FULKS RUN — While driving down Brocks Gap Road on the way to West Virginia, it would be easy to miss the small, white store of Fulks Run Grocery while trying to keep your eyes on the road and take in the beauty of the hillsides.
But that little white store is a community gathering place for many in the state-line area, where folks have been able to meet, exchange news, and buy goods for 70 years.
The man who built the business, and contributed so much more to the community, was named Garnett Ray Turner. Turner died on Monday at 94.
The unassuming building in a way resembles the Fulks Run native who ran the shop and complementary ham curing operation for decades.
Both the shop and Turner served the community while not being the loudest presence.
For example, Turner had a lasting impact on many lives through advocating for education and business in the Fulks Run area and received the “unsung hero” award for his time as a director on the board of the Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative from the 1980s to early 1990s.
“He liked the recognition, but that’s not why he did it,” said Ron Turner, Garnett’s son. “He genuinely did it truly because wanted to help somebody.”
After graduating from Broadway High School in 1943 and a service in the Navy, Turner became the Fulks Run postmaster in 1947, a position in which he would serve for 20 years.
Two years later, Turner opened Fulks Run Grocery and married Lena Virginia Albrite. Garnett and Lena Turner would go on to have five children and remain married until Lena Turner’s death in 2015.
“I don’t think dad would have been nearly as successful had he not found mom,” Ron Turner said. “Mom was just as instrumental as dad, but she worked behind the scenes.”
Lena Turner did all the paperwork for the family businesses and helped with the ham curing.
In 1958, Garnett Turner was one of the founding members of the Fulks Run Ruritans, a civic club focused on the well-being of the community.
Later that year, the organization successfully advocated for the creation of Fulks Run Elementary School.
Previously, “all of us kids around here either went to two-room school [houses] or drove on a bus out to Broadway,” said Pat Ritchie, one of Garnett’s daughters.
As the postmaster, he learned more and more about the needs from the people in the community, said Ritchie.
These connections Turner had made in his time as postmaster played a pivotal role in preserving the Fulks Run community in 1968, when the Army Corps of Engineers proposed damming Brocks Gap.
“It would have flooded this whole area,” Ritchie said.
The Army Corps of Engineers said that only a few families would be displaced by the damming, according to Ritchie.
However, Turner, as the postmaster, was able to list all the families that would actually be displaced by the project, she said.
“They hired five charter buses and loaded everybody up from Fulks Run and they went down to D.C.,” Ron Turner said.
The siblings recall that their mother stayed behind and said it was the slowest day for the store because there was nobody in town.
“Everybody was fighting the dam,” Ritchie continued. “And it worked because it wasn’t built.”
In 1960, Garnett and Lena Turner produced their first batch of the now-regionally famous sugar cured ham recipe, which Garnett had gotten from his grandfather, Webster Turner. Curing hams is hard work and not every ham comes out perfect, Ron Turner said.
“I was 12 or 15 years old before I tasted a good ham because the only hams we ate were the ones people brought back saying ‘Oh, it didn’t taste right,’” he said as Ritchie laughed.
Today, Ron Turner keeps ham curing business and grocery store going, after having bought the store from Garnett’s brother, Miles Turner, in 1996. Miles bought the store from Garnett in 1969.
In 1960, H.D. Lee Co., a jeans producer, opened a plant in Broadway after hard work from the Broadway-Timberville Industrial Corp., of which Turner was a member.
At its height, the plant employed 600 people from the West Virginia-Virginia state line area. However, the plant closed in 1988 due to decreasing sales numbers, according to previous Washington Post reports.
Between the civic organizations and work, Garnett Turner was constantly busy.
“So if you’re a little kid and you want to see your dad, you were going to be working,” Ron Turner said.
However, Sundays were for the family, he said.
The Turners would regularly go on picnics and even up to Washington, D.C., just for the day.
Garnett Turner spent his golden years doing what he loved, hunting, playing croquet and selling subdivisions in the area, Ron Turner said. “Even when he was in his late 80s he would walk the boundaries with people,” Ritchie said.
Ron Turner said real estate was his father’s passion because it mixed Garnett’s love of salesmanship and the outdoors.
“That was dad in his element,” he said. “Out in the woods, showing the real estate.”