Golf 03

Erwin LeRoy Turnbull

March 1, 1926 ~ May 15, 2022 (age 96)


Erwin LeRoy (Lee) Turnbull

March 1, 1926-May 15, 2022


Lee Turnbull was born in Seattle, Washington on March 1, 1926, the only child of Mary Sinkovic Turnbull and J. C. Turnbull.  Lee often commented that if it were a leap year when he was born, he would be much younger, ten years old on his 40th birthday, etc.  His early years were spent on his grandfather’s farm in Cumberland, Washington and in Burien, Washington. His family moved to Tacoma beginning with his elementary school years.


Lee was a smart student and a talented athlete from a very early age. He was advanced a year ahead in school and graduated a year ahead in 1943. Lee’s mother started a large scrap book with many newspaper articles about his athletic prowess in baseball, basketball (high school team captain), golf and football. On his application to join the Marines, he also indicated he was qualified in track, tennis, boxing, wrestling and swimming as well as the forementioned.  He worked during high school delivering newspapers to substations for further distribution and parttime as a  longshoreman as the union card in his wallet attests. He took courses in advanced math, physics and chemistry. His 2 years of high school auto shop explains his meticulous care of his cars.


At about 14 years old, Lee had an unfortunate accident while riding his bicycle and was rushed to the hospital where he had the first successful splenectomy in Tacoma.  The doctors warned him that he would have a reduced lifespan as a result of no longer having a spleen, and he was happy to remark about how wrong the doctors were as he passed milestone birthdays, 65, 75, 85 and 95! Lee attended Bellarmine High School for his freshman year and transferred to Lincoln High School for his last three years.


When Lee was 16 years old, he caught the golfing bug and played continuously until age 90. Beginning about 1960 he joined Fircrest Golf Club as his home club, but routinely played many other courses in Pierce County. His interest in golf did not interfere with his high school and college football career. Lincoln High School performed well those years. In recent years, family was surprised to see a photo of Lee and five teammates featured in a photo in the “Looking Back” section of the News Tribune, although at the time Lee was the only player still surviving.  Lee was recruited to continue his football career at Washington State College, but due to the war, all games in the Pacific Coast League were cancelled. Lee immediately transferred to College of Puget Sound listing pre-engineering as his major.


At the end of his first college school year on June 16, 1944, Lee enlisted in the Marines and went to sea school in San Diego finishing on August 19, 1944. He was assigned to the USS Indiana on October 25, 1944 while it was being refurbished in Bremerton. He spent Christmas, 1944 on duty in Hawaii and then sailed across the Pacific to Japan, stopping at many infamous battle sites. His ship attacked a munitions factory in Japan, and found there was no resistance. The order then came for the ship to head for open waters, ensuring their safety when the atomic bombs were dropped on August 6&9, 1945.  A certificate in his scrapbook explains that Lee was a member of Task Force thirty-One and participated as a member of the Tokyo Bay Occupation Force in the initial landing and occupation of the Tokyo Bay Area and the Capture of HIJMS Nagato which symbolized the unconditional and complete surrender of the Japanese Navy which was awarded August 30, 1945. Lee was honorably discharged on April 7, 1946 at San Francisco.


Lee returned to the College of Puget Sound where he played football as previously planned. On August 14, 1948 he married Janet Langlow at First Lutheran Church in Tacoma.  Janet first caught Lee’s interest when she used to ride passed his home on her bicycle when they were both 12 years old. They became high school sweethearts. Like his wife, Lee became a physical education teacher for the Tacoma Schools. After two years at Baker Junior High, Lee spent the rest of his teaching career at Stewart Junior High. He retired after 30 years of teaching. He and his good friend and colleague at Stewart, Myrt Peterson taught ballroom and folk dancing throughout their careers at Stewart as a part of the physical education curriculum. After Title IX  in 1970, the physical education classes became co-ed and Lee talked about how talented the girls were in sports, which seemed to amaze him even though his wife was an accomplished athlete and physical education teacher.


Lee was a devoted father to children:  Kathryn, Mark and Kirk. Kathryn was active in ballet dancing and Lee transported her to and from lessons up to five times per week. Mark and Kirk were athletes participating in championship football through freshman football at the University of Washington (Mark) and varsity basketball (Kirk). Lee always supported these activities and would also have his sons join him annually at father-son golf days. Lee enjoyed his family, attending family picnics on his mother’s side as she had seven siblings, as well as Langlow events. Every birthday and anniversary was reason for a gathering at his Fircrest home. He and Janet’s large group of friends often celebrated New Year’s Eve and other holidays together there as well. Lee’s grandchildren are Geoff, Colin and Trevor Nelson, Paul and Matt Turnbull, and Victoria Langdon and Thomas Turnbull. Lee’s great grandchildren are Alice, Tucker, Maggie Nelson, Scarlett, Eli, Ivy Nelson, Ellie Mae Turnbull, and Palmer Langdon.


Lee worked hard to provide for his family. During summers when he was not teaching he would drive trucks as a teamster. Each of his children got to ride along from time to time. This involved getting up at 3 am and dropping a load in Anacortes and returning home about 3 pm. Although regulations prevent it now, it was a wonderful experience to be with Dad.


As indicated, Lee was a lifelong golf enthusiast. For many years his handicap was under 5. One summer Janet and his kids embarked upon the amateur tour of golf tournaments throughout Washington and the Pacific Northwest.  The kids don’t remember how well he played, but did remember swimming in all the country club pools. After retirement, Lee and Janet became snow birds traveling and living mainly in Yuma, Arizona where golf was available all winter long. Lee and Janet enjoyed tournaments and mixed ball events together as well as playing tennis and riding bicycles.


Lee was protective of his family, especially of Janet, his wife for 73.5 years.  As his life came to a close, his caregivers would remark about his directions when asked if they could do anything for him? “Just take care of my wife” was his repeated reply.  The family, friends and caregivers will miss him so much.

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