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Attic Full of Memories Leaves Lasting Legacy

By Meredith Carr
January 2010

Photo by Anne Rayner

Photo by Anne Rayner

Helen and Wallace Engles thought they had retired. That is, until 2005, when Helen was named executor of her cousin, Jacquelyn Turner’s, estate.

In addition to the usual house, land and bank accounts to be distributed, the Engleses faced the huge task of sorting through an attic full of baseball memorabilia and other valuable collectibles to be sold at auction. Jacquelyn’s father, Jim Turner, was a Major League Baseball player.

“We were up in that attic for a year,” laughed Helen. “We found all kinds of sports memorabilia. We even found the girls’ autograph books from when their father started in the big leagues!”

The Engleses catalogued the items and worked with auction houses and other dealers to sell them. “We even sold things on eBay,” Wallace said.
Their stewardship of Ms. Turner’s estate paid off. According to her wishes, the estate came to Vanderbilt to endow two chairs – the Jacquelyn A. Turner and Dr. Dorothy J. Turner Chair in Diabetes Research, established in 2007 and held by Alan Cherrington, Ph.D., and a new chair in cognitive disorders whose holder has yet to be named. The new chair is to be called the Jim Turner Chair in Cognitive Disorders.

Jacquelyn was a diabetic all her life, and Jim Turner had dementia in his later years.

“Because of her health, and because of Jim’s health, Jackie wanted the money to be given to Vanderbilt,” said Helen, a retired educator and Vanderbilt alumna (VU ‘46). “She saw the need to help, especially with diabetes research.”

Known as “Milkman Jim” because he worked in his family’s dairy in the off-season, Jim Turner debuted in the major leagues in 1937 with the Boston Braves, went on to pitch for the New York Yankees, and finished his career as a pitching coach for the Yankees and Cincinnati Reds.
Jacquelyn (VU ‘52) and Dorothy Turner (VU ‘49, MD ‘59) were both Vanderbilt graduates who spent their lives helping others. Jacquelyn was a respected educator, teaching chemistry and coaching girls’ basketball at Hillsboro High School. Dorothy was a physician, serving as a public health officer for the state of Tennessee. Neither of the sisters married nor had children.

“They loved Vanderbilt and the opportunities it gave them,” their cousin said. “They had decided together that they wanted their money to go to Vanderbilt.”

Because of Jacquelyn Turner’s gift, Vanderbilt faculty members will make significant contributions to science’s understanding of diabetes and cognitive disorders. Although Ms. Turner died in 2005, the plans she made for her estate mean her family’s legacy will continue to make a difference.

“I think Jackie would be very pleased and happy with how the money is being managed and spent. She was able to give back and help others, too,” Helen said.

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