Our Arizona friend Wayne died this past Thursday (December 2017), after two years of “living” with dialysis. Having lived a full life as father to seven kids and husband to Nancy, he was one helluva good guy. No lie, he was one of the planet’s best. Hannah and I met him and his wife Nancy 40 years ago; we last visited them this past June at their new home in Utah. In fact, I began a recent blog about them. And here it is to give you an idea of the man.
When I think of Bryce Canyon, I think of Wayne and Nancy. Let me explain.
Living in the shadow of Arizona State University in the 1970s, Hannah and I were recently-weds when Wayne and Nancy came into our lives. I was scuffling along as an elementary school teacher, looking to find my way – wondering if teaching was for me. Hannah, too, was searching; she tried nursing school, but the paperwork and condescending doctors sank that ship. Since tuition for us as in-state residents was $300 per semester at ASU back in the day, she, without much financial pain, gave the counseling program a shot.
In her studies, Hannah met Wayne, who was teaching a course in motivation for the Educational Psychology Department. Hannah loved the class that fall semester; and then Hannah, being Hannah, invited Wayne and his wife Nancy to our house in Tempe for dinner. We clicked and the magic began.
Though six years later we moved from Arizona to raise our family in a small town on the coast of Maine, we have never lost our love of the West, its trails, its national parks, and its Nancy and Wayne.
In 1992 when our family of five traveled West, our four-cylinder Subaru wagon pulling a homemade trailer could barely climb the Rocky Mountains of Wyoming, Utah, and Arizona. That’s when Nancy and Wayne came to the rescue. Near their home in Mesa, AZ, they found a mechanic who diagnosed the problem as a radiator working at 30% capacity on a vehicle that was never meant to tow a trailer of any size.
A few days later, leaving the Valley of the Sun (Phoenix Metro Area) at 1100’, they towed our trailer with their GMC Yukon to Heber at 8000’ in northern Arizona so we could roll downhill from there for home in Maine.
The following year, Nancy and Wayne arranged for their family of eight (soon to be nine) and ours of five to camp side by side at the KOA (Kampground of America) in Panguitch, UT; we would then hike in Bryce Canyon National Park
Whenever we would fly to Arizona for a week, they would seamlessly add our five to their household, treating us as family; and all under one roof!
They are stunning folks; they think when we are together, what would make Hannah and Dan’s visit more enjoyable? And they love playing card and board games. As members of the Church of Latter Day Saints, they are the ones who taught us Mormon Bridge; now the Family Rothermel’s favorite card game.
When Hannah and I saw Wayne this past June, I put the thought that he soon might die out of my mind, though I knew it was a possibility. We talked, we played games, we laughed.
My life has been richer knowing Wayne Turley. He was like a brother to me.
Hannah eulogizes Wayne below.
I was pregnant with our to-be-first born, Molly, when I sat in my first counseling class with Wayne. I knew instantly that I had signed up for one of the best experiences of my life – because of the teacher, J. Wayne Turley. Within weeks, we had invited him and his wife Nancy to our home for dinner. From that moment on, dinners together became a tradition. Wayne was the most kind, thoughtful, sensitive listener/teacher I’d ever known. He believed each of us in the class had something to offer one another – we were all students and teachers, including himself.
His wife Nancy turned out to be equally loving and love-able. Through the years, we’ve shared the births of kids, the deaths of parents, the illnesses and heartbreaks that come with children and life…and kept in touch when we left Arizona for Maine. At some point, the whole Turley family came to the coast of Maine – for further bonding. (A total of 9 kids later.)
Now, 10 kids combined and more than a dozen grand kids later, we feel as close as ever….and as grateful as ever that Wayne has never stopped teaching us – by example – what really matters. Wayne lives on because of the place he continues to reside…in my heart, in my mind, in my soul…in my life.
Thank you, Wayne. Vaya con Dios.