Cape Gazette
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Saltwater Portrait

Retirement doesn't work for Jan Turner

Rehoboth resident gives back to children, schools
By Rachel Swick Mavity | Jul 16, 2013
Photo by: Rachel Swick Mavity Jan and Homer Turner enjoy time at the beaches, but only after tourists have gone home.

When Jan Turner says no one should retire in their 50s, she speaks from experience.

The Rehoboth Beach resident was bored when she and her husband, Homer, retired to The Glade in 1997.

"I just needed to find something to do," she said.

A medical technologist from Wilmington, she tried working part-time, but it didn't satisfy her. Then she saw an article about a woman who brought a West Coast charity to New Castle County. The charity, Shoes That Fit, finds new clothes and shoes for school children.

Turner contacted the charity's founder, Joanne Glauser, and the two decided Turner would run the charity's Sussex County operation.

Turner now works with school districts in Kent and Sussex counties.

"The program helps give kids a sense of self-worth and boosts self-esteem," Turner said.

She works with the schools, and they decide who receives the clothes and shoes.

“We don't do $200 Nikes, but we try to buy the best sturdy shoe we can find,” Turner said. "It's rewarding for me to help these needy children."

School districts qualify for program services if they have a high number of students receiving free and reduced-price lunches, which most Kent and Sussex county schools have, Turner said.

“This is really an underserved area; there is so much need here,” she said.

Shoes that Fit is funded through private donations and the United Way. Turner works with Lunch with a Purpose, a collaboration of women who run charity groups in Delaware. This year, the group chose Shoes That Fit as its fundraising recipient.

"The lunch fundraiser raised enough money for my budget for the year," said Turner as she reclined on a comfortable chair in her welcoming home.

The slight Southern twang in her voice is a relic from growing up in Atlanta.

"I am from the South, but when I visit, they call me a Yankee," said Turner who has spent more than 20 years in Delaware.

While in college at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, a friend set Turner up on a blind date with Homer Turner, a Seaford native.

"I decided to go because I wanted to see what a Homer looked like," Turner chuckled. The couple has been married 53 years.

"I always tell people Homer is the only native Delawarean I know," she said.

The couple was married in 1959, and stayed in Atlanta until Homer graduated in 1962. After bouncing around at other jobs in Tennessee and Virginia, the Turners landed in Delaware.

The couple moved to Wilmington in 1979 where Homer worked for DuPont and, after graduating from Wesley College, Turner worked for LabCorp.

"We've made our marriage work with love, respect, humor, tolerance, patience and tenacity – not necessarily in that order," Turner said.

At The Glade, the Turners stay busy with community functions and clubs, also volunteering at New Life Thrift shop and attending services at Epworth United Methodist Church.

"We've made many friends here; most of us are transplants," Turner said.

When not relaxing in their cozy two-story home, Homer enjoys gardening while Turner plays with her aging black Labrador, Kate, and her two cats.

"We bought the lot and moved down here 15 years ago," Turner said. "We always said if we didn't like it, we could go somewhere else. We've never left."

Turner belongs to a book club at The Glade and plays bridge with a group of Lewes and Rehoboth women who host monthly games at their homes.

"We like to go out to restaurants in Rehoboth and go down to the beach, but not in the summer," Turner says with a knowing smile that most year-round residents would recognize.

Favorite restaurants include Casa di Leo for Italian, the Crystal for breakfast and Stoney Lonen for burger night.

When the summer rush gets to be too much, Turner escapes to northern Delaware to visit her son Wayne, a chef, in Wilmington, or her daughter Tammy, a teacher. The couple has four grandchildren.

"This has been a good place for us - close enough to easily visit children and grandchildren, but not too close to stop by every day," Turner said. "We are busy, but not too busy."

For more information on the Delaware Chapter of Shoes That Fit, email shoesthatfitde@aol.com.

Jan Turner jokes that the only native Delawarean she knows is her husband, Seaford-native Homer. (Photo by: Rachel Swick Mavity)
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