Hewitt City Council Member Charles “Charlie” Donald Turner died unexpectedly at home Tuesday after decades of service to Hewitt, where he spent 19 years as mayor and led efforts to build the Hewitt Public Library and modernize the city’s utility system.
Turner was 70 and had not been suffering from any known health problems, family members said.
Friends and colleagues said Turner’s love for his city was at the forefront in everything he did in 40 years of service to Hewitt, where he moved with his family in 1977 following an upbringing in Waco.
He served his first term on the city council from 1981 to 1983 and supported the passage of Hewitt’s home rule charter in 1982. He became a charter member of Hewitt’s Board of Adjustment in 1984 and served on that board for nine years.
He served a total of 25 years on the Hewitt City Council, including terms as mayor from 1996 to 2013 and from 2019 to 2021, and was then elected again as a council member.
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Between mayoral terms in the 2010s he served five years on the Planning and Zoning Commission.
City Manager Bo Thomas said public safety and Hewitt’s sewer and water utility infrastructure were two key issues in Turner’s time as a council member. His wife, Brenda Turner, said when she and her husband moved to Hewitt the city’s water was privately owned.
Thomas said Charlie Turner would share stories about the city from a time when the water system couldn’t pump enough water for the city’s use.
“He told a story about how the police department had to drive around Hewitt and use a bullhorn and tell people not use their water or flush their toilets,” Thomas said.
Others who knew Turner said he loved to share Hewitt’s history.
“He had such a vast knowledge about the streets and roads and the people who live here. … He had a very fond love of Hewitt and loved to talk about those early days,” Library Director Waynette Ditto said.
Turner was an early advocate for building a new Hewitt Public Library, which opened in 2016 in a $4.5 million complex it shares with Hewitt City Hall at 200 Patriot Court.
Ditto said Turner played an integral part in making the Hewitt Public Library the state-of-the-art facility it is today. Paintings of early Hewitt owned by the Turner family now hang at the library.
“He was always wanting to help preserve those things that really meant something to our past,” she said.
Ditto said Turner would even take photos around the town when he heard of a new building being constructed to document the spot the way it was before.
Born Dec. 19, 1951, Turner grew up in North Waco with three siblings. He went to Brook Avenue Elementary School and West Junior High School and graduated from Waco High School in 1970 when it sat on Columbus Avenue.
Charlie Turner was granted a full scholarship to Baylor University, which Brenda Turner said was a dream of his as a music-loving kid growing up in poverty.
“It was a big deal for him to go to Baylor because when he was a little boy and saw the Golden Wave Band, he told his mother he was going to be in the band,” she said.
He and Brenda Turner dated for five years before getting married in 1975. They had their only child, Bradley Turner, in 1982 and later became grandparents to two granddaughters who knew Charlie as Papa Bear.
Though he never graduated from Baylor University, Turner later went on to earn an associate’s degree in 2013 from McLennan Community College, where Bradley is a professor. The two shared the special moment, Charlie sporting a cap and gown while Bradley cheered him on from the faculty line.
Charlie Turner carried his love for music throughout his lifetime and became a percussionist at First Baptist Church of Hewitt, where he was a deacon and a trustee.
“Just the fact that he’s a Christian brings a lot of peace to the family,” Brenda Turner said.
Beyond the time he volunteered for the city, Turner held many titles in the Greater Hewitt community and throughout the state during his lifetime.
He drove a truck for Behrens Drug Co. while in college, sold insurance for a number of firms, worked as a paralegal and even became a computer tech, installing computers and satellites on Native American reservations.
Most recently he worked as the manager of The Tool Shed Thrift Shop, which raises funds for Friends for Life, a nonprofit serving the needs of the elderly.
Donna Baugh, director of life skills training at Friends for Life, said Turner was the perfect choice for opening the shop.
“He made such a difference in the lives of the clients he worked with,” Baugh said. “What (the shop) is today is because of him.”
Baugh recounted a story of two homeless men who would come into the shop often to use the restroom and warm up, and Turner would always share a cup of coffee with them.
One day the pair came to Turner with an idea for a business, and Baugh said it was Turner who set them up for success.
“He gave them some of the things that were donated that hadn’t sold to start up their own lawn care business,” Baugh said. “He really, through his generosity and his encouragement, changed the lives of these two guys.”
Many people said Charlie Turner was an avid storyteller, one of his favorites being of some cannons he and Bradley restored together.
“He wanted to fire it off, so he had to get special permission from the city council at that time to fire it in the park,” Ditto said. “That was just indicative of his personality.”
Friends said Turner loved family vacations to Branson, Missouri, playing instruments, taking photos and telling stories, and most of all, spending time with his family.
“There was never a conversation that we had where he didn’t talk about Brad or his wife or his grandgirls,” Ditto said.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday at First Baptist Church of Hewitt. His family asks that in lieu of flowers guests donate to the Turner Family Scholarship at the McLennan Community College Foundation or to Friends for Life.