Nevill Turner — No Or­di­nary Per­son

The Guide to Rappahannock - Rappahannock News - - What’s Happening -

Editor’s note: Rap­pa­han­nock County last week lost one of its lead­ing en­trepreneur­s, racon­teurs and a gen­uinely fine fel­low, Nevill Turner. He was English born and ed­u­cated, a world trav­eler, Rap­pa­han­nock res­i­dent since 2005, and a proud Amer­ica ci­ti­zen since 2010. Fif­teen years ago, Nevill and Clare, his wife, launched the Vir­ginia Chut­ney Com­pany in the base­ment of their log cabin in Little Wash­ing­ton. Quite lit­er­ally a “mom and pop” op­er­a­tion with big dreams. Joined by son Oliver, they ex­panded their busi­ness in 2013 into the old Aileen Plant in Flint Hill, where they now em­ploy 14 full and part-time peo­ple. In­dica­tive of Nevill’s style and play­ful­ness, the plant open­ing fea­tured 200 friends ser­e­naded by opera singers from the Castle­ton Fes­ti­val. Their com­pany has been fea­tured in The New York Times, The Wash­ing­ton Post and other na­tional publi­ca­tions. Now also known as The Preser­va­tion So­ci­ety, the com­pany sells a wide range of condi­ments in the deli and cheese de­part­ments of Wal­mart, Whole Foods, Har­ris Teeter, Martin’s Food, Kroger and nu­mer­ous other na­tional out­lets. What fol­lows is a col­lec­tive “ap­pre­ci­a­tion” of Nevill by his friends Caro­line Anstey, Bill Di­etel, and Bev­erly and John Fox Sul­li­van.

Marigot Bay, St Lu­cia is a Car­ib­bean gem. Man­groves in a turquoise sea give way to hill­sides drip­ping with lush palms and red hibis­cus. And un­du­lat­ing its way up the steep­est slope to the chalets above is the most de­light­ful sight of all: an ope­nair fu­nic­u­lar. De­fy­ing grav­ity, and some might say rea­son, built en­tirely by lo­cal women to his design and di­rec­tion, it is a fit­ting metaphor for the in­domitable spirit and ir­re­press­ible op­ti­mism of Nevill Turner, who passed away at his home in Flint Hill last week. In a world peo­pled by many Eey­ores, Nevill was al­ways a Tig­ger. No chal­lenge too great, no prob­lem that couldn’t be solved. A gen­tle­man and a scholar but much more than that — a glo­ri­ous Ad­ven­tur­erRa­con­teur, a man who knew how to live a full life and tell it well. Who can for­get his two ap­pear­ances at Rap­pa­han­nock’s

No Or­di­nary Per­son?

And what an ad­ven­ture it was: from land de­vel­oper in Eng­land, to man­ag­ing the Roy­als on the Car­ib­bean Is­land of Mus­tique in its glory days, to restau­rant and ho­tel owner in St Lu­cia (the won­der­ful Doolit­tle’s still re­mains to­day), to per­haps his great­est ad­ven­ture of all — pro­duc­ing glo­ri­ously im­prob­a­ble English chut­ney at the old Aileen Plant in his beloved Rap­pa­han­nock, home for the last 15 years. Used for cen­turies in Eng­land al­legedly to mask the taste of English food, the Turn­ers’ Vir­ginia chut­ney has since ex­panded into fig jelly, spicy honey, and soon crack­ers, stocked at Whole Foods, Wal­mart and a grow­ing num­ber of re­tail out­lets across the coun­try. Who would have guessed? Per­haps the women who built his fu­nic­u­lar and his won­der­ful Flint Hill team of em­ploy­ees — his chut­ney fam­ily.

Sent to English board­ing school at the age of seven and then left there dur­ing school hol­i­days be­cause go­ing home was some­how in­con­ve­nient, Nevill learned early to make set­backs the stuff of hu­mor, never de­spair. And such won­der­ful hu­mor: rustling up a lo­cal fish­er­man to res­cue Prince Charles from be­ing ma­rooned; avert­ing a party dis­as­ter for Princess Mar­garet; miss­ing a po­ten­tially life chang­ing in­ter­view be­cause locked in a pigsty by Clare. Hu­mor so dry it could com­fort­ably slip into a mar­tini glass. But never, ever, un­kind.

Like all great racon­teurs, Nevill knew the im­por­tance of two es­sen­tial in­gre­di­ents: tim­ing and a will­ing side­kick. For 45 years, Claire has been side­kick ex­traor­di­naire. Com­pan­ion, part­ner, wife, mother to Christo­pher and Oliver, and ad­ven­turer of her own, (leav­ing Eng­land “to do some­thing” for the Bri­tish For­eign Office in Khartoum), al­ways ready, once a Nevill story started, with the skep­ti­cal prompt and the eye roll right on cue — Sy­bil to his

Basil Fawlty. And lest we for­get it was Clare who came up with their Chut­ney ad­ven­ture, and, one sus­pects, many others.

And tim­ing? Tim­ing is to the racon­teur what wa­ter is to a fish. Es­sen­tial, but in­vis­i­ble if de­ployed cor­rectly. Nevill was the mas­ter. We wish he had stayed a longer time with us. But he stayed long enough to ad­ven­ture to Maine to spend a glo­ri­ous week with his fam­ily, wrapped in blan­kets in the back of a van, sur­rounded by oxy­gen tanks, a woolly hat on his head and a grin on his face. Now what a story he would have made out of that. We will miss him. This ex­tra­or­di­nary English­man who be­came such an Amer­i­can pa­triot. Truly no or­di­nary per­son.

A me­mo­rial ser­vice for Nevill will be held Sun­day, Nov. 24, 4 to 6 p.m. at Wash­ing­ton Town Hall.

COUR­TESY PHOTO

Tim­ing is to the racon­teur what wa­ter is to a fish. Es­sen­tial, but in­vis­i­ble if de­ployed cor­rectly. Nevill was the mas­ter. We wish he had stayed a longer time with us.

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