By Joe Barkovich, Scribbler-at-large
My lasting image of Fred Turner, the much admired, former City of Welland treasurer who died Saturday, March 21, aged 94, is from weekday lunch dates at The Rex.
We were a foursome.
There was Fred, seated directly across from me. There was his wife Liz, seated adjacent to me. There was their son Paul, seated on the other side. For family guy Fred – their presence, the circumstances – was sheer joy. It was so evident. It lit up his face. A look of love. A lasting image if ever there was one.
Our lunch menu was always the same: a bowl of minestrone soup for Liz, pizza for Fred and me. Paul’s varied from week to week. He pre-ordered for all by telephone so the lunch would be ready when we arrived from Rapelje Lodge.
Oh yes. Liz had a glass of pinot grigio, a good selection to accompany the minestone that she near blanketed under frequent flurries of parmesan cheese, and Fred had a glass of beer, more if he wanted. Liz rarely finished her wine.
It was a simple lunch but one that was ritual laden.
There were always toasts: “Cheers!”, party girl Liz would say lifting her glass, and we would join in. There was clinking of glasses. Liz made sure Fred’s was first on her rounds, and then we joined in too. Once was never enough. “Cheers!” was the word of the day at our table, rising up six, seven, eight times, always followed by a chime of clinks. How sweet it was.
They – the Turners, Fred and Liz, were married 68 years. Liz made sure I didn’t forget it, reminding me once or twice during every lunch date. And then she would reach out, pick up Fred’s hand that was nearest hers, and give it a kiss. Always a soft, gentle kiss. Always. How sweet it was.
Friend Paul made me part of this lunch experience what, two, maybe three years ago? Fred and Liz were still at Seasons Welland on First Avenue back then. On one of our first outings, Paul stopped by our house to pick me up. Fred was already in the front seat, it was a boys-only outing that day, Liz was not there.
“How are you, Fred?” I asked while fumbling, as always, with the back seat belt buckle.
“First class, Joe,” Fred bubbled, glancing over his shoulder. “I’m first class.”
I realized it instantaneously: On our way to lunch at The Rex, a nickname was born. From that day onward, Fred Turner became my forever pal, First Class Fred.
Lunches with the Turners. How sweet they were.
(Lasting Image is a recurring feature on the blog. Some others in the series: Gerry Berkhout: He Shone His Light On Others, January 4, 2019; Ivan Zecchini: His Countenance Glowed From Wide-Eyed Appreciation, July 18, 2018; Steve Krar: Neighbourhood Nostalgia Buff, Visionary Leader, July 11, 2018; Mother Alba Puglia: Tireless Trailblazer, June 18, 2018; Martin Walsh: One Of Our Finest, March 2, 2018; Michael Santone: A Barber of King Street, January 23, 2018; Jimmy Roberto: September 11, 2015; Bob Fralick: May 7, 2014; Frank Addario: February 24, 2014.)