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.