On Sunday, September 17, 2023, Dawn Creighton Turner passed away peacefully at the Turner ranch in Franklin, Texas at the age of 81. All those who knew her felt thankful for their time with her, but also understood that the pain from her absence in this world would not be easily assuaged. Those closest to her were immediately taken with the inescapable feeling that they would be, all at once, edified by her memory, inspired by her spirit, and forever missing her shining smile. She was known as a loving wife, mother, and homemaker. She had stubbornly refused to yield to stage 4 pancreatic cancer since her diagnosis in December 2022, and continued to live, dance, visit, worship, and serve others until she was ready to let go. Her last conversations involved her concern for her loved ones travelling safely to visit her. Her last words were always “I love you,” and she chose her last moment to be when her husband, son, and daughter were all at her bedside holding her hand.
These selfless sentiments were not simply because she was at the end of her journey. Dawn was an example of a person who put the care and needs of others above her own. She was the greatest wife, mother, sister, and friend that any of us could imagine. She carried us through our tough times, encouraged us when we felt defeated, fed us when we were hungry, and defended us when we were challenged. She was a foundational support to all, and a mother that was involved in every part of her family’s lives. Of course, she cleaned up after us and tended to our cuts and bruises, but, beyond this, she taught us to be our own fierce advocates. She displayed an unmatched work ethic and tenacity that inspired us all to try to emulate her sheer will and toughness.
Dawn was born the first daughter of Guy and Ruth Crieghton on June 8, 1942, in Vernon, Texas. Her sister, Marjorie, was born in August 1946 while they were living and working in Denver City, Texas. The family then moved to Midland, Texas in 1947. Marjorie remembers enjoying swimming and diving with Dawn during her childhood. They often enjoyed picnics in Cloverdale Park as kids. Dawn earned good grades in school. The Creightons treated Sundays as a special day and made their Sunday dinners a formal family affair. Holidays were celebrated with every candy imaginable and lots of food. Easter meant dyeing eggs with silk ties, a tradition Dawn carried forward and shared with her own kids.
As a young girl in October 1955, Dawn attended a concert of a young Elvis Presley in the auditorium of Midland High School. Dawn enjoyed the concert and was able to meet the polite singer afterwards. He signed a picture on the roof of his pink Cadillac. The other acts from the program offered their autographs as well, and the young men signed the back of the photo of Elvis with their respective names; Floyd Cramer, Jimmy C. Newman, and Johnny Cash. The men’s brief brush with greatness would later push Floyd and Jimmy to both have hit songs, while Elvis and Johnny were also inspired to go on to moderately successful careers in the music industry.
Dawn attended Midland High School, graduating in 1960. She was a sophomore majorette and a junior “Future Farmer Sweetheart.” Dawn joined the band and played saxophone. Despite questionable prowess on the French Horn, Bill Turner’s 6’2” height made him an impressive drum major and gave him the opportunity to meet Dawn. Soon, they were marching to the beat of the same drum, and on March 2, 1962, they committed their lives to each other and were married in Midland, Texas. Dawn worked while Bill attended graduate school at Oklahoma State University. Dawn volunteered at the hospital and went to nursing school until 1970, when they added Holly to their family. Feeling a need for balance in the world, they welcomed Jay in 1973.
Dawn made holidays the most special occasions. During most of the year, Dawn taught her children the value of hard work and saving money from their allowance, only to shower them with gifts, magic, and love each birthday and Christmas. Dawn made tantalizing dishes and desserts of every kind for her Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. Her children and daughter-in-law did their best to learn how to make her amazing squash casserole, broccoli rice casserole, noodles with tomato gravy and steak fingers, salads, and chocolate chess pie. They now share these dishes with her grandchildren.
She enjoyed painting, crocheting stockings and afghans for every family member, cooking (almost every meal was home-cooked), shopping, and just taking great care of everyone else. The Turners moved from Baton Rouge, Louisiana to Starkville, Mississippi, then back to Baton Rouge from 1978-1987. They moved back to Texas in 1987 and settled in College Station for several years.
On the day of their anniversary, March 2, 1999, Dawn and Bill finally made good on their oft-repeated threat and “headed west,” retiring to their ranch in Franklin, Texas. The couple spent their golden years raising cattle at the ranch. Dawn, despite her petite 5’2” frame, was an unmatched ranch hand. She took on any chore, lugging 50-pound bags of feed, cutting loose bales of hay from the tractor in the field, braving the heat of summer and freezing rain in winter to do her part tending to the flourishing herd. Eventually, Dawn and Bill ceded part of their land to their long-time top hand, Travis Aaron, so that he could stay close to continue to assist them and raise his own family next door. Travis and his wife Rachel would go on to become extended members of the family.
Dawn was known to others as a person with endless compassion, but she did not limit her kindness to other people. Over the years, Dawn bottle fed orphaned calves, taught a parakeet to blow kisses and say “pretty bird,” and cared for cats, numerous stray dogs, orphaned opossums, horses, cattle, chickens, a pet gerbil, a goldfish, a white rat named “Amadeus,” a guinea pig, and one Savannah Sparrow named “Bode,” a chick she rescued moments before it became a victim of Texas fire ants. Like that sparrow, Dawn’s spirit has been set free.
Dawn, like the sunrise for which she was named, filled our world with light, gave us warmth and life, and asked for nothing in return. The unveiling of the sun is the most hopeful and promising part of the day. The day can seem ordinary after dawn has ended. Those who knew Dawn will continue to do their best to fill the world with light of their own, inspired by the nurturing love she exuded.
Dawn is survived and celebrated by her loving husband of 62 years, Bill Turner, her sister and brother-in-law Marjorie and Paul Rigney, her son and daughter-in-law, Jay and Jennifer Turner, her daughter Holly Turner, and four grandchildren, Elizabeth Rasco, Julian Rasco, Zoey Turner, and Nora Turner.
There will be a service to celebrate the time our angel, Dawn, spent on Earth. It will be held on Wednesday, September 27th, 2023. There will be a coffee and doughnut visitation beginning at 9:30 am. The celebration of life service will begin at 11 am, followed by a lunch fellowship hour. The service will be held at:
The Church at Five Points
9267 FM 2569
Bryan, TX 77808
Dawn’s ashes will be interred at the Turner family plot at Sweetwater Cemetary in Sweetwater, Texas. There will be a brief private family service.
In lieu of flowers, the family has asked for donations to be made in her name to The Church at Five Points at the address listed above, MD Anderson Cancer Center, or St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.