The Making of a Compassionate Warrior: Lynn Turner

A series of columns have been written over the last ten years that highlighted the faces of the Alberni Valley Hospice Society. They shed light on the people who brought Hospice services to the Alberni region way back in 1982; on those who nurtured the concept of Hospice for the citizens of the Valley, fighting valiantly for a dream to open a facility for residents who have entered their final journey; and on those who help to keep the services running today.

They are stories of great courage, boundless compassion and endless energy. It is the intention of the Reflections Committee of the AV Hospice Society to compile all these articles into a book about the Alberni Hospice Society to be published in the near future, hopefully before the end of 2021. 

Sharon Hillman
Coordinator of the Reflections Program

Alberni Valley Hospice

(Written in 2012)

People who know Lynn Turner, former Executive Director of Ty Watson House, describe her as an exceptional visionary--a powerhouse. Many who know her story say that there simply would be no Ty Watson House without her. Those who walked many of the craggy steps with her over the ten years that it took to bring Ty Watson House, the vision, to Ty Watson House, the reality, credit Lynn as not only being the keeper of the dream of a stand-alone hospice home for people who were embarking on their final journey but she was also the pilot on the ship that finally sailed as Ty Watson House in January, 2009.

Lynn, herself, of course, is much more humble. It is something she just had to do given her beliefs, experiences and sensibilities.

 The roots of her vision for Ty Watson House reach back into her childhood. She lost a younger sister when she was twelve years old and, a year later, she lost her father. Back then, little was understood about the dynamics of grief, especially for children. Deaths were not to be talked about--why bring up all that pain again? As Lynn matured and other life experiences gave shape to her understandings, she recognized that burying the feelings of grief is not a healthy way to deal with them. Stuffed feelings and unresolved issues will manifest themselves somehow and not always in a good way. She wondered why there couldn’t be help available to people who were dealing with profound grief following the death of a loved one. Evidence that that query has ultimately been answered at Ty Watson House lies in the hiring of a grief counselor; in the stacks of literature on the grieving process that line the bookshelves in the lending library; and, indeed, in the operation of the House itself. 

Lynn eventually married and had three daughters. As the girls grew, knowing she had  much more capacity to love, she and her husband adopted a two and a half year old boy, whom they called “Will”. “He had such a sweetness to him,” Lynn says. It was this core sweetness that carried the family through the challenges that came with life with Will. Advocating for him while coming to terms with his deafness and with his resultant behavioral issues became a way of life for Lynn and her family as Will was growing up. Throughout those early years of advocacy, Lynn developed important skills that would eventually stand her in good stead as she fought to bring Ty Watson House to fruition.

Her burgeoning skills expanded further when the absolutely unthinkable happened. At sixteen, while in the company of some friends in the Vancouver area, Will was shot in the forehead. The miracle is that Will lived. “That name we gave him truly was the right one for him as his will to live is undeniable”. Will would never speak or walk again but Lynn’s long battle to gain support for him, to secure his rights as a human being, to make respectable living quarters in their home for him, including an elevator, created a woman who could not take “No” for an answer if she truly believed she was on the right track--an invaluable skill that she later brought with her to the fight for Ty Watson House.

For Will to use the pool at Echo Centre became yet another challenge for Lynn. It was not a truly accessible place for people with disabilities and for a person who was quadriplegic there was so much to be done to make it welcoming. While the City was strapped for funds, Lynn took on the battle to gain funding to build more change rooms that were family oriented and to get sliding automatic doors to the pool. Through this process, Lynn learned the value of teamwork and the value of lobbying. As she says, “Nothing gets done by one person alone. You need to form relationships with like-minded people. In the end, it is all about relationships.” This revelation would prove to be especially significant in winning the battle to open Ty Watson House.

A final critical step in creating this passionate leader was when she and her husband decided to take in a dear friend who was dying. Lynn was sure that she could look after all her friend’s needs, sure that her caring and commitment would carry her through. Two weeks into what became a six week journey, Lynn learned yet another invaluable lesson. One person cannot do it all when caring for a dying loved one! You must have a team effort and you must have expertise on your side.  It is this profound belief that allowed Lynn to eventually assemble a team that brought Ty Watson to where it is now--a caring home with critical expertise for residents and families.

See the next column for how Lynn, along with equally passionate fighters, turned a dream into reality.

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