March 17, 1941 - September 16, 2019
Dale Alan Turner of Richardson, Texas passed away on Monday, September 16, 2019 at the age of 78.
Born in Des Moines, Iowa, Dale became a full-time Army brat 6 months later, moving frequently from the time his father’s National Guard unit was called up for WWII until his father retired from the Army.
All his life, Dale strove to keep his family safe in a world he saw as pervasively dangerous. As an American officer’s kid and one of the first US dependents allowed into post-WWII Germany, he was threatened at gunpoint by a former SS officer at the age of 6. He grew up knowing what it’s like to be an outsider who doesn’t speak the language. Dale grew up street-smart from his nomadic, “turret class” upbringing. This background saved his life during his own military service.
Dale graduated from high school in Panama, where he also acquired a lifelong love of the sea. He sailed all over the Caribbean and through the Panama Canal with the Sea Scouts (Sea Explorers). The hymn “Eternal Father, Strong to Save,” also known as the Navy Hymn, became his favorite.
His lifelong love of shortwave radio and electronics was an interest he shared with his dad, Colonel Max Henry Turner, a communications officer and MP who also received a Bronze Star during the Korean War. Dale’s lifelong love of music reflected the influence of his mom, Margaret Evelyn Turner, an Army wife who was also a pianist and church organist for over 50 years.
Dale joined the Army during the Vietnam War in the early 1960s. He maintained Huey B helicopters and trained other people to do so, particularly the electronics. He also served as a door gunner, received the Air Medal, and, as he put it, “survived the experience.” His sense of humor was dry and especially subversive toward institutions.
In Augusta, Georgia, he met and married Sara (Bonnie) Turner, his wife of 52 years, at church. Immediately after their wedding, they moved to Dallas, Texas, to build their life together.
From the late 1960s, they set down roots in Texas. He was never a hat-and-boots guy, but he loved Texas and Texans. Texas became the place he lived longest and set down roots. In contrast to Dale’s entire life pre-Texas, he and Bonnie lived in the same town (Richardson) and went to the same church (Highland Park Presbyterian Church) for the rest of his life.
Dale was a devoted husband and father. He was infinitely patient and much more intentional about being a dad, especially a dad of a daughter, than many men of his generation. He wasn’t flashy, but steadfast, loyal, and determined to show up for his family even if it inconvenienced him.
Dale loved language– puns, Dad Jokes, limericks, any good turn of phrase that reveals the truth of something. It delighted him to wake his daughter up in the morning with Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” album, Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, and a cheerful “GOOOOOOD Morning! It’s a great day! Time to rise and shine!” He was also fond of the classic comeback “Hay is for horses, and also for cows, but straw is cheaper.” His sense of humor was dry and especially subversive toward bureaucratic institutions.
Patience, grit and perseverance always characterized Dale. He would continue to show up and fight long after most people would give up and go look for an easier path. If a water line froze at home, there was no calling a plumber – Dad would be out in subfreezing weather until he figured it out and got it fixed. Reading through dyslexia (teachers in the overcrowded schools of the 1940s and ’50s had no means to help dyslexic children) was torturous and not quick, but Dale absorbed reams of technical data throughout his career.
Dale built a career in technology, particularly military technology, at companies like Collins Radio, Texas Instruments and Raytheon. He saw beauty in useful things. Antennas, amplifiers, audio filters, and everyday tools were objects of art. He would build the first prototypes of complex electronic devices from engineering drawings.
Dale also volunteered as a facilitator in the divorce recovery ministry at church. It was gritty, unglamorous, emotionally wrenching work. His experiences of suffering during Vietnam and entering civilian society after military service informed his work with divorcees. He didn’t have to go through a divorce to empathize with people who had been abandoned, told they were less-than, had to rebuild their lives from scratch.
He never got 100% comfortable being retired, and loved designing and building shortwave radio antennas to the very last. The Richardson HAM radio community meant a lot to him.
The way people in positions of servitude were treated was very important to Dale and his attitude left lasting impressions. He learned the names of cafeteria workers and made a point of being kind to the janitor. The RN who took care of him during his last hospital stay told the hospice nurse during his transfer, “He’s the sweetest man I have ever taken care of.”
Dale is survived by his wife Bonnie, his daughter Christie, his son-in-law Robert Turnage, his granddaughter Margaret Turnage, and his brother Richard.
In lieu of flowers, the family would be grateful if memorials instead are sent to Highland Park Presbyterian Church in Dallas, Texas.
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