In the early hours of Thursday morning, my uncle Iain passed away in Paarl Mediclinic in a truly tragic, devastating manner that has left us all shocked. The streams of messages that have been coming in from his friends and family over social media, WhatsApp and the phone are testament to a great life lived and a man that touched the hearts of every person he came into contact with.
Iain David Turner was born on 23 March 1968 in Cape Town to Tony and June Turner. He was the second of three children and grew up alongside his sisters, Diane and Fiona. The tight-knit Turner family was where all of the love started for Iain. My mother, Diane is only two years older than him, while Fiona is two years younger. I think it’s one of the reasons I felt so close to Iain as well – because we were both the “middle child”. If there’s one thing I’m certain of though, it is that Iain had a near-perfect upbringing.
If I was sitting down for a couple of drinks with him, one thing you can be sure of was that Iain would regularly have one of those moments of nostalgia. He’d tell us about the grumpy old military man, my grandfather, who would make them wake up early in the morning (even on holidays!) and get them to do chores. He’d tell us about my grandmother, who he loved beyond belief, and how she would cook breakfast early in the morning and treat all the kids with such a nurturing attitude that none of them have ever forgotten.
I got to listen to all these stories over and over again, because being a Turner made Iain into the man he was. I never grew tired of it. The way his face lit up when telling these stories was as if he was describing a vivid dream, the kind of dream that most of us would fantasise about. But he lived it! Then there came the next part of Iain’s childhood, the teen years…
There were a few things that Iain and I disagreed upon, but what the best school in the world is, was never agreed upon. I would say that Rondebosch Boys’ was that school, but I always knew I would never, ever, convince Iain that it was anything buy Grey College. While Diane and Fiona attended high school in Pretoria, Iain decided that he wanted to go to boarding school. I remember my mom telling me how Iain would phone home in tears to start with, but that my grandmother told him to see out just the first year and then he could make up his mind about changing schools. By the end of the the first term, Iain had no doubt that he wanted to stay.
I could always relate to that sense of camaraderie that Iain and his mates from school felt, and those friendships stood the test of time. Thirty years after they left school, Iain remained in contact with those friends and they would still go get smashed at the Grey rugby games together. This time in Bloemfontein was probably also why my uncle was such a naughty guy and found himself in so much trouble. Well, it was either that or his time in the army.
After spending time in the national service, Iain told me about his time at the Pretoria News, where he would describe his very brief stint as a “real journalist” to me years later. However, it was not in media where Iain found his passion, but the hospitality industry. My first real memories of Iain came at the time where he worked for the Carousel and, later, when he worked at Sun City – visiting him there was possibly one of the best times of my life. It was when he worked in casinos that he met his greatest friend, Ettienne, who later married Fiona, and, of course, his beautiful wife, Petrovien.
Now we all meant something to Iain in our own ways, but there’s no doubt in my mind that his life truly began the day he met Petrovien. In Petrovien’s own rendition of Iain’s words from when they met in 1995, “he said he saw me playing pool, looked at my ass and knew he was going to marry me.” They were married 16 years and were together for over 20, but I can testify to the fact that they were like newlyweds right to the end . What an awesome testament to true love. They had the kind of marriage that many can only wish for. Of all the things I admired my uncle for, it was the fact that he found the perfect woman, that their love is undying and that, even though he’s no longer with us, their special connection will endure.
The two of them were party animals, they loved to entertain, they enjoyed the finer things in life together and every glass of red wine tasted that much better because they were together. It’s the kind of love that I couldn’t ever find the words to describe. And, what’s more, their beautiful daughter, Megan, was, and forever will be, an embodiment of their love.
By the time Megan was born in 2008, he and Petrovien were completely ready to bring another soul into the world. Megan could never want for anything and she was loved so much by her father. I saw exactly how much she meant to him in the last months of his life. He could hardly bear to live apart from them and, even though he made several FaceTime calls to them a day, I could see that look in his eyes that said “my life isn’t the same without them”. I could hear the scratch in Megan’s throat when all she ever wanted was to be right next to him. The two were inseparable. Iain was everything that anyone could ask for in a father. Even to me, he was something of a father figure, because I felt loved and like I could turn to him when I needed anything. Perhaps my biggest regret will be that I could never return those favours. It must be said that Iain knew exactly what it took to be a father and that Megan is far better off for having a bit of him in her heart. A little bit of him still lives inside of her and that’s another comfort that we can take from this tragedy.
Family always came first for Iain. I was truly blessed to spend a few weeks with the Turners and the De Villiers’s at the end of 2013 where I got to see how Iain spent his life. He and his family spent every day together braaing, playing golf, partying and doing nothing more than living their lives together. And it never stopped there, I was also able to see his great friends, Linky, Brad, Sergio, Simone, and Freddy, just to name a few. The kids running around, swimming, and jumping on the trampoline, the grown-ups, having a couple drinks, making food and the dogs making themselves at home… It was that kind of “white picket fence” lifestyle that would make Tony and June proud, but it had a naughty twist that was the kind of thing that made Iain who he was.
To me, however, I have to say that the best times with Iain came in the last few months. He took a job as the general manager of Aquila game reserve in Touws River. He was a couple hours’ drive away from our house and, for the first time since I was a young child, I got to spend a lot of time together with him and see him regularly. My mother loved inviting him to spend a few nights in our home, where he would have a bottle or two of wine, eat lavishly, take himself off to bed and wake up at 6am without any kind of hangover. That’s exactly who Iain was and I got to live that life with him for a brief period of time. It was even better when Petrovien and Megan flew down to see him and I saw him as a whole man, because, without them, he was never truly complete.
