Isabel Turner passed away on Tuesday evening at the age of 85 following a brief illness, surrounded by her loving family members at Kingston General Hospital. Isabel will always be remembered for her tenacity and unwavering wit, and although she will be dearly missed, her memory will remain a beacon of light for her family and the community. She was a force of nature to her family, and has left behind some big, albeit remarkable, shoes to fill.
Isabel touched the lives of so many people, an incredible wife, mother, grandmother, mentor, and friend, she is survived by her loving husband, John and her three children: Laura, Heather (+ her husband Nick), and Bruce (+ his wife Christine). Isabel or “Granny” as she was fondly called, will be forever loved by her 6 grandchildren: Madison, Erin, Marissa, Cassidy, Ben, and Kyle.
Born in Scotland in 1936, Isabel was the eldest of three children, and daughter of Amelia and Robert. Isabel had a formidable childhood growing up in the midst of WW2, and was raised by her mother, while her father fought in the war effort for the allies. Isabel was a brilliant historian to her children and grandchildren of her time during the war, a particular favorite story being the time she received her first bicycle. A bicycle was something that was not easy to come by in the midst of the war, but brought so much joy to her. Isabel was resolute at finding happiness in even the most difficult of situations, and now that she is no longer with us, we hope to find happiness in our memories of her.
Fast forward to 1956, Isabel had worked enough odd jobs, including sweeping doorsteps and cleaning, to scrounge together sufficient funds to secure a one way ticket on a ship that set sail from Scotland to Canada. At the young age of 20, she immigrated to Canada by herself, landing first in Montreal, and later moving to Toronto. She found a job as a bookkeeper, a profession widely held by men at the time. In addition to working as a bookkeeper, Isabel volunteered at a youth hostel north of Toronto in Lake of Bays, where she met her soon-to-be husband John Turner.
John and Isabel Turner were married in March of 1958 in Toronto, Ontario. Her loving husband, John, had aspirations to become a dentist, and Isabel worked full-time to support him through dental school while also raising their first child. Shortly after John graduated from the University of Toronto, the family moved to Kingston in 1968 to establish his dental practice, which Isabel helped him build from the ground up.
Isabel was compelled to serve the community and began her political career in 1980 when she was elected as the councillor to the Kingston Township, after serving on the board of the Victorian Order of Nurses, and as the president of the Kingston area Red Cross. A trailblazer, Isabel was the first woman to hold the position of councillor in the history of the former Township, and served two consecutive terms. Following her terms in council, she went on to serve as the Reeve of the township for four consecutive terms from 1985-1997, also as the first woman in the position. During her term as the Reeve, Isabel worked hard to implement fiscal policy to reduce the township’s debt, developed parks and arenas, maintained roadways, and streamlined snow clearing management.
In 1997, Isabel’s fellow councilors, in a unanimous vote, named the new branch of the Kingston Public Library after her. Following her term as Reeve of the township, Isabel ran for and was elected mayor of the city of Kingston in 2000. During her time as Mayor, Isabel focused on infrastructure and fiscal policy, and was awarded the Queen’s Jubilee Metal in 2002. She also led the city through the black out of 2003, which lead to multiday blackouts across the province.
In 2003 she left politics to focus on family life, but remained an active member of the community, and served on the board of directors for the St. Lawrence Parks commission for 6 years.
Throughout her career and until the end, her door was always open to solve the problems of the world, over her most cherished beverage, a hot cup of tea. She will be dearly missed.
A small private service for family members will be held Saturday, November 6th. A celebration of life will be held in the spring, details to follow.