Edward D. Turner Jr. had a joie de vivre that was irrepressible: He loved dancing, jazz, and a good party. He also had a serious side that he expressed through his work with the United Church of Christ, where he was known as an effective mediator.
Turner, a resident of Hartford since birth, died June 13 of liver cancer. He was 54.
He was an extrovert with a broad smile who would talk with anyone about anything, but he had a strong interest in the arts, and loved to hear his favorites: Earth, Wind & Fire and Michael Jackson.
He and his spouse, Larry Roeming, were regulars at the Greater Hartford Jazz Festival and the Hartford Jazz Society's annual jazz cruise, and went to Newport, R.I., New Orleans and Montreal to hear more live music.
Turner, born on July 8, 1959, grew up in the family home on Edgewood Street. His mother, Margaret Connor Turner, was a paraprofessional in the Hartford school system and his father, Edward Turner Sr., worked in the post office. He attended the Renbrook School in West Hartford and later when to Loomis Chaffee in Windsor.
He told his parents he wanted to become a dancer — but they vetoed that plan because of the profession's inherent financial instability.
After majoring in business administration at Northeastern University, he remained in Boston for several years before returning to Hartford, where he began a career with the state Department of Labor as a program and service coordinator. He eventually became responsible for the Equal Opportunity unit and supervised the division involved with migrant seasonal workers, advocating for their rights on farms and orchards.
"He took his work seriously and tried to help out when he could," said Diana Arbelaez, a colleague.
He worked for several years with a non-profit organization, Options LLC, as a coach and mentor to help students find work and gain work experience. He also was a member of the board of directors for Hands On Hartford, a social service agency.
When his mother became ill, he left work to care for her full time. Margaret Turner died in 2010 in the Edgewood Street home.
"It hit him hard," Roeming said, but over the past few years, Turner became deeply involved with Center Church in Hartford, where he served on several committees and was a leader of the youth group.
Turner also was active with the Connecticut Conference of the United Church of Christ and served as a lay leader of one of their groups.
One of his special concerns was seeing that social programs received funding. "He cared, and he made things happen for other people," said the Rev. Keith Bolton, pastor of the Liberty Christian Center International, a UCC church in Hartford.
Turner's insight and tact helped smooth over relations between Bolton and the conference, Bolton said.
"I had a reputation for being aloof," said Bolton, who is one of only seven African American clergy leading predominantly black congregations in Connecticut. "Part of me wanted to get closer to the denomination."
Turner helped bring that about. "He's going out of his way to reach out to me rather than assuming I was deliberately alienating myself," Bolton said. "And in a very charming way [didn't] take no for an answer. ... He was a peacemaker. He had the notion there was always common ground, and had a way of helping people see what that was."
Turner loved parties and was adept at working the room, talking with everyone, and was always the last one off the dance floor.
While he could be outspoken, he was also kind.
"He made others feel comfortable," said his sister, Beverly Turner Nash. "He wanted to be able to bring people together. A lot of people don't want to expend that energy. But he cared."
In addition to his spouse and his sister, Turner is survived by his nephew, Spencer A. Nash.