Melody Lynn Turner

Melody Lynn Turner (nee Jackson), 80, of Oak Park, died on May 2, 2023 after a 12-year battle with multiple myeloma. Born on Aug. 3, 1942 to Welles and Frieda (nee Busch) Jackson in Austin, Texas, she was only 2 when the family moved to Ramsey, New Jersey to live with her paternal grandparents through the end of World War II. She continued to move around throughout her formative years, living in Waukesha and West Allis, Wisconsin; Gettysburg, Pennsylvania; and eventually graduating high school in Toledo, Ohio. 

Melody’s love of music developed early. Her first instrument was the accordion, followed closely by the piano and somewhere in there the violin. Her passion became clear as she completed her initial piano studies independently, which encouraged her father to pay for formal lessons. By 15, she had her first church job for which she learned to play the organ. She earned her undergraduate degree in music from Indiana University, followed by a master’s from Union Theological Seminary in NYC. She pursued her PhD at the University of Illinois Champaign/Urbana, but chose to dedicate herself to family and career, rather than completing her degree. 

Upon graduating from Union, she had numerous job offers across the country, and opted for the position at First Presbyterian Church in Springfield, Illinois. Although certain it would be a short stint, she stayed for over 20 years. This is where she met her tenor husband, Dale R. Turner, through the church choir she directed. She gave birth to two daughters and raised them in music, art, beauty, and love. Over the years, she worked at First Methodist, as well as a synagogue where she learned Hebrew to better follow the services at which she played. She founded the Springfield Oratorio Choir in 1971, later named the Springfield Choral Society, which continues today, over 50 years later. 

Springfield is also where she discovered her love of and skill in creating stained glass windows. At Melotte Morse Studio, she eventually worked on the state capitol dome restoration, taking on the center seal herself. One of her last projects for the studio was an extensive restoration of windows in a Frank Lloyd Wright home. Meanwhile Dale built her a personal studio in the basement where she created windows for the family home and as gifts for family and friends. 

In 1989, the family, and her stained glass studio, moved to Oak Park. She had brief positions at a few area churches before becoming the music director and organist at Church of Our Savior in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago, where she worked for over 20 years before retiring in 2012. Melody wasn’t fully ready to stop playing and she continued to offer her talents by substituting at various churches before becoming the “interim” organist and music director at St. Paul Episcopal Church in Riverside, where she worked until retirement in June 2022.  

Meanwhile, she wanted to share her love of music through teaching. She studied the Suzuki method of instruction before opening her in-home studio, teaching children both piano and violin. In her free time, she accompanied violin and viola students of Michael Hining, accompanied rehearsals and some performances of the Tower Chorale, and played first in West Suburban Symphony and then the Symphony of Oak Park and River Forest. 

When they downsized, selling their house and moving into an apartment, she donated the contents of her stained glass studio and agreed to teach classes to seniors through the Oak Park Senior Citizens Center.

She loved comedy, puzzles (jigsaw and sudoku), reading profusely, good food, good friends, and discussing ideas of faith. She had an easy smile and a contagious laugh. She was kind, loved when kids got messy, especially digging in the dirt, and found joy in anyone who enjoyed or shared beauty. 

Melody is predeceased by her parents and husband, Dale, and survived by her daughters, Alison Duray (Mark), and Justine Turner Smith (Mike), and her two grandchildren, Theodore Duray and Alden K. Smith. She is also survived by her siblings Win Jackson, Tim Jackson, Robin Sytnik and Chris Jackson, and her nephew and nieces.

Memorial visitation at Peterson-Bassi Chapels 6938 W. North Ave. will take place on June 2 from 4 to 8 p.m. A memorial service be held at Grace Episcopal Church, 924 Lake St., Oak Park, on June 3 at 11 a.m..

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