The world has lost an amazing storyteller. Randy Turner passed away on March 13, nine months after being diagnosed with gall bladder cancer. He was 57 years old.
A beloved son, brother, uncle and friend, Randy was also one of Canada’s best journalists, nominated seven times for a National Newspaper Award and winning twice. His renown as a veteran Winnipeg Free Press reporter was surpassed only by his stardom on Twitter, where he attracted more than 60,000 followers in less than five years. Which even more amazing when you consider that he didn’t have the tech savvy to attach a document to an email.
Randy was a great writer, but an even better person, with no vanity or ego and a self-deprecating manner that pushed others into the limelight ahead of himself. The outpouring of thousands of Twitter tributes within hours of his passing echoed an undisputed theme: he was good. Sincerely good, in every sense of the word, with an unwavering sense of right and wrong.
His clear-sightedness made him angry at injustice and frustrated with stupidity. But it also fueled his enormous talent, fed his endless curiosity and allowed him to grasp the essential core of people and events – those things that were beautiful and inspiring and funny. And he was so funny too, with an explosive laugh and razor-sharp wit that drew friends and Twitter followers like a magnet. “Getting tweeted at by Randy Turner was like a special badge of honour,” someone wrote on #TurnerTribute.
The mayor of Winnipeg dimmed the city’s sign at The Forks in honour of Randy the day he died and the flags flew half mast at the Free Press, where he worked for 32 years after a stint at the Selkirk Journal. He was devoted to his newspaper and worked hard at perfecting his craft. As the Free Press editor wrote, there is a hole at the paper that will never be filled.
There is also a gaping hole in our lives. Left to mourn are parents Ron and Shirley Turner, sister Sandy Joye, brother Kent Turner, niece Kali Wilkinson (Nathan), nephews Trent Joye (Brittani), Braydon Joye and Zach Turner, his cats Bob and Teemu, as well as dozens of close friends and colleagues. He was predeceased by his brother-in-law Terry Joye.
Randy cared deeply about his family and was a loyal friend. He loved animals. Although his pets were always cats, he once went to the vet with an injured mouse he had caught in a trap. His heart was that big.
Born and raised in Boissevain, he was surrounded by a close group of friends in high school – who nicknamed him “Quack” for the size of his feet. He was president of the student council, played baritone sax in band and was even talked into joining the choir. Not a top academic, he preferred to sit in the back of the class and make people laugh, also eschewing university for Creative Communications at Red River College.
Randy became a citizen of the road – sometimes traversed in the old green van he called Fenway. He covered the “rural” beat in his early days at the Free Press, visiting every town, village and reserve in Manitoba in search of stories. As a sports reporter and columnist, he went to five Olympics, several world hockey tournaments, Stanley Cup finals and Grey Cup games. He criss-crossed the American Midwest covering the Goldeyes.
As an accomplished features writer, he worked his way across Canada one summer to report from every region, spent two weeks at God’s Lake Narrows First Nation and immersed himself with Inuit carvers at Baker Lake in Nunavut. He once travelled 1,200 kilometres in a single weekend to chronicle life in 10 rural hockey rinks. He wrote an in-depth story about the lives of exotic dancers. He once interviewed a farmer who dressed his cows in Christmas costumes. A collection of some of his best stories has been posted in a special section in the Winnipeg Free Press online.
He was also the author of several books, including City Beautiful on Winnipeg’s incredible architecture and Back in the Bigs on the return of the Winnipeg Jets – about which he was arguably the world’s leading expert.
Randy touched many lives and will be greatly missed – even by those who didn’t know him at all. In lieu of flowers, his family suggests a donation to Siloam Mission, Craig Street Cats or the Winnipeg Humane Society.
Details on Randy's service date and location will be announced soon.