‘Avenue of the Flags’ co-founder Stan Turner dies at 86
By Chris Smith | Jul 7, 2016

As a young man, Stan Turner became a U.S. Marine and found the experience so agreeable he imagined himself making a career of military service. A grenade blast in Korea shattered that plan.

“He was on his back for more than the next year,” said one of Turner’s sons, Alan Turner of Santa Rosa.

The severe battlefield injuries Stan Turner suffered forced him to leave the Marines, but becoming a casualty of war came with a silver lining. While the Ohio native recovered at a hospital in Oakland he was treated to a day-trip to the village of Mendocino, where he met Beatrice Freathy.

They married a while later, settled eventually in Santa Rosa and raised three children. Stan Turner worked for the telephone company and discovered a fulfilling avocation as a Boy Scout leader, and after retirement became a widely respected leader among Sonoma County’s military veterans.

He died June 22 when a fierce fire engulfed the garage of his and wife’s home near Santa Rosa’s Howarth Park. He was 86.

Bea Turner was able to escape and, after hospital treatment, she is living at a board-and-care home.

For the past 30 years or so, Stan Turner was the dignified, sparsely spoken, good-looking Marine veteran who capably made things happen for vets but preferred not to take the microphone or stage.

“He was happy to be behind the scenes,” Alan Turner said. “He really enjoyed planning and then watching the plan become executed.”

Stan Turner co-founded the Memorial Day “Avenue of the Flags” tribute at Santa Rosa Memorial Park. He helped pull off many of the flea markets veterans with the Forty & Eight honorary society host to raise scholarship money for Santa Rosa Junior College nursing students. He was an ardent advocate of housing, medical care and employment for combat veterans.

“He wasn’t just a joiner,” said Steve Bosshard, a fellow Marine veteran also active in the Avenue of the Flags and other vet-related Sonoma County community activities. “He was one of those guys who came in and rolled up his sleeves.”

Turner “was fantastic to work with,” Bosshard said. “He was easy to get along with — and he was organized!”

Until failing health caused him to cut back, Turner contributed much to Forty & Eight Sonoma Voiture 338, American Legion Post 21, the Military Order of the Purple Heart Chapter 78, the United Veterans Council, the Marine Corps League Detachment 686 and its allied Military Order of Devil Dogs Sonoma Pound No. 257. Often, he performed with honors teams in parades and at funerals and other events.

“He just did everything,” said Bosshard.

Through it all, Bosshard added, Turner savored his time with his best friend and wife of more than 60 years.

“The sun rose and set on Bea,” he said.

Stanley Ashur Turner Jr. was born Oct. 13, 1929, in Dayton, Ohio, and spent most of his childhood in Denver. He wasn’t long out of high school when he enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1948.

Alan Turner said his father applied for officers’ school but while his request was moving through channels, the Korean conflict broke out in June 1950. He was shipped to Inchon.

On Sept. 28, Stan Turner was in a foxhole when a grenade exploded. Fellow Sonoma County veteran Carlton Smirni remembers Turner telling him with great reverence that the blast just behind him surely would have killed him had a second Marine not died taking the brunt.

Seriously wounded by grenade shrapnel, Turner was evacuated from Korea. Upon his honorable discharge he returned to Denver.

In the interim, while still a patient in Oakland, he’d met and taken to Beatrice Freathy in Mendocino. Son Alan said that at a point in their budding relationship, she wrote to him in Colorado, “Hey, Dude, get a job and I’ll marry you.”

Stan Turner returned to the Denver phone company he’d worked at prior to joining the Marines. He came to Mendocino for the wedding, then the newlyweds set up housekeeping in Denver.

They relocated to California in 1963, settling first in Rohnert Park. Stan Turner hired on with the phone company, becoming responsible for overseeing the Cotati office.

As a dad, he became a Girl Scout and Job’s Daughters leader for daughter Melissa. He also put in many years as a Boy Scout leader, mentoring both of his sons, Alan and Stan.

“He was an avid outdoorsman,” Alan Turner said. Around the house, he savored working with his hands.

“Most everything at the house he had created in some way, shape or form,” the younger Turner said. “He wasn’t afraid to tackle anything new.”

Stan Turner and his wife had shared their home on Nebraska Drive for more than 60 years when the fire broke out in the garage 16 days ago.

In addition to his wife and son in Santa Rosa, Turner is survived by daughter Melissa Turner, of Seattle; son Stanley Turner III, of Houston; five grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

Several veterans groups grateful to Turner are participating in services that will begin at 2 p.m. on July 16 at the Santa Rosa Veterans Memorial Building.

Turner’s family suggests memorial contributions to Theodore Roosevelt Post No. 21, American Legion, 1251 Maple Ave., Santa Rosa 95404, or to favorite charities.

Chris Smith is at 521-5211 and chris.smith@pressdemocrat.com.

Stan Turner (far left) was killed in a Santa Rosa house fire on Wednesday, June 22, 2016. (FAMILY PHOTO)