Randy Turner’s retirement as assistant director of the Bulloch County Emergency Medical Service becomes official Friday, but colleagues at the EMS already miss him.
Turner, a steady and supportive presence at the Emergency Medical Service for more than 40 years, has been on medical leave since he was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in June. If not for that diagnosis, he would not be retiring now, said his wife, Vicki Turner. When she spoke on the phone last week, he was at home under hospice care.
“It has always been a passion of his, helping people and being part of the EMS family,” she said. “He could come across has having a little hard shell sometimes, but he loved what he did and he loved the people who worked with him.”
The Turners have been married for 28 years. In fact, they met at the EMS, then headquartered on Siebald Street, when she worked there as a dispatcher, starting through work-study while she was a Southeast Bulloch High School student. He had gone to work with the EMS not long after he graduated from Portal High, and later graduated from the first paramedic education program in Bulloch County, then offered at Georgia Southern.
When the EMS held its annual awards event last spring, 20- and 30-year service awards were also given, but Turner’s was the only one at the 40-year level. Because of lag time in the awards cycle, this meant he had completed 41 years by that point, said EMS Director Doug Vickers. Turner only recently turned 60.
Besides Turner and Vickers, who is also currently on medical leave but came to his office one day before Christmas to talk about what Turner has meant to the agency, the EMS also has four paramedic captains.
“Since Randy hasn’t been here, it’s literally taken all four captains to replace what all he did, and we sometimes struggle doing that,” Vickers said. “You never know how much you appreciate somebody until they’re not here.”
Attention to detail
Turner took care of payroll and never missed a Monday, Vickers said, because that was payroll day.
“He made sure it was right, and it always was right,” Vickers said. “If there ever was a question, he was right.”
Also in charge of supplies, Turner took similar care in making sure that emergency medical technicians and paramedics had everything they needed, said EMS Operations Manager Leane Hodges. He also dealt with a uniform service to make sure their uniforms were in top condition.
In recent years, Hodges and Turner were partners on the extra ambulance. The EMS operates four 24-hour ambulances, but a fifth truck is available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and they responded to calls when needed. With nine and a half years on the job, Hodges is still part of the agency’s younger generation.
“He has been like a dad to a lot of us, and a brother, I guess you could say, to a lot of the guys here,” she said.
Educator on staff
Capt. Robbie Mallard has worked for the EMS 23 years but still recalls how Turner helped him when he was enrolled in paramedic school. Training to use the heart monitor, Mallard was having trouble recognizing the differences between normal rhythms and those that signal trouble. So Turner ordered a caliper to measure the intervals of the wave pattern and went over the practice material with Mallard until he got it.
“He was an educator for most of his career up here,” Vickers said.
“I always kind of refer to Randy as my work dad,” said Capt. Brian Hendrix, who wasn’t yet in the room when Hodges made a similar remark.
“He’s done a lot for the EMS and done a lot for the citizens of Bulloch County,” Hendrix added. While Vickers is on leave, Hendrix is temporarily in charge at the EMS, which has more than 50 employees and is now based on West Grady Street.
Co-workers also talked about Turner’s fun side. As long as he was able, he would get a copy of the newspaper each day and complete the crossword puzzle and “Celebrity Cypher.” He made copies of crossword puzzles and gave them to co-workers, “so they would have to challenge him because he was the master of that,” Hodges said.
Pets and family
Turner’s love of pets, some of whom chose him, is also celebrated both at home and in the workplace.
A previously stray cat, a fluffy gray one he named Sylvester, took up with Turner first at the EMS headquarters, then hitched a ride home with him one day in the back of his truck, which was a surprise to him. After that, he often shared his morning coffee with Sylvester, pouring him some on the porch, Hodges said.
Turner’s dog Missy is also a rescue pet. He found her while on a hunting trip about three years ago, Vicki Turner said. Hunting, fishing and golf are three of her husband’s favorite outdoor activities. He loves the mountains, she said, and they and other family members have gone there two or three times a year, often to Cades Cove in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.
They have one daughter, Raini, and also claim her dog, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Foley, or sometimes “Foley Dog,” as their “grandpup.” When Turner came home from the hospital he wanted a puppy of his own, so he now has Po, also a Cavalier King Charles.
Those who spoke of Turner’s “EMS family” and his being a “work dad” also spoke of his love for his real family how proud he is of his daughter. Raini, a graduate of the University of Georgia, is completing her master’s degree in communication sciences and disorders at Armstrong State University to become a speech pathologist.
“He did always say that our daughter is his greatest accomplishment,” Vicki Turner said, “and he did always tell her that he didn’t care what path she took as long as she made a difference in somebody’s life.”
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.