The Theodore Turley Family Book, pp. 310-314
I was born in Colonia Juarez, Mexico, Nov. 22, 1911, the son of Edward Franklin and Ida Elizabeth Eyring Turley. It was at a time when Mexico was in turmoil. There were several rebel forces trying to overthrow the Mexican government, one of which was Pancho Villa and his forces. The situation in the Mormon Colonies became so critical that the Stake President, after being in communication with Church headquarters in Salt Lake City, advised people to leave Mexico and return to the United States. In July of 1912, most of the members of the Juarez Stake went out on the Noroeste train to Ciudad Juarez. We went out in box cars and had to leave practically all of our possessions. We lived in El Paso, Texas for about two years. During that time conditions in the Colonies improved to a point that quite a number of the families that had left in July, 1912 returned to their homes in Mexico. My parents found things in a very sad condition. People had gone into our home and ransacked it and had taken most of the valuables out of it.
During the first four years of my life, according to my mother, I had very poor health. I had stomach problems and my mother had to be very careful of what I ate. I remember one time I had gone into the cellar and gotten several apples and had gone around to the back of the cellar, which was on the south side in the warm sun, and sat there on the ground eating the apples. My mother had missed me for some time and started looking for me and when she found me eating these apples, she punished me because she felt that the apples would make me sick. On the contrary, the apples seemed to straighten out my problems with my stomach and my health began to improve. I can recall many times, when I was young, eating a dozen apples before breakfast and then going in and eating a hearty breakfast.
When I was five years old I broke my leg the day before the only doctor who was down in the Colonies, Dr. Gay, was to leave because this was at the time which they called the “Second Exodus” when a lot of the people in the Colonies left the second time to go to the United States. Dr. Gay set my leg and put a cast on it. After about 15 days I began to have very severe pain and when the nurse, Sister Mecham, examined my leg, she felt that she needed to cut the cast so that she could see what the problem was and when she did, she found my leg around the knee inflamed and it looked like the bone was going to pierce the skin. It was a sharp bone. My father got Bishop Walser to come and help him administer to me, and after being administered to, this bone went back into place. Sister Mecham put another cast on my leg and, in due time, took it off and to this day I have never had any problem with my leg. This was a case of faith and the power of the Priesthood.
In the spring of 1917, at the time of the second major revolution that transpired in the northern part of Chihuahua when Pancho Villa was still trying to, gain control of Mexico, word came into town that General Carranza and his men were just a few miles out of Colonia Juarez. We had gotten word a number of days before that we could expect these rebels to come through this part of Chihuahua. My father had always had a year’s supply of chopped wood and he had taken practically all of our valuables out of the house: dishes, bedding, anything that these men might want to pick up and take with them. He had put these valuables in trunks and boxes and had piled a large stack of chopped wood on top of the boxes and trunks. About 300 men camped in the lane by our barn. After these men had scouted around and found that we had a lot of hay in our barn and a lot of wood for their campfires, they decided that this was a good place to camp while they scouted through the town to see what valuables they could find to help them on their journey. The night before they left, I remember so vividly we were sitting around the table eating supper; a knock came on the back door and you could tell that it had been made by the butt of a gun. My father went to the door and two Carranzistas walked in, guns in hand. They had two ammunition belts crisscrossed over their shoulders and across their chests, and they did not remove their big hats in the house. They demanded bedding and food. My father took them through the house and they ransacked and checked closely to see what they could find. The reason for their leaving was they had used up all of the hay out of the barn. Also, they had gotten word that General Pershing was coming with his men. My father mentioned after they had gone that he was afraid that they would use enough wood out of the woodpile before the hay ran out to uncover just one of the boxes. If they did this, they would find all of the boxes with our valuables. But the hay ran out first and they went on their way. As a young boy, I will never forget that experience of these men coming into the house and the fear that I had that they would murder us all.
In the fall of 1927 the Arizona Temple was dedicated and I remember that, at fifteen years of age, I drove my parents and Brother and Sister Edward McClellan to Mesa for the dedication. It was the first time I had come out to the United States since I was two years old.
At the middle of my senior year, several of the young people from El Paso came to Colonia Juarez to finish high school. Among them was Ireta Pierce. Little did I know at this time that she was going to be my wife and eternal companion seven years hence. This graduating class from the Juarez Stake Academy of 25 graduates was the largest graduating class up to that time.
During the summer after graduating from high school in 1930, Brother Ivins Bentley came to Colonia Juarez to tell us about the advantages of going to Gila Junior College, a Church school. He told me that if I would go out to Gila, that he was certain that he could get me work that would at least pay my tuition and books. I went to Gila and did janitorial work to pay for my tuition and books and most of my living expenses. I remember milking a cow for Sister Williams for milk. Anthon Turley and I were batching together that year.
I enjoyed very much going to school at Gila. I participated in all the sports. I started out by going out for football. I had never played football before and I had never seen a football game and the first game of the season was with Arizona State Teachers College at Tempe, Arizona, and it was the first night football game held in Arizona. I started that game in the backfield. This incident of my playing in the first football game I had ever seen was put in “Believe It or Not” by Ripley and it was mentioned, also, that it was the first night football game in Arizona. In one of the spring student body assemblies the end of my second year, I was presented the “All Around Athlete” watch for the year. My parents were present for this presentation. They were on their way back from Mesa where they had spent the winter doing temple work.
