HASLETT — Walter Turke was the eldest of two children born to Walter and Frieda Turke, whose parents emigrated from Germany to New York City in the late 1920s. Walter was raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., and aspired to be a physician.
At Franklin Lane High School Walter went on to become a star baseball player, pitching two no-hitters in his high school career. Walter’s prowess as a pitcher drew the attention of professional scouts, and the Pittsburgh Pirates drafted him following his senior year. He would ultimately surprise many by turning this offer down in order to fulfill his dreams of becoming a doctor.
Walter was accepted at the University of Iowa, a Big Ten University. Because of his struggle to put himself through medical school Walter made sure that a piece of every success, in every reward that life provided him went back to fund other disadvantaged students who dreamed of becoming a doctor.
Walter married Rosemarie Lengsfeld in 1952. They had three children by this union, Garrett, Cindy and Tiffanie. Walter’s career as a physician and psychiatrist took the family to a number of residences across the country, including stints in Norwich, Conn., Portsmouth, Va., where Walter attained a rank of Lt. Commander in the Navy, and Los Angeles, Calif., where we all had some wild times growing up in the 1960s! In the 1970s, the family would escape what Walter called the “rat race” of Los Angeles to settle in Traverse City, where we all fell in love with the outdoors, nature and Lake Michigan.
Walter was a champion for civil rights for the mentally ill. He wanted people diagnosed with severe mental illness unchained from their beds and treated kindly and humanely in as normalized an environment as possible. He specialized in the humane treatment of schizophrenics, veterans with severe post traumatic stress disorder and the homeless mentally ill. He often used his battle cry, “These people need to be humanized. Treat them with respect and dignity!” when referring to our mentally ill populations. He believed mentally ill people should have the right to work, laugh and sing like anyone else.
Walter loved diversity in the human experience and traveled the world extensively. His many trips, often with the family in tow, included visits to Asia, Africa, South America, Australia, Europe and the South Pacific.
Walter was a man who many loved and admired. He battled against the odds his whole life overcoming poverty, prostate cancer and triple bypass heart surgery. To many, Walter was a champion of the human spirit who conquered whatever obstacles life threw at him.
Walter died in peace and a happy, secure man. Some say that Alzheimer’s disease robs men and women of their dignity. That others loved and cared for him in the face of his affliction gave him the gift of unconditional love. We as a family are profoundly grateful for the staff at Clare Bridge Memory Care, as well as Heartland Hospice, who helped guide Walter to a place of eternal love. We will never forget the kindness of so many who made Walter’s life journey finally complete.
“A person should be judged in life not by his standing but by the obstacles he has had to overcome.” Walter lived his life according to this adage and always looked at others through this prism.
Walter is survived by his former wife, Rosemarie Turke, of East Lansing; his children, Garrett Turke, of Haslett, and Tiffanie Joy (Michael), of Williamston. He is also survived by many beloved others, including his pride and joy, his grandchildren, Lindsey and Brityn, and Shani and Miah. Also surviving are his former daughter-in-law, Stacy Turke; and former son-in-law, Donald Jenks Jr. In addition, the family would like to recognize and appreciate a whole host of friends in the Traverse City area who have maintained their steadfast support for Walter over the years.
There will be a separate announcement for a Celebratory Memorial Service later this year.
In lieu of flowers or gifts, please make a contribution in Walter’s name to one of the many funds for disadvantaged students at either the Michigan State University or University of Iowa Medical Schools.