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Welcome to the memorial page for

James E. Turner, III

July 16, 1951 ~ December 28, 2017 (age 66)

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James E. Turner, III, age 66, of Smyrna, Delaware, passed away at home on Thursday, December 28, 2017. Delaware is a safer and better place thanks to the life and work of Jamie Turner. As a firefighter, as the calm voice in the middle of years of hurricanes, floods and snowstorms, and as trainer of generations of first responders, Jamie's legacy is a state full of men and women who know, as he would say, that "if you lose your head, you'll lose your ass!"

Serving the people of Delaware was Jamie Turner’s passion. His respect for Delaware and the deep traditions here will remain forever etched in the hearts of those that he was proud to serve with.  He believed in teaching the next generation and in the power of good training.  His work ethic was unmatched. 

Born James Everett Turner, III on July 16, 1951 to the late James E. Turner, Jr. and Florence Turner, Jamie graduated from John Bassett Moore High School in Smyrna in 1969 and continued his studies at Delaware Technical & Community College.

Those who knew him know he was tough as nails and even tougher on those who he loved the most (just ask his daughters) and, that he believed in you.  Jamie expected excellence and if he was pushing you, it was because he knew you were capable of doing better.   

Jamie’s work history is impressive, but he never worked to be the center of attention.  Though he received accolades and awards throughout his career, they were not why he worked hard.  He worked to train thousands of firefighters and first responders and – for more than a decade – was literally the calm in the middle of any storm as the Director of the Delaware Emergency Management Agency.   

Jamie served this state as a Dispatcher with the Delaware State Police, a Senior Instructor with the Delaware State Fire School, as Executive Secretary of the Delaware Volunteer Firefighters Association, and served as the Director of DEMA for 13 years, under Governors Minner and Markell.  He retired in 2015 and a training room – fittingly – at DEMA was dedicated in his honor.  At that ceremony, Governor Markell said, “The citizens of our great state are forever grateful for Jamie’s commitment to public safety.”  Jamie simply said he was just doing his job. 

In addition to his career, Jamie was always working to make the community a better place through his volunteer work.  He joined Clayton Fire Company on October 9, 1966 and was a proud 50-year member.   He served as Deputy Chief, Lieutenant, Vice President, Secretary and Director and was named Fireman of the Year in 1975. He was also a life member of Holloway Terrace, Minquas, Delaware City and Smyrna Fire Companies.  Jamie was privileged to obtain the 33rd Degree of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the United States of America.  In addition, he served as a Past Master of Harmony Lodge No. 13 A.F. & A.M. in Smyