Elizabeth A. TurnerMarch 19,2013
Elizabeth A. Turner
WORCESTER — Elizabeth Anne Turner, B.A., MLS, M.D., J.D., was an amazing woman. She worked hard at all she achieved. She believed that helping people was the most important task in her life. Her life ended on March 16, 2013, after slipping down the nasty slope of dementia.
Elizabeth Anne “Libby” Turner was born on July 13, 1936, to Howard and Elizabeth Cordelia (Cairnes) Turner. She grew up with her older brother, by five years, Howard Jr., and a younger sister, by four years, Nancy. They lived and worked on a dairy farm in Black Horse, Harford County, Md.
Libby was active in her school, her church and 4-H growing up. She played baseball on the third-grade boys team, “because they needed her,” she was the best hitter. In her teens, she, her sister and cousins, Jane and Juliette Anne, had a singing group that performed at social functions in the area. Libby had a beautiful alto voice.
Beginning in first grade, she would finish her work and then help the slower children with theirs.
She graduated from North Harford High School in 1954. She graduated from Maryville College in Tennessee in 1958 with a Bachelor of Arts in English. She loved words and was tortured by math. She earned a Master of Library Science from Drexel University in Philadelphia the following year. She worked in the Agricultural Library in Peoria, Ill. The director of the program told her from the beginning that women were not smart enough to become doctors, and she was certainly an example of that gender. After four years, she returned to Baltimore and worked in the university library while taking classes to prepare for applying to medical school.
At the library, she looked up from her work to see “the most beautiful woman” walk across the aisle. Libby found out she also worked in the library and met her. They developed a friendship. One afternoon, Libby took a huge risk for that time in society and told this woman that she was a lesbian. The woman said, not me. That night, Janet called Libby and said, we need to talk. That began their relationship that lasted 34 years and only ended in Janet’s too early death from cancer. They loved each other with all their hearts. Libby was devastated by Janet’s death.
Libby earned a place in the University of Maryland’s medical school. She entered as one of six women in the class and graduated as one of two women in 1968. She completed her internship and residency at York Hospital in York, Pa. Libby was the first woman to be accepted for an internship and the only woman in her internship class. This event made the paper at the time.
Janet and Libby had a private practice in Black Horse for three years before moving to Vermont.
Dr. Turner worked at Central Vermont Hospital in the Emergency Room. She eventually became the director of the E.R. She was dedicated and believed that everyone who worked for her should be as invested in being a doctor as she was. Janet and Libby worked holidays so the doctors with families could be home with their children. Both Janet and Libby gave expert testimony in trials involving medical issues over the years. Libby passed her boards in both family practice and emergency medicine.
At the age of 50, Libby enrolled at Vermont Law School as a full-time student. She worked at the Vermont State Hospital during these years at night. She loved the residents and enjoyed doing rounds. Libby graduated in 1989 with a Juris Doctorate.
She completed her clerkship in the Medicaid Fraud Protection Unit of the attorney general’s office. She then worked for the Vermont League of Cities and Towns. She wrote booklets to help town clerks and officers understand points of their jobs. She worked to answer questions accurately and clearly.
Libby volunteered for a number of organizations over the years; often, she began work as a board member and ended up being the chair. She worked for the Shelter House Project as a board member, chair and on the battered women’s hot line.
Libby was on the Select Board for the town of Worcester and was chair of the board. She also was town moderator for a year.
Libby was on the Medical Practice Board for the state of Vermont and was the chair of the board.
Libby was Green Up coordinator for Worcester for several years, as well.
Libby volunteered for Central Vermont Home Health and Hospice as a hospice volunteer for several years.
Libby was the medical expert for mock trials at Vermont Law School.
The people of the town of Worcester were very lucky to have Janet and Libby living in their town. They freely gave of their time and expertise to medically needy neighbors. One neighbor was smashed between two cars and had no insurance. They doctored him to health. Another needed a shot every week. Another needed to be looked in on so she could stay out of the nursing home. And so it goes on.
Janet and Libby owned rental properties in Barre. They took care of their tenants, as well as collecting the rent. Better landladies could not be found.
Libby recognized that her cognitive faculties were declining. She tried to make accommodations so she could continue to be independent. She was devastated when her car keys were taken away. She thought she could no longer help people. She was angry and there was not a thing she could do to reverse her decline. No matter how hard she worked, she could not achieve the goal of independence again.
People helped Libby stay in her home. The wonderful Sandy Mann took Libby shopping for food when she was still able and willing to be in public. She lived with Libby’s anger as the disease progressed at not being able to remember what she wanted to buy, how to use money, how to sign her name.
The personal care assistants from Central Vermont Home Health and Hospice were wonderful. They read, cooked, sang, talked and cared for Libby so she knew she was important. She was not always easy to care for as she fought the losing battle to maintain her independence. Mark, Keri, Ashley, Crystal, Erica (2), June, Mary Francis, Dawn and many others were vital to the task of allowing Libby to stay in her home.
Bonnie Pollard and Kathy Menninger were longtime friends who stepped up to work with Libby as she declined, to allow her to live at home.
Libby is survived by her brother, Howard, of Arizona, and his children, Mary, Roseanna and James, and her sister, Nancy, of Maryland, her husband, Nelson Berigtold, and their children, Amy and Margaret. She is also survived by her family in the United Kingdom, Robert and Brenda Anthony and their adult children, David, James, Richard, Rachel and their families. She was predeceased by a nephew, Andrew Turner.
She is also survived by people she considered family over the years, Selman Wright; John and Sarah Loder and their children, Janet Elizabeth, Katie and Joseph; Holly Perdue and Cheri Goldstein, who coordinated her care and were her choice to make those decisions.
Libby was a woman of substance and courage. She was a role model and a pioneer for women who came after her. We all stand on her shoulders today. She will be missed terribly, but we rejoice that she is no longer living in pain and confusion. Her spirit is now with the spirit of Janet. May they soar together forever. Libby and Janet’s ashes will be commingled and buried at a later time alongside their beloved cats. A memorial service will be held at the Unitarian Church in Barre at 2 p.m. on Friday, March 22, with a reception to follow.
Donations may be made to the “Janet Anthony Fund” that is used to provide medical care to animals that might otherwise not get the help they need, ORAH 36, Three Mile Bridge Road, Middlesex, VT 05602. Libby also would be honored if we each gave a book to a child or donated to your local children’s library.
Those wishing to express online condolences may do so at www.guareandsons.com.
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