In order to comprehend the love story of June (Jodie) and Larry Turner, one must first understand a piece of Camp Joy history. In 1957, West-Cincinnati St. Barnabas Church continued to sponsor Camp Joy (which originated in 1937 in the West End of Cincinnati.) The Findlay Street Neighborhood House (FSNH) located one block away from the church, was a safe place, offering help when needed to the people in the neighborhood. There was a natural linkage for the church/FSNH/Camp Joy to work together to provide year-round counseling and support for the neighborhood children and their families.
Now back to our story. Larry moved from Kentucky and lived in the West End the last two years of high school. He was a self-proclaimed fortunate individual who “got out of the neighborhood” and went to Central State College in Wilberforce, Ohio, where he majored in social work. Upon graduation, he returned to Cincinnati to help kids. The Findlay Street Neighborhood House hired Larry as a youth worker. He worked tirelessly to organize youth clubs and provide outreach services and support in the community. Larry advised, “When our kids went to Camp Joy during the summer, some of us would go check on them to see how they were doing.” Note: A hint of things to come.
One of the beloved counselors at Camp Joy that summer was a special education teacher by trade, Jodie. She informed us that she loved the campers so much she told the camp director not to pay her and to put the money back into helping the kids. How could you not love her?
When the younger kids returned from camp, they teased, “Mr. Turner you’ve got to meet Jodie!” As word spread among the neighborhood youth when the next group of kids went to camp, they’d effuse, “Jodie, you’ve got to meet Mr. Turner. “
Fast forward…some of the older kids had been enjoying Camp Joy since they were little, but were finding excuses not to attend. Larry disclosed, “We decided during a staff meeting the previous winter, to design a week-long summer retreat where older campers would sleep in tents in the wooded area way behind the main camp and rough it out. They had to dig latrines, construct small bridges where necessary, and work on survival skills for living with nature.”
Jodie volunteered to work with the girls during that retreat. Larry was assigned by FSNH to Camp Joy for the same week. When the campers saw his car entering the campground, they lined both sides of the entrance road and chanted, “Here he is!” Larry ‘s first words to Jodie were, “I think I was supposed to come out the meet you. The kids talked so much about you, I knew you had to be a special person.” Jodie thought, “He’s got a raggedy car and an ugly brown and white check shirt with a rip in the sleeve.”
Well…after experiencing that week camping, Jodie saw how caring and nurturing Larry was with the kids…and Larry saw the same qualities in Jodie. They both loved working with youth at the camp – and with each other. So much so, that one year later, they celebrated their love of kids and family and shared those values at their wedding altar with 200 neighborhood kids in attendance. One daughter and 58 years later, they are still experiencing the joy they found at Camp Joy and nurturing youth – including two grandsons! Thank you, Jodie and Larry, for your continued love and service and for giving us all faith that there truly are happily-ever-afters!