Turner quit the ninth grade at Glenwood High School in New Boston in 1942 and took a job at Emmitt’s Grocery Store.
“My dad had a third-grade education, and I seen my dad struggle. My mother, she went to Morehead State University. She got her diploma and taught school in Kentucky. When I asked my mother about quitting, it really surprised me that she said yes,” Turner said.
“I have said all along, for all these years ever since I did it, that I regret quitting school.”
In December 1950, Turner applied for a job at the New Boston Fire Department. He didn’t get the job, but was instead offered a job on the New Boston Police Department by Mayor Vern Riffe Sr.
Two weeks later (January 1951), another opening appeared at the fire department and Turner was moved there. He remained with the New Boston Fire Department until he retired as village fire chief in 1990.
“I am one of the richest men in the world,” Turner said. I’ve got a great family. I’ve got a good home. I’ve had one of the best jobs a man could have. I’ve got it all – except that piece of paper.”
Now 83 years old (turning 84 in November) Turner said if he could do it all again, knowing what he knows now, he would not have quit school. His family had heard this story many times, so his granddaughter, Rachel Perry, contacted the school to ask what they could do. She said the school took it from there.
In a private ceremony at his home Sunday, surrounded by his family, Turner accepted an honorary diploma from New Boston Superintendent Mike Staggs. Turner emerged from his house wearing a red cap and gown and walked across his back yard, while a stereo played the graduation march just for him.
“The New Boston Local School District values knowledge and respect, and lifelong learning and service to the community; whereas one’s life is reflective of a living, learning, dedicated citizen whose contributions of both service and support have greatly benefited both the village of New Boston and New Boston Local School; therefore be it resolved that Evan Elwood Turner is hereby awarded an honorary graduate 1946,” Staggs said.
After accepting his diploma, Turner stood with a smile and finally tossed his mortarboard cap into the sky with proud accomplishment.
Staggs said he would have traveled across the country to do this for Turner.
“Growing up in New Boston, he was one of those guys – I wanted to be like him. My father (former New Boston School Superintendent Don Staggs) respected him greatly and it’s an honor for me to be able to present that,” Staggs said.
This was the first honorary diploma ever conferred by New Boston Schools. Turner promised to hang his achievement on the wall inside his house where he could proudly look upon it every day.
“It doesn’t make any difference how I got it,” Turner said. “It says honorary on it. That doesn’t matter to me. I am the happiest man in the world today.”