C. Patricia Turner, 90, formerly of Collingdale, a school cafeteria worker and a volunteer whose cheery presence made hospital patients smile, died Tuesday, July 7, of a heart arrhythmia at St. Martha Center for Rehabilitation in Downingtown.

Known as “Patty,” she was born in Southwest Philadelphia to Herbert and Katherine Davenport. She was a 1946 graduate of West Catholic High School. Her family later moved to Upper Darby.

In 1953, she married James “Jimmy” Turner, a master plumber who worked for the post office at 30th and Market streets.

The couple moved to Collingdale, where Mrs. Turner worked in the cafeteria at Harris Elementary School for more than 30 years.

For some of that time, Mrs. Turner’s two sons were away at college. Her daughter was still at home, but Mrs. Turner missed the bustle of kids. The elementary school children filled that gap.

“It brought her the most joy in the world, being around the kids,” said her son James M.P. Turner Jr. “She couldn’t wait to cook and go out and serve the children. She knew the names of all the children, and they knew her.”

Mrs. Turner was known to friends as "Patty." She was a cafeteria worker, then a hospital volunteer.
Courtesy of the Turner Family.
Mrs. Turner was known to friends as "Patty." She was a cafeteria worker, then a hospital volunteer.

To keep busy after retiring in 2000, Mrs. Turner volunteered at the Delaware County Memorial Hospital in Drexel Hill. Her work as a candy striper involved delivering flowers or candy to the patients’ rooms and doing other small chores.

“She did it every day,” her son said. “She went in five days a week. This was her job for 16 years. She loved the people. There were five or six volunteers who would hang in a room until someone would come by with flowers. It was like a coffee club with the other volunteers.”

Since Mrs. Turner never learned to drive, there were days when she took the bus and trolley to get to the hospital, sometimes through storms. When she stopped volunteering in 2016, the hospital honored her with a plaque on a wall bearing her picture.

“Her volunteer work at the hospital was central to her life,” the family said in a statement. “She was always looking to help someone less fortunate, even though Patty had little.”

The one thing Mrs. Turner did have was an infectious laugh that could be heard before she even entered a room. “It was an unbelievable, guttural laugh that you could hear a block away,” her son said.

Her caregivers at St. Martha in Downingtown, where she spent her final days, told the Turner family that hearing the laughter brightened their day. “Let me hear that laugh,” they would ask, her son said. “And everyone knew who it was.”

Mrs. Turner loved spending summers with her family in Stone Harbor at the Jersey Shore. She enjoyed having a highball with her mother and four sisters at the old Shelter Haven at 96th Street and Third Avenue. The original hotel, which dated from the early 1900s, is gone, but it once offered music and dancing.

“It was within easy walking distance of their home on the bay at 95th Street,” her son said. “It was like the Palumbo’s of the Shore.”

Once she started a family, Mrs. Turner spent summers at the Collingdale Swim Club, adjacent to the Turner property. Every summer day, for more than 30 years, she crossed the backyard to the pool grounds, where she relaxed with family and friends. “It was idyllic growing up, although we didn’t know it,” her son said.

Mrs. Turner’s son Francis lived only eight days. Her four sisters also preceded her in death.

In addition to her husband and son, she is survived by another son, Michael P.; a daughter, Bridget A. Knapp; seven grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

A Funeral Mass will be at 10:30 a.m. Friday, July 10, at St. Joseph’s Church, 500 Woodlawn Ave., Collingdale. Interment will follow in SS. Peter and Paul Cemetery, Springfield.