Donald Gene Turner, 89, of Dayton, passed away April, 21 2013, at Providence St. Mary Medical Center in Walla Walla. Gene was born March 16, 1924, to Lois and Harry Turner of Dayton. He married Ula Mae (Hillhouse) Turner on Sept. 30, 1944, in Lubbock, Texas. They were married for 68 years.
Gene was an avid motorcyclist. He started riding motorcycles at the age of 14 and continued to ride well into his 80s. Gene was an accomplished sharpshooter and won many trophies in local competitions.
Gene enrolled in Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, after graduating Dayton High school in 1941. He entered this college mainly because it offered a course in aviation. That led to joining the U.S. Army Air Corps Reserve and signing up for a war training service program in Lewiston. Later he served as an aviation cadet in the Southern Flying Training Command and then flew a B-26 as a World War II Flyboy patrolling Caribbean waters. During the Vietnam war, he spent four years hauling troops, supplies and material across the Pacific Ocean. From 1968-73 he commanded the 313th military airlift squadron, stationed at McChord Air Force Base in Tacoma. Gene was a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force. During his 30 1/2 years with the Air Force of active and reserve duty, he flew 102 missions across the Pacific Ocean. Nine during wartime, he picked up the Air Medal for flight missions into Vietnam and 15 other medals and commendations. Of his 102 trans-Pacific flights, he visited 26 countries. His missions took him to battle-torn hot spots during both the Vietnam and Korean wars. He won the Air Medal for flying rockets in to an air base under fire in Pleiku, Vietnam. One of his many accomplishments included his assistance in the rescue of the U.S.S. Pueblo prisoners in 1968. Gene flew into South Korea to pick up the rescued prisoners and get them safely to the hospital in Japan. Gene flew many planes to include B-26, C-130, C-141, C-119, The Albatross and more. As a reserve officer during the non-war years, he was a civil engineer at the Walla Walla Air Force Base and a deputy civil engineer at the Portland Air Force base.
When Gene wasn’t pursuing his service career he worked as a self-taught builder. He built more than 60 homes and countless other structures in the Dayton area. He built quite the array including several boats, tractors, homes, log cabins, barns, shops, the local First Methodist Church and the local mortuary. After retiring from the Air Force and as a builder, Gene embarked on yet another career. He became the manager of the Port of Columbia in 1983 while also maintaining a 56-acre farm in Dayton. During the 24 years Gene served as Port manager he accomplished many things. His goals as the manager of the Port were to build an industrial area, to move industry into the community and to enhance the local economy. Under his leadership he brought 10 new industrial buildings to the Port including the fish-raising facility on the Touchet River and Rock Hill Concrete Company.
Gene is survived by his wife, Ula Turner; two daughters, Merlene Wolf (Jon) and Gale Turner both of Walla Walla; three grandchildren, Lori Sullivan (Todd) of Arizona, Chelsea Opp of Yakima and Bethany Wiley (Jason) of Walla Walla. He is also survived by three great-grandchildren.
Contributions in lieu of flowers can be made to the Wounded Warrior Project or Dayton General Hospital through Hubbard-Rogg Funeral homes.
Public viewing will be held Thursday, April 25, 2013, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Hubbard Rogg Funeral home in Dayton.
A graveside service will be held Friday, April 26, 2013, at 1 p.m. at the Dayton City Cemetery.