M. Robert Turner Jr., 81, of Salford Township, a law-enforcement officer in Montgomery County for 33 years, died Saturday, Dec. 8, at Masonic Village in Elizabethtown, Pa.
Born in Philadelphia, Mr. Turner was a high school graduate who attended Peirce Business School and many seminars on municipal government.
He decided early on to dedicate himself to law enforcement. In 1955, at the age of 24, he was hired as a patrol officer in Upper Moreland Township, where he rose through the ranks to lieutenant.
Following a competitive exam, he was appointed chief of the Hatfield Township Police Department in 1965, becoming at 34 among the youngest to become a police chief in Montgomery County.
Under his tenure, the department grew from four officers operating out of a small room in the township building to a much larger force with its own police station and a $1 million budget.
He also was credited with establishing a motorcycle unit and one of the first K-9 units in Montgomery County.
"He was very effective in securing equipment and providing the tools that were necessary to do the job," Hatfield Police Chief Mark Toomey said.
He looked for ways to economize. In the early 1980s, he converted the police cruisers from gas to propane, said Toomey, who served under Mr. Turner for a decade.
During the holidays, Mr. Turner enjoyed portraying Santa Claus in Hatfield.
After retiring in 1988, Mr. Turner worked for 14 years as a driver for Bux-Mont Transportation Services in Willow Grove, helping seniors do errands and get to doctor's appointments.
Mr. Turner was a member of the Montgomery County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 14, serving as president and recording secretary. He was a member of the Police Chiefs Association of Montgomery County, the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association, the Police Chiefs Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and the Inter-County Detectives Association.
Mr. Turner was a Mason for 49 years, holding the 32d degree, and was a member of Friendship Lodge 400 in Jenkintown. He was also a member of LuLu Temple Shrine in Plymouth Meeting.
Surviving are his wife of 61 years, the former Elaine Shultz; sons Gary R. and M. Robert III; daughter Susan Diehl; a brother; four grandchildren; and nieces and nephews.
A celebration of life will be from 9:30 to 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 22, at St. John's Lutheran Church, 910 Allentown Rd., Sellersville, with refreshments afterward. Burial is private.
Contributions may be made to Masonic Village Hospice, 1 Masonic Dr., Elizabethtown, Pa. 17022.