September 2010 home page

  Herb Turner: A Del Mar Original
Sam Borgese | 10th Street

Photo Turner Studio


Note:  This piece is longer than what appeared in the print edition.

Herb Turner was a highly accomplished person in a community of notably accomplished people.  For me he defined the description as a genuine "human being."  Gene Schwartz, past Del Mar resident, professional publisher  and writer for over 20 years of various local news papers, described it best in his notice of Herbs death to friends in Del Mar:

Herb had a marvelous story to tell -- and he could take you on a walk through Del Mar and surrounds and illustrate it with his works.

Two years ago, Mike Gosney wrote and Bill Gladstone published a beautifully illustrated book designed by John Odam, "The Art and Architecture of Herbert B. Turner: A Creative Odyssey,"  that fulfilled a thirty-year dream of Herb's to bring together his life story as a story of his ideas and their realization.

In the early years of Del Mar's Cable TV studio - which Herb built for the town pro bono - we had a gifted studio manager, Steve Reiss, who coached me in the development and production of an 8-part series of half hour video interviews and demos of Herb's art, sculpture and architecture in Del Mar. Tony Cassaniti was the videographer and Jobi Mindell was the interviewer and narrator.

Taken together with the book, it is also a story of how art and architecture shape and reflect our lives, and of Del Mar's post-war development, Southern California living and the struggle to blend human-built environments and the natural environment with which we were endowed.

But there is much more to Herb than his works. In the Foreword to his book that Herb asked me to write, I summed up the spirit of this dear man as I knew him:

"Turner is not a man who set out to change the world. Rather, as his story shows, it is through living for his own sake in the largeness of his soul and the genius of his craft that he has contributed through his lifetime to lifting the spirits and bettering the lives of others. In the process of his self-development, his mission has been to reveal to people what is possible, to show them their worthiness through art and their potential for a good life in harmony with their natural environment."

In defense of his rights to build, Herb went to court and, after 8 years, won his case. Herb also became a civic activist, working tirelessly as a skillful "bean counter" to elect City Council members that would enact zoning and design review regulations that reflected what he felt would be a more balanced application of regulation in a free market. Working "one side of the political street" he was always ready to collaborate with the other side for the benefit of the commuity,

He was also a man devoted to his family -- and the affection and attention that he paid in the raising of his son and daughter is reflected by the character of the family he leaves behind.

In a very personal way, Herb guarded his feelings, measuring carefully how he intervened in public and business affairs, and winning the respect of all with whom he dealt for his common sense and practical skills.

Herb was one of my best friends in Del Mar and a dear man whom I loved and admired enormously. He had great gifts as an architect and builder and thinker. He found his cosmic scale in his home town and backyard - bringing big ideas to the immediacy of the small community. He was not too big for the smallest of details. The flowering of his gifts can be seen throughout the city. Del Mar was his workshop and inspiration.

What a wonderful legacy for a small city to have! What a rare privilege to have had him as friend!"



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