Joseph Collins Penrith Turner

Published 3:32 pm Wednesday, September 21, 2022

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Joseph Collins Penrith Turner died on September 11, 2022 at the age of 81.

Joe was born on March 22, 1941 in Alamosa, Colorado and spent the rest of his life in Demopolis, Alabama. Surrounded by his British paternal grandparents and his large clan of Collins cousins, young and old, Joe developed early on a deep curiosity of history, genealogy and place. As a young boy, Joe was given a Kodak Brownie camera as a gift from his father. From that moment on, his favorite place was behind the lens of a camera. He built a darkroom at home, enjoyed displaying his projects at local art shows, and won several amateur awards as best in show.

In the early 1990’s following the sale of the family business, Demopolis Hickory Mill, where he had worked since leaving college, Joe was able to pursue photography fully as an avocation. He completed his undergraduate BFA degree at the New College at the University of Alabama. Joe then moved to Aberdeen, Mississippi where he was hired to produce black & white prints from thousands of glass plate negatives of F. S. McKnight, a 19th century photographer. The project was funded by a grant through the University of Mississippi and the National Geographic Society. Undeterred by his 58 years of age, Joe attended The  Savannah College of Art & Design receiving a Masters of Fine Arts. He returned to Demopolis where he taught photography formally and informally in the community for several years.

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Joe loved discussing art, southern literature, independent films, or the latest album of his favorite musician.  One of his pastimes in the later years of his life was showing the Black Belt area to visitors of Demopolis. His wit, deep knowledge of local history, creative eye, gentility and kindness were hallmarks of his life. However,  Joe’s greatest enjoyment was his family.  He adored his four children and six grandchildren. Their lives and adventures were always received with delight, a listening ear and an open mind. He and his wife of 57 years, Martha, loved being with their family and entertaining friends whether at their home, Ashe Cottage, or their farm.

Joe was a proud graduate of the Demopolis High School Class of 1959. He graduated from Marion Military Institute and attended Birmingham Southern College where he was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon. He was an active member of the Marengo County Historical Society, a trustee of the St. Andrew’s Cemetery Association, a supporter of the Marengo County History & Archives Museum and a parishioner of Trinity Episcopal Church.

Joseph Collins Penrith Turner was preceded in death by his parents, Gwyndolyn Collins and David Sinclair Turner, and his sister, Margaret Penrith Turner Coleman. He is survived by his loving wife Martha Emily Hightower Turner, his devoted children, Hannah Sinclair Turner Lavey(John), Sarah Chandler Turner Hallmark(Luke), John Hightower Turner(Ashley) and Emily Collins Turner Brown; his beloved grandchildren Frances St. John Nix  and Mary Sparks Lavey; Andrew Parker Hallmark; Catherine Sinclair, John Hightower Jr., and Anne McLeod Turner; his brother David Penrith Turner(Barbara); his brother-in-law John Wilbanks Coleman; his nieces Elizabeth Collins Coleman Gillis(Justin) and Laura Wilbanks Coleman and his great-nephew Grey McCalla Gillis.

Joe’s life will be celebrated at Trinity Episcopal Church in Demopolis, Alabama at 11:00 am on Friday, September 23, followed by a luncheon at the parish hall. A private burial service will be at St. Andrew’s in Prairieville.  In lieu of flowers, contributions in Joe’s memory can be made to Marengo County Historical Society, P.O. Box 159, Demopolis, AL 36732.