketball, but baseball is No. 1.”

He played outfield and catcher for more than 20 years on local teams, such as the Vikings, which hosted home games in Washington Park, and the South Garden Tigers, which won a championship for the Valley League.

Turner was playing for the Vikings when he was spotted by a scout for the Baltimore Orioles.

“He said I had a very good chance of making it in the majors,” Turner said.
The scout wanted him to go to Richmond for a tryout and if he passed that, he would be sent to a farm team for some seasoning before being moved up to the Orioles. While it was a temptation for a 20-year-old, Turner declined. He was already a husband and father, and his wife, Mary Ethel Turner, had been diagnosed with sickle cell anemia.

“Family had to come first,” he said.

He had to work somewhere with good benefits and readily available health care for his wife. He credited the doctors at the Medical Center with their work in treating her and bringing her health problems under control in later years.

While not playing in the majors, Turner kept his hand in baseball, playing in the Valley League until he was around 40, then turned to softball, which he played until he was in his 50s. Then he started coaching intramural teams, including the Clinical Lab Tiger Tops. He herded his team, sponsored by Morrison’s Cafeteria, to three softball championships, in 1995, 1996 and 1997.

“We beat [the team from] physical therapy in ’95 and ’96,” Turner said. “They had a powerhouse team but we rocked them.”

Turner was saddened when the Valley League atrophied and faded away a few years ago.

“It upset me,” he said of the baseball league’s demise. “The young people weren’t able to keep it going.”

He said that basketball and football held their attention more. He also blames the drug culture for turning youth away from sports altogether. He said he was pleased that the University is investing money in its baseball program.

Turner said he has no regrets for rejecting the scout’s offer.

“I played it out of my system locally,” he said. “If I had it as a job, I might have lost interest in it. Now that it is all out, I feel good about life and the people I work with.”

Aside from coaching softball for the intramural teams, he also coached the Trinity Church team. Turner has recently shifted to another sport, bowling, noting that it keeps him fit, he can do it year round, it satisfies his requirements for competition and it does not interfere with his fishing.

Turner, along with his first wife, raised three sons. Mary Ethel Turner died in 1990 and in 1995 he married Joan Vaughan Turner. Turner enjoys spending time with his family, which now includes four grandchildren.

Turner is planning extensive renovation of his house. He also continues planning fishing trips with friends.

And work still has an attraction for him.

“I still want to work and I like the job,” he said, noting that he puts in about 20 hours a week, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. “When I am working with the young people, I am the old timer, although I don’t feel it. I get along well with them.”

Turner said he has worked at teaching young people to be technicians and is proud of what he has done here.

He has seen a lot of change at the Medical Center in his time — departments splitting into new entities, responsibilities shifting, the Medical Center itself expanding — and he said through all of it he has adjusted.

Although he is not sure how many more years he will work, he smiled when he said that 50 was a nice round number.


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