The University of Arizona offered me a basketball scholarship if I would attend the University. I accepted and participated in basketball, football, and baseball. I majored in Physical Education and minored in Business. I graduated at mid-year and because of this, I did not get a school to coach in. I went to work for Commercial Credit Company in Phoenix after graduating. I worked with them a little over a year and then went to El Paso, Texas. My brother, Vernon, encouraged me to come. I am confident that the Lord had a hand in my coming to El Paso because this is where Ireta and I got together.
I came to El Paso the first part of May, 1937 and because I had not had a chance to spend any time with my parents over a number of years, I went to Colonia Juarez and spent about three weeks there with them and then returned to El Paso. Shortly after I returned, Ireta returned from school where she had graduated from BYU that spring. She had contracted to teach school in Lovell, Wyoming, but had a summer job in El Paso as secretary to the County Attorney. We started going with each other June 30 and did not date anyone else after our first date together. We were engaged to be married by the end of August. We were married in the Arizona Temple November 26, 1937. Neither one of us was able to get off work, so we planned on going over during the Thanksgiving holidays, which was a long weekend. We were married the day after Thanksgiving and returned to El Paso in time to go to work Monday morning. This was the extent of our honeymoon.
I served in the YMMIA superintendency and played basketball for Standard Oil and for the LDS Church in two different leagues. We seldom stayed home in the evenings. I worked for Standard Oil Company for thirteen months and then went to work for my father-in-law in the lumber business. I went down to the sawmill in September, 1938. Ireta was still working for the County Attorney and did not go down to the sawmill with me at first. This job was quite a challenge for me since I did not know a thing about the production of lumber and I did not recall of ever being around a sawmill before then. I spent a lot of time reviewing the operations of the sawmill and the planing mill and then went into the woods to gain a knowledge and understanding of logging operations. I had problems with the Syndicate (labor union) which were gradually worked out. In January, 1939, Ireta joined me at the sawmill. “Poor little city girl.” She had to learn to cook on a wood stove, make bread from a start, get along without a refrigerator or inside bathroom. After a while we had a few of those comforts: inside plumbing, a piano, and a gas (butane) refrigerator. We had learned to appreciate such taken-for-granted luxuries.
After spending several years with my family at the sawmill in the mountains of Mexico, I moved my family back to El Paso to take care of my wife’s parents’ home, President and Mrs. Arwell L. Pierce. He was called to preside over the Mexican Mission with headquarters in Mexico City. I was ordained to the office of Seventy and set apart as one of the seven presidents of the 320th Quorum of Seventies. I filled two stake missions in El Paso, one of those with my wife as my companion. This work was most rewarding. When the El Paso Ward was divided, I was called to be the first counselor to the bishop and was a counselor for five years. In 1955 President Spencer W. Kimball ordained me a bishop. Being a bishop was a grand, rewarding experience. I didn’t realize that there was so much difference between a counselor and being bishop. All the responsibility is placed on your shoulders when you are made a bishop.
During the time that I was a counselor in the bishopric, I had a serious accident, I was traveling alone from the sawmill to Cd. Juarez and had to cross three lake bottoms in my Jeep. It had been raining and even though I was alone in the Jeep, I was warned and it sounded like someone sitting at my side who said, “Slow down.” I thought it unusual, but I slowed down a bit; then the same voice told me the second time and I slowed down more, but apparently not enough because things happened so fast that when I awakened I found myself with the Jeep upside down on top of me, my shoulders pinned to the ground in the mud. My right leg was holding the Jeep up with the help of my suitcase. I managed to get out and walked about a mile toward a ranch house. A pickup truck with three men in it came by and helped me turn the Jeep up onto its wheels. I drove the Jeep into Cd. Juarez. My leg had to be put into a cast from ankle to hip because of the great amount of pain from pulled ligaments. My leg hurt so bad that I didn’t realize the damage that I received in my back. The biggest or most important lesson that I learned in this experience was, when the Spirit of the Holy Ghost gives you a warning, you had better take it. One other important thing to me was my telling my Father in Heaven if He would see me out of this predicament and save my life, I would be willing to do any and all things that He wanted me to do. I feel there was a purpose in saving my life at that time, for I have continued in His service for many years and am willing now to do anything that He desires me to do.
I am so very grateful for a wonderful wife and mother of my children. The Lord has blessed us with seven wonderful spirits. I am sure the two (Maureen and Kurt) who have been taken back were taken for a noble purpose and that they were both needed there. We are grateful for having them as long as we did. All of our children are active in the Church and those who are married are raising their children up to have a true testimony of the truthfulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I have witnessed many faith-promoting experiences in my life, as a bishop, stake president, and as a mission president. The mission was a wonderful experience for both my wife and me. We worked so close together with our missionaries in the West Mexican Mission. They worked hard, for they witnessed fruitful results in the great number of our Heavenly Father’s children accepting baptism and confirmation in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Complete new fields of labor were opened up by putting missionaries in towns that had never had LDS missionaries before. I served as president of the El Paso Stake for nine years, from 1965 to 1974. When I was released as stake president, Elder Bruce R. McConkie ordained me a Patriarch.
Children of Harold Emerson and Ireta May Pierce Turley:
Harold Emerson Turley, Jr., born May 31, 1969 in El Paso
Brentnall Pierce Turley, born Oct. 20, 1941 in El Paso
Luana May Turley, born May 5, 1944 in El Paso
Ireta Maureen, born Sept. 1, 1947 in El Paso; died July 13, 1952
Kurt Eyring Turley, born Sept. 22, 1953 in El Paso
Douglas Lee, born Sept. 24, 1954 in El Paso
Lanae Elizabeth, born Dec. 12, 1958 in El Paso