Valley Christian senior Wesley Turner knows the value of faith and family. Both have played an important role in his life since his father passed away when Wesley was 5 years old.
“That’s been a blessing,” Turner, 18, said about the support of his family. “It helped me get through the tough things of life.”
Wesley grew up living close to four generations of his mother’s family on property close to State Line.
“They have their faith as the center of their lives,” Valley Christian guidance counselor Nancy Arnhold said. “In a day where families are split up, in different parts of the country, estranged etc., this family is intact, well-functioning and a wonderful example of how extended families can offer much-needed support and care for one another.”
Turner’s father, William Turner, died suddenly at home on Valentine’s Day 1997 from respiratory arrest. Though Turner does not recall much about that night, he remembers his mother coming home from the hospital and telling him the bad news.
“I was sitting in front of the TV,” Turner said. “My mom came in crying and said our dad died. It didn’t register at that point.”
When he was about 7, Turner began to question why his father died.
“I questioned God a lot on why he would take a father away from his mother and three sons,” Turner said. “I finally came to the realization that in this life I’ll never know why.”
Turner’s brothers Marshall, 26, and John, 20, are an important part of his life.
“It made us closer,” Turner said about how his father’s death influenced his relationship with his brothers. “We rely on each other a lot.”
In fact, Turner has spent most of his life surrounded by family. His aunt’s family lives next door. His grandparents live next to his aunt and his cousin’s family lives across the street.
“We’re kind of like a compound,” Turner’s mother, Candace Turner, said laughing. “It’s a giant safety net. We have great stability here.”
Every evening, all four generations gather to share in a meal together. Each family takes their turn preparing the day’s dinner.
Besides sharing meals, the families support each other emotionally and financially.
“He has an outstanding extended family support system,” Arnhold said. “This family works together to support, love and encourage each other in a close-knit, unique manner.”
Growing up around family, Turner never lacked male influence. He spent many hours racing cars with his late grandfather, John Jarvis. He would also roughhouse with his cousin Vicky’s husband, Ray Lawr, and help his oldest brother Marshall work on cars.
Attending Valley Christian since kindergarten, Turner gained the support of teachers and students, which influenced his life in a positive way.
“He is real close to the people in his class,” his mother said. “It’s like another family. They’re very caring people.”
Most of Turner’s memories about his father come from the stories and memories of others. One thing he remembers is his father’s artwork.
“He loved to draw,” Turner said of his father, who worked as an illustrator for The Spokesman-Review. “He was very gifted. At times, I would stand off to the side and watch him.”
Last year, Turner developed an interest in drawing and bought a book on art. Though he never took an art class, he proceeded to draw an intricately detailed drawing of a tree. He has also drawn several renditions of crosses, including one that portrays a heart resting at the base with blue and red arteries intertwining up the wood.
“I know I might have some artistic ability in me,” Turner said about inheriting his father’s ability. “I loved to draw and paint when I was little, but it never looked like I wanted. Now I’ve sat down and thought about how to draw something, and I like what I’ve done.”
After graduation, Turner plans to attend Pensacola (Fla.) Christian College in the fall. He is choosing between majoring in criminal justice and business with an emphasis in accounting.
“Wesley is everything you would want in a son,” Candace Turner said. “He is very caring. He got that from his dad, a very big heart. His father would be really proud of him.”