Jewell Turner, A Gardiner Original
When Jewell Turner and her husband John both worked at IBM, they traveled to Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Cancun, the Bahamas and Spain. But, despite enjoying extensive travel, it’s Gardiner that Jewell proudly calls home. This is where she feels connected and grounded and where she has lived her whole life.
In 1985, Jewell began working at Gardiner Town Hall as the assistant to the Building Inspector, as well as Deputy to Town Clerk Michelle Mosher. She has enjoyed serving under three different inspectors; Hank Pauli, Don Otis and, currently, Hank Vance. In her role as the liaison between the Building Inspector and Gardiner residents she schedules inspections and reviews building permit applications. She assists people by letting them know what might be missing on their applications and helps them obtain what they need to complete them. Some people are not sure if they need a building permit, and Jewell provides that information, then issues the required Building Permits, Certificates of Occupancy, or Certificates of Compliance, after Hank’s approval.
As Michelle’s assistant, Jewell assumes all responsibilities of the Clerk if Michelle is ill or on vacation. This includes attending meetings and taking Minutes, issuing Transfer Station permits as well as hunting, fishing and dog licenses.
Jewell’s father, George Gardner, was the caretaker of Camp Wallkill, a camp run by the Children’s Aid Society (today, the site of Robibero’s Winery) and also ran a dairy farm on the land. In the summer, Jewell’s mother Lucille was the camp dietician and kitchen manager. “It was like going away to camp without having to go, “ Jewell recalls fondly.
The youngest of five siblings, Jewell spent her first ten years on the farm and attended the Campus School in New Paltz. The family then moved up the road and Jewell attended the one room Tuthilltown School on McKinstry Road, where she and her two older sisters and her older brother were taught by Mrs. Atkins. At that time, Junior High and High School were combined, and Jewell attended both in the current New Paltz Middle School building, followed by a year and a half at Ulster Community College.
When Jewell was growing up, two black families lived in the community. “Race was never the dividing line,” Jewell notes, adding that she never experienced racism in the Gardiner community. It was how long a family had lived in the community that mattered. “I think this is true in old communities and smaller towns in general,” Jewell says. She and her first husband, an Italian American soldier, married in 1964. As an interracial couple they were totally integrated into the Gardiner community and had two daughters, one of whom lives in Gardiner, while the other lives in Florida. Jewell has also raised a 19 year old grandson since he was 11.
Jewell began working at IBM in 1978, as Secretary to the Assistant Plant Manager of the Poughkeepsie plant, and stayed for 17 years. There, after she and her first husband had divorced, she met John Turner, to whom she’s been married for 27 years. John’s early experiences growing up in North Carolina during the height of the civil rights struggle were very different from Jewell’s here in Gardiner. Segregation was very much a part of his experience. John graduated from an all black college in Maryland, where Jewell recalls that, when attending reunions, she was sometimes considered not quite “black enough.”
Jewell’s involvement with Gardiner is in no way confined to work. She volunteered with the Gardiner Fire Department Ladies’ Auxiliary for four years and has served on the Gardiner Day Committee since its inception. She particularly enjoys cooking for the Spaghetti Dinner. “I like to see the community come together. Our little committee works well together,” Jewell shares. Jewell looks forward to another 50s Dance and possibly a Hoe Down in October which will include line and square dancing.
Jewell has soldiered through breast cancer and, most recently, a knee replacement for which she’s still receiving physical therapy. None of this slows her down. Her enthusiasm for her family, her job, her friends of a lifetime and her town continues unabated. Attend a Gardiner Day Committee event and see for yourself.