By SHEENA BAKER
Edna Turner sat with one of her daughters during Monday’s funeral service for her husband, Sen. Bennie Turner, while hundreds also paid their respects.
Services were held at Mary Holmes College in West Point where the couple first met.
Then, she was an incoming freshman, and he was a recent Mary Holmes graduate who was getting ready to enter Mississippi State University, eager to continue his studies of law. Although Bennie Turner was heading into his freshman year at MSU, he liked to visit his alma mater from time to time and happened to run into the young lady who would become his wife of 40 years.
Edna Turner sat Monday thinking back to those times and reminiscing about the life of her husband, who was laid to rest Monday morning six days after he passed away.
Turner was admitted to North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo on Nov. 19 and airlifted Nov. 25 University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, where he died the following Tuesday.
Though reported through several broadcast news agencies that Sen. Turner suffered a brain tumor, Edna Turner said this was incorrect and the condition Turner had before his death remains undisclosed.
At the hospital Edna Turner stayed by her husband’s bedside, only leaving a moment to grab a bite to eat. Back she came, showing her everlasting love for him, trying to have the same strength for him as he showed her and his family all his life.
“He was the rock of the family, and he pretty much was the glue that held everybody together,” Edna Turner said. “I think he would want me to stay strong for the family.”
During Sunday visitation services, Edna Turner said she was overjoyed to see the love and support so many people had for her husband. It was Sen. Turner’s request to have the visitation at the Justice Company Building, she said, where his law firm Turner and Associates is located.
Third Mt. Olive M.B. Church was also filled Monday from wall to wall with family, friends and colleagues, including members of the Mississippi legislature, who said their final farewells to Sen. Turner during the funeral. One of Sen. Turner’s closest friends and colleagues, state Sen. Hob Bryan, held back tears as he spoke kind words of his dear friend and fellow legislator.
“Bennie and I were more than best mates; we were pretty much soul mates,” Bryan said. “We pretty much saw eye-to-eye on most issues.
“We voted together almost all the time. Bennie’s impact on the Senate, I think, is one of dignity and respect and steadfastness,” he said. “He never had to backtrack from any of his political views to get along with everyone he was respected by.
“His older sister said to (legislators), ‘If y’all want to do something to remember Bennie why don’t y’all try getting along,’” Bryan said. “What that means to me is we’d all do better if we tried to be more like Bennie. I think everybody in this church realizes that we would be a much better person if we would be more like Bennie.”
Sen. John Horhn, a member of the Mississippi State Senate Black Caucus which Sen. Turner presided over, the late senator was not about race and was not just about being a Democrat. He was a leader when it came to education, redistricting, tort reform and state budgeting, Horhn said.
“Turner was a great mentor (and) he was a great counselor even when you didn’t want to hear it,” Horhn said. “He would sometimes come to you and say, ‘You know, the situation that you’re in right now reminds me of this book I read. I believe it was called the ‘Fall of the Roman Empire.’ And you’re going, ‘He’s right.’
“And then there were other times when all it took was for him just to look at you. He would see us ranting and raving, and sometimes he would stand up out of his seat and turn around and look at you — that’s all it took,” Horhn said. “He was unquestionably — I don’t think anybody would argue with me — the most respected member of the Mississippi Senate.”
Edna Turner said up until the day of the visitation and funeral she remained as strong as she could for her family. Seeing friends and loved ones who cared for Sen. Turner brought her to tears. This past week has proven tough for her and her family, she said.
“It’s been unreal,” she said. “Things that I’ve ordinarily been doing I don’t do now. It seems like I’m going through that time when he’s just away (at the Capital) and he’s going to come back. That’s just the way it seems. That’s what I feel.
“I know that’s not real (and) I know that’s not going to happen, but I’m going through that stage where he’s just away,” Edna Turner added. “I think God has His way of helping us cope with different things, and I guess that’s my way of coping with his death — thinking that he’s just away.”
Sen. Turner always made sure his wife and daughters had what they needed and felt it was important to expose his family to different walks of life, taking the girls to see different wonders across the U.S., she said.
He dearly loved his family, whom Edna Turner said will miss everything about him, but missed most of all will be his strength, love and kindness, she said.