(BEDFORD) - Dennis Turner stepped outside the NLCS administration building Friday afternoon expecting to be greeted by a few members of his family. He was only one step through the threshold on his final day as superintendent when the popular educator of 27 years realized the gathering included his "extended" family as well.
Nearly 100 of Turner's family and closest friends applauded and cheered, commemorating that first, yet significant step into a new chapter of life.
Turner, obviously overwhelmed by the ambush of affection, placed his hand over his heart, tried to speak, but managed only a deep, silent sigh.
"I've never seen him speechless," whispered Judy Stout, a teacher at Stalker Elementary. "He's usually so very good with words."
Turner's voice was magically restored as his grandchildren, wielding bouncing, colorful balloons, raced to embrace him. After a flurry of hugs and kisses, he stood, smiled, and proclaimed proudly: "I am now a full-time grandpa!" Then, for 30 minutes, Turner casually ambled among colleagues and schoolmates, shaking hands, hugging, and posing for pictures.
"He's the most amazing man ever," gushed Karen Goodwine, a former teacher at Bedford Middle School. "He's truly been a blessing for North Lawrence Schools."
Fayetteville Principal Rhonda Hackler nodded in affirmation and added, "He is undoubtedly the most child-centered educator I've had the opportunity to know."
Turner claims he is ready for whatever is around the next curve. He plans to "read and write, walk and run, travel and journal, and serve and saunter."
Austin Malone, Turner's stepson, smiled as he watched the new retiree respond so graciously to each well-wisher. "He's the same guy at work as he is at home," Malone explained. "He is a selfless, kind-hearted, brilliant father. Everything he is ... is what I hope to be."
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