Jeff Turner’s funeral will feature a big floral wreath with the red, white and blue logo of his beloved Chicago Cubs.
Often ribbed about his love of the heartbreakers at Addison and Clark, he remained willing to wait till next year. Every year.
The Chicago schoolteacher died in his sleep April 24 at his South Side home. Mr. Turner was 54.
He had high blood pressure and diabetes, and it’s believed he suffered a heart attack, said his son, Jerrell.
Mr. Turner grew up near 79th and Wabash, the son of John Turner, a CTA bus driver, and Dorothy, who worked in the legal department at the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, said his sister, Yolie Turner.
As a kid, he liked watching the cartoon “ThunderCats” and getting treats at the drugstore at 78th and Michigan. He went to Ruggles Elementary and Hales Franciscan High School and enjoyed playing sports but excelled at giving positive encouragement. He became a respected coach and referee.
From 1987 to 2003, he coached Little League, said his wife, Jackie. He helped teams at Lindblom, Meyering and Washington parks, according to his son. The Washington Park team won a championship, she said.
After graduating from Illinois State University in Normal, Mr. Turner taught for more than 25 years, with stints at Holmes, Locke, O’Toole and Parkside schools. He also earned a master’s degree in education from Concordia University Chicago, his sister said. Most recently, he was teaching at Catalyst Maria Charter School in Chicago Lawn on the Southwest Side, where he coached its Lady Hawks basketball team to a division win, relatives said.
“He helped me with baseball, math, reading,” Jerrell Turner said. “He’d take me out places, as a kid, like to the movies, to baseball games, football games. Any problems I came across, I could come to him. About baseball, he said to always keep the bat up and off your shoulders, and always keep your knuckles lined up. ‘Never give up at anything.’ ”
In addition to the Cubs, Mr. Turner followed the Bulls and the Dallas Cowboys. He liked seafood at Red Lobster, driving his 2016 Jeep Patriot and watching “Family Guy” and “The Simpsons” on TV. He enjoyed the music of Tupac Shakur and old-school jams from Whitney Houston, Stevie Wonder and the group Maze, featuring Frankie Beverly.
Often, he could be found — garbed in Cubs cap and shirt — at Duke’s Cocktail Lounge, 121 E. 79th St., where he liked to watch games.
He also enjoyed attending plays by David E. Talbert and performances by actor-singer-comic Teresa Sykes.
He had an easygoing quality that made his big sister want to protect him.
“Growing up, I used to always tell everybody, ‘Nobody makes my brother cry but me.’ I even told my mother that” when he got into trouble, she said. In response, “My mother would say, ‘You want some of this?’ ’’
His sister wished he’d had more opportunities to travel and relax.
“That’s one thing that saddens me,” she said. “He worked all the time.”
She wanted him to visit the Cincinnati Music Festival and the Caribbean, where, she told him, “You’re going to come to Jamaica and get in that salt water and your [problem] hip is going to be better.”
He also is survived by four grandchildren. Visitation is 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday at Leak & Sons Funeral Home, 7838 S. Cottage Grove. A wake is planned at 10 a.m. Friday, followed by an 11 a.m. funeral service, at Leak & Sons. Burial will be at Lincoln Cemetery at 123rd and Kedzie.