IN MEMORIAM: Turnbull was longtime administrator

Charles “Charlie” Turnbull is remembered for his decades of work in service to people with disabilities and his pioneering efforts […]

blue seas and skies

Charles “Charlie” Turnbull is remembered for his decades of work in service to people with disabilities and his pioneering efforts to start day activity centers. Turnbull, died of pancreatic cancer October 16. He was 86 and lived in St. Peter. 

Turnbull spent his early years in Minneapolis before his family moved to Constance. He graduated from Anoka High School in 1951. He served in the United States Marine Corp before attending the University of Minnesota for his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. 

He had a long career designing and implementing service delivery for persons with intellectual disabilities. Turnbull was the first person in Minnesota appointed to run a state hospital who was not a doctor. 

He worked at Cambridge State Hospital as a unit director from 1962-1967, and then as the director of rehabilitation therapies from 1967-1968. In 1968, Turnbull accepted appointment to the position of program director of the Minnesota Valley Social Adaptation Center, a 400- bed facility in St. Peter. There his team of professionals used a multidisciplinary approach in the design of therapies, supports, and day activity center services for residents over the period of 1968-1973. 

During those years he also served as program consultant to the Rochester Social Adaptation Center, from 1970- 1971, and program director at Cambridge State Hospital. In 1974 he became chief executive officer at the 160-bed Faribault State Hospital, running that facility until 1984. He left there to oversee the Minnesota Veterans Hospitals in Minneapolis and Hastings. After retiring from state service Turnbull and his family owned and operated a Faribault-based real estate firm. 

He was a consultant to projects in other states. In Minnesota Turnbull is remembered as one of the people behind the creation of day activity centers, that provided full time training for people with disabilities. 

Turnbull was active in DFL politics, unsuccessfully seeking election to the U.S. House of Representatives Second Congressional District seat in 1972 and 1974. He had many civic involvements and helped establish the River Bend Nature Center in Faribault. He and his wife Gloria “Marlene” Tilley Turnbull also ran a resort for several years. The couple had four children, and also raised nine foster daughters. 

The Turnbulls lived in Minnesota, Idaho and Florida before returning to Minnesota. 

He was preceded in death by his wife. Turnbull is survived by his children and their spouses, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Services have been held. 

Double your impact - support quality journalism - give nonprofit, give now