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H Jo Turner

Obituary for HuEna Jo Turner | Cotrell Funeral Service

Jo Turner, whose high school choirs were the envy of music teachers across Missouri, died Tuesday, November 21, 2017, at a local nursing home. She was 84 and had been in declining health for several years.


Born HuEna Jo James on Jan. 1, 1933, on a farm near Clarkton, Mrs. Turner credited her cotton farmer father with her early interest in music. "Daddy could sing anything he ever heard and we had great fun harmonizing around the farm," she recalled.

After graduating from Gideon High School in 1950, she attended Central Methodist College at Fayette, Mo., as a music major for two and a half years. In May of 1953 she married Robert Moore Turner and she began her career teaching both vocal and instrumental music in grades 1 through 12 in the Clarkton and Gideon schools. Mr. Turner died in October of 1982.

They moved to Butler County in 1960 and Mrs. Turner taught music in the Fisk schools for three years. In 1968 she earned a bachelor of music education degree from Southeast Missouri University.

Mrs. Turner began teaching in the Poplar Bluff R-1 Junior and Senior High Schools in 1969 and retired in 1991. Her choirs often earned No. 1 ratings at district contests and many of her students earned top ratings in district and state solo and ensemble competition. Hundreds of her students were inspired to a lifetime of music and several went on to careers in music education.

Mrs. Turner directed chancel choirs at both the First Christian Church and the First United Methodist Church. She also organized a community choir and served as a board member of the Friends of the Poplar Bluff Public Library.

After retiring, she continued to give private voice and piano lessons in her home. At contest time each spring, her driveway frequently was lined with the cars of high school music students who came after school and on weekends to have "Miz Turner" listen to them sing and critique their efforts.

An accomplished vocal soloist, Mrs. Turner, as a young woman, auditioned to sing at the Municipal "Muny" Opera in St. Louis. She won the audition but later decided she "didn't have the nerve" to take the job.

In 2006, many years after her time at Central Methodist College, the Missouri Choral Directors Association honored Mrs. Turner with the annual Luther T. Spayde Award, the organization's highest accolade. As a student at Central Methodist, she had sung in Dr. Spayde's select A Cappella Choir. "Prof" Spayde had organized that choir and directed it for 40 years, earning nationwide recognition.

Past recipients of the Spayde award had included Tom Mills, conductor of the University of Missouri-Columbia Singers; Doyle Dumas, director of choirs at Southeast Missouri State University; Richard Weymuth, choral director at Northwest Missouri State University, and R. Paul Drummond, vocal music professor and conductor at Central Methodist University.

Mrs. Turner also was preceded in death by her parents, Hugh and Irene James.

Survivors include two children, Vickie Jo Turner and Robert Hugh (Gina) Turner, both of Poplar Bluff; four grandchildren, Gabriel Carson Knapp, Megan (Chad) Buttrey, Hunter Turner and Abby Turner; and four great-grandchildren, Kallie Knapp, Carson Knapp, Khloe Knapp and Amelia Jo Buttrey.