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    Tuesday, September 27, 2022

    Preston mourns death of school board, Parks and Recreation Commission member

    Preston — The Board of Education last week mourned the recent death of board member Thomas Turner, who was elected to the board in November.

    Turner, 65, died Jan. 11 at home after an illness. He had served twice on the Board of Education and was chairman of the town Parks and Recreation Commission. Turner had long been involved in local youth activities, was active in Boy Scouts and was past president of Norwich Little League. He also was an EMT for the Poquetanuck Fire Department and previously with the Occum Volunteer Fire Department.

    The Preston Board of Education began its Feb. 8 meeting with an announcement of Turner’s passing by board Chairman Sean Nugent and a moment of silence.

    “We miss Tom and respect his contributions to the board,” Superintendent Roy Seitsinger later said at the start of a discussion on how the vacant seat will be filled. Turner, a Republican, was elected to a four-year term, but the vacancy will be filled only until the November 2023 municipal election.

    Nugent said the seat can be filled either by a Republican or an unaffiliated Preston voter. The board advertised the position and will accept applications through this Friday. Nugent said he will call a special meeting next week to interview prospective candidates.

    Seitsinger said he hopes the board can fill the position in time for the March 14 meeting to help ensure the board has a quorum for the upcoming budget season.

    Turner twice was appointed to the Board of Education to fill vacancies. He won his seat in the 2021 election by two votes, affirmed after a recount. But he soon fell ill and was unable to attend board meetings.

    In the previous election, Turner lost a seat he had been appointed to fill, also by a razor-thin margin. He declined a recount, because he did not want Chairman Nugent, a Democrat who has slightly more votes than him, to be unseated. Turner eventually was appointed to fill a second vacancy.

    Turner was an enthusiastic supporter of youth activities and recreation. Parks and Recreation Commission Vice Chairman Dan Coley said Turner often tackled many tasks at one time. He would help local youths get onto various sports teams, pushed to get soccer back at Preston Community Park and doggedly pursued correcting any maintenance issue.

    Turner also served as the liaison between the Parks and Recreation Department and the school system, coordinating logistics for use of school fields and buildings for town sports and summer camp.

    “It was a significant loss,” Coley said. “He was on top of getting everyone on board to do what’s best for us.”

    Coley said he and Turner got to know each other, as their daughters are the same age and played on sports teams together.

    The Parks and Recreation Commission felt it was “too fresh” to discuss filling Turner’s vacancy at its last meeting, Coley said. Commission officer elections are held in March, so the board will address it at that time.

    The commission also will discuss creating a permanent memorial to Turner at the park, Coley said.

    Turner is survived by his wife, Tracey Turner, and six children. A trust fund, the Tom Turner Memorial Fund, has been established at Jewett City Savings Bank to benefit his three youngest children, all teenagers in high school. Checks may be made out to Tom Turner Memorial Fund and sent to Preston Town Hall, 389 Route 2, Preston, CT 06365.

    c.bessette@theday.com

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