Memorial to be held for former Kingston mayor Isabel Turner

A memorial service celebrating the life of former Kingston mayor Isabel Turner will be held this weekend. The memorial service is to take place from 1-5 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022 at Memorial Hall, in City Hall.

“Due to COVID restrictions, it has taken us a while to organize this event,” said daughter Laura Turner. The former mayor died on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021 at the age of 85, lovingly surrounded by her family at Kingston General Hospital.

Born in Scotland, April 6, 1935, Turner immigrated to Canada in 1956. “She accomplished a lot in her lifetime, for this little Scottish woman who came over on a big boat by herself at a very young age,” Laura expressed.

Turner left Scotland shortly after the war seeking a new start in Canada, “She came over all by herself; she cleaned and did laundry and earned enough money to come over, and she landed in Montreal,” said her daughter

Turner made her way to Toronto and found an accounting and bookkeeping job. “By herself,” Laura marvelled aloud. “That didn’t happen in those days — that was incredible for a woman. She was a Trailblazer.”

Even as a young adult, Isabel felt the pull to serve. It was while she was volunteering at a youth hostel in the Lake of Bays area at the age of 21 that she met her soon-to-be husband, John Turner.

Laura explained, “She met my dad and helped him by going to work full time, putting him through dental school.”

In the meantime, Laura was born, she said, “And I went to daycare. That didn’t happen either back then, [working women with] kids going to daycare. I was a project; I’m probably better for it.”

“Once she got dad through dental school, we moved to Kingston [in 1968],” Laura continued. “He opened his practice and she helped him build it.”

Turner entered politics in 1980 and became the first woman councillor on Kingston Township Council. She went on to serve as reeve for 12 years, as well as on the Frontenac County Council. She was elected mayor of the amalgamated City of Kingston in the year 2000 and served in that position until 2003.

“Tenacious and filled with an enormous spirit, she gave back to the community,” said Laura.

In 2002, Isabel Turner was awarded the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal in recognition of her many contributions to the Kingston community, and The Isabel Turner branch of the Kingston Public Library was named in her honour.

Even while in the hospital, Laura described her mother as “feisty to the end.” 

“’Tell the doctors to give me my tea and get me my telephone book. I need to tell people to do this and do that,’” Laura mused of her mother’s spirits while in hospital. “I was one of the ones with her at one time because you’re only allowed two visitors until it becomes palliative. And she says, ‘you watch, I’m going to get my tea!’ Feisty right up until the end.”

It was that very spirit, her uniquely kind-yet-boisterous personality that made Isabel Turner a woman unlike any other, Laura expressed.

“We have some very large boots to fill,” said Laura. “I’m hopeful, but it’s gonna be tough. It’s a big hole to fill.” 

Isabel Turner is survived by her husband, John, daughters Laura and Heather, son Bruce, and their families, including six grandchildren.

“It was in her DNA to give back to the community… it really was,” Laura said. “She instilled that in all of us as kids growing up. She was a very loving woman, very kind. She cared about our community. She really did. And even in the end, she told us all to take care of each other.”

All residents are invited to join in the memorial and to provide memories, in print form if possible, in honour of the legacy Turner left behind.

With files from Michelle Dorey-Forestell

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