Iain’s death was a true tragedy. He slipped down the stairs and hit his head in the wrong way, and it comes down to nothing but bad luck. We’ve all cried many tears and it’s going to be so difficult to let this man with so much love in his heart go. But, I think we can all take comfort in the fact that he didn’t suffer and that he will forever live in our memory.
My dearest uncle, goodbye for now. One day, I hope that we may meet again and I hope that I can spend the rest of my life exactly the way you would have wanted.
With a glass of Gentleman Jack in hand, “cheers”
- “You were the love of my life and my best friend. Not a moment of the day went by that I did not know how much you loved me. Seeing myself through your eyes made me feel like the most amazing person in the world. I love you and always will. I am not ready to be without you. Thank you for all the years of joy you have me.” -Petrovien Turner
- “My big brother we will miss you forever. Our hearts are truly broken right now and it is so very difficult to comprehend life without you. Go well and fly high. Until we meet again.”- Fiona de Villiers
- “The bestest brother ever! My heart is broken. Petrovien and Megan my loss pales in comparison to yours. May you by wrapped In the knowledge that the three of you shared an unbreakable bond. And comforted in knowing that the brightest star in the sky tonight is his beautiful soul looking out for you from a better place. Gentleman Jack in hand.” -Diane Smith
- “Iain, you are so many things to me. There was never a dull moment. You always inspired, always uplifted and I’m am so not worthy. Your famous last words, “I love your work”, do not do you justice. You are “the last legend”. There was nobody before you and there’ll be noone after. Play hard, love hard, because who knows what tomorrow holds. I love you my brother and, until we meet again, I will take care of yours and mine, because we were mates. We met on the wrong side, but finished on a straight line. You went too soon, but you were never too late.”
- – Ettienne de Villiers
“I was never lucky enough to have a big brother but I was lucky enough to have you in my life… and it was better. Noddy, my heart is shattered because I’ve lost a friend of more than 10 years. We had such a special friendship. We ripped each other to shreds and swore each other broken. But I loved you so much. You were there for me whenever I needed you and always at the milestones in my life, every single time. You put up with my moods all the time and that in itself is a lifetime achievement. I will miss you with every piece of me. I will love you always. And I will never stop ripping you off because that is how we rolled. NoddyClubspoon, you were a legend. RIP my brother friend. I will never forget you xoxo” – Simone West
- “Iain had one of the best sense of humours I have ever known in a person. Sometimes so dry but always so sharp.” – James Brown
“Losing a friend which was more like a brother makes me realize once again how short life truly is… One has to live everyday as if it’s your last day And ensure that you shared love, peace and happiness wherever you are!!! Rest in peace Iain Turner We promise to look after Petrovien and your little princess Megan” – Charmain Roux
“What fun times we’ve all had together …. Great memories and hysterical laughs!!!! Rule 5 and Rule 14!!!! Iain will be greatly missed by all of us!!!! RIP Iain Turner” – Zenda Vorster
“This is how I will remember Iain… Having a cigar and a whiskey with Lance. I am sure you will always look back on today as one of the worst of your life, but please always know how loved Iain was. You were with us the night we got engaged, spend our wedding weekend with us, 40ths, 50ths and many braais and precious times in between. He will always be alive in our memories xx RIP Iain” – Sasha Hurly
“This is how we remember Iain whilst trying to sell ourselves. But he made it happen. He believed in us. And we in him. The tragic news after just spending our first rugby match with him just a few weeks ago and developing a friend in business has devastated us. We hoped to spend many more. RIP. Petrovien Turner our hearts go out to you and family.” – Rolanda Swart
“salute my friend. I am starting a 400km tour tomorrow and Petrovien. I am dedicating each and every km over the next 3 days to my mate Iain Turner and will have a drink I celebration of his life after every day. RIP Sargent…” – Lance Sterley
“I’m proud to have been part of his life…My heart and soul are with his family Petrovien, Fiona, Ettienne no words can explain” – Grant West
“Knew him from many years ago but only got to really know him recently. Family man and a person that enjoyed life to the fullest. Will be missed as my fellow fine red wine drinker. Who will I tease when Paarl Boys beat Grey again? I’m sad. Been a hard two weeks for me. Too close to home.”- Volker Hellman
“Gister het ek weer besef hoe vinnig kan dinge verander! En dan besluit ek weer om elke dag te leef of vandag die laaste is…. Want jy weet nie of jy more nog daar is vir jou geliefdes. Petrovien, jy en Iain was een van die true love stories. Sterkte vriendin vir die dae wat kom.” – Corna Scheepers
“He was such a great guy. The world will not sparkle quite as much without his wonderful sense of fun in it. Love, light and prayers for you and your family” – Caron Cloete
“At the memorial service at Aquila, I looked at everybody and I thought of what Iain would have said about this… and I could hear him, “aah, people… love your work!”
– Gerhard Pienaar
“I can’t tell you how much it meant to me that he flew down to Cape Town in February. Sitting , listening to sounds of silence. That was one of our matric serenade songs. Tears are flowing freely. Turner is a legend. I’m sending him off in my own way, out in the Texas ‘bos’, with a bottle of scotch.”
– Glen Fichardt
“The news is sinking in and I’m battling with my emotions. When time heals, I have many stories to tell for the last 35 years or so.
– Freddy Lapage
““For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.”
Ecclesiastes 3 1-8
I loved having you share my life as a dear friend. I valued your opinion and I loved it when you teased me. I was honored when you and Pete asked me to be Megan’s God Mother. Frans and I will be there for her, and Pete, Always.
Be at peace my dear friend.”