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BIOGRAPHY

Turner was born in Barclay, Maryland, USA, on 1 April 1907, to parents Edward S. Graham and Ethel Mae Bailey. When she began her formal education, she attended a one-room schoolhouse with two teachers covering grades one through eight. She later attended Sudlersville High School in Maryland, where the Class of 1924 had only 10 students. One of her classmates was future Baseball Hall of Famer Jimmie Foxx. She then continued her education at Towson Normal School. She had two older brothers, and their father could not afford to send all three of them to college simultaneously. As a result, she first pursued a teaching certification, which at that time required only two years of study. She said she always had a passion for learning and spent her summers attending classes at the University of Wisconsin and Brown University. She ultimately earned a Bachelor of Science in Education from Columbia University.

Turner began her teaching career in the same one-room schoolhouse after earning her teaching certificate. After 2 years, she realized that teaching in a one-room schoolhouse was not for her, so she moved to Pleasantville to live with her aunt and uncle Claude Bailey, who was a typesetter for the Pleasantville Press at the time, in hopes of finding a teaching position nearby. She received offers to teach in Pleasantville, Margate, and Atlantic City, ultimately choosing Margate, New Jersey, where she remained for the rest of her career. She retired in 1972 after 40 years of teaching.

In 1938, she married Arthur Lewis Turner. The couple had two children: Arthur Turner and Nancy Mellon. Her husband passed away in 1986, after 47 years of marriage.

On her 100th birthday in 2007, she attributed her longevity to several factors, including her upbringing on a farm. She also mentioned that her doctor believed she might have good genes from her parents. She noted that she never smoked and only drank occasionally, but not very often. She ate foods that were good for her health and avoided sugar in her later years.

In 2011, she moved to Brandall Estates in Linwood. She remained active throughout her later years, even managing a Facebook page dedicated to her longevity. Before reaching 110, she launched an online campaign to dance with Ellen DeGeneres on her daytime talk show. At the age of 111, she spent her days quietly knitting scarves for friends in the morning and welcoming visitors. She enjoyed playing bingo, dancing at happy hour every Friday afternoon, and participating in trivia each evening with friends.

Turner passed away at Brandall Estates in Linwood, New Jersey, USA, on 2 August 2018, at the age of 111 years, 123 days. She was survived by her two children, three grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

RECOGNITION

On 2 March 2018, following the passing of 111-year-old Ethel Fech, she became the oldest (known) living person in the U.S. state of New Jersey.

Her age was validated by LongeviQuest on 14 June 2024.

ATTRIBUTION

* “Helen Turner is 107 and darn proud of it” – Press of Atlantic City, 2 April 2014

* “Linwood’s Helen Turner marks 111 years in grand style” – Press of Atlantic City, April 2018

* “Linwood’s Helen Turner dies at 111” – Press of Atlantic City, 4 August 2018

* “QA Schools’ oldest living graduate dies” – MyEasternShoreMD, 17 August 2018

* Obituary for Helen Graham Turner – Adams-Perfect Funeral Homes

GALLERY

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