Super Senior: Mary Turner

Published: Jul. 15, 2021 at 2:34 PM EDT
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GRAND ISLE, Vt. (WCAX) - Mary Turner summers in Grand Isle State Park, a place she calls “a little piece of heaven.” “It’s gorgeous,” Turner said, “Absolutely beautiful.”

For the last decade, she has been taking in the scenery on the shores of Lake Champlain. The campground is Vermont’s most popular, with over 150 sites. Mid-July is prime time at the park. “It makes me happy to be here,” Turner said.

She not only camps at the park but also puts in a day’s work. The 72-year-old mows, paints, and cleans windows, just to name a few of her chores. All of that time as a volunteer. No pay, but a place to park her camper for free from May to October. “I’m loving it, I’m loving it,” Turner said.

On this morning, she’s working next to the main gate getting rid of an outdated fence. “This old fence is really old, it has to come down,” she said.

“There’s nothing holding her back,” said Dani Schneider, the park’s head manager.

Mary Turner: It makes me happy.

Dani Schneider: Yeah, it makes us happy. She’s awesome.

“I think I’m blessed to have something to do and be around good people,” Turner said.

She has become a fixture over the years at the park for visitors and employees alike. “She is actually a return attraction,” Schneider said.

Quick with a laugh and a “can do” work ethic, she’s been dubbed “Queen of the Park” and “The Lady of the Loo.” “I would think everybody would want to do this,” Turner said. “It’s one of those things, if you need it, you do it.”

Cleaning the toilets and showers every morning, it’s fair to say it’s not the most regal endeavor. “It’s a bathroom and I’m proud of it,” Turner said. And a royal flush for all of the guests.

Turner has put in thousands of hours of labor for free. Some might say she’s getting the short end of the stick. “I don’t look at it that way, no, I don’t look at it that they are. I look at it like I’m getting the deal,” Turner said.

The campground is also a place Turner has found solace. She started volunteering here shortly after her husband, Keith, died following a long illness. “Being around, you know, people and doing, just doing different things. Yeah, it did, it helped me get through a lot,” she said.

“She’s really what makes the park feel like a family,” Schneider said.

“You know, there was a point when I turned 50 and I thought I was going to die, the world had ended. I got over that and now I don’t care,” Turner said.

What she does care about is her park and the people.

Mary Turner: See all this I got to pick up, I got to clean up.

Reporter Joe Carroll: You’re going to do that?

Mary Turner: I’ll do all that, cut that wood up, clean it up.

A summer of love for this Super Senior. “Many times I’ve said that, many times -- I’m home,” Turner said.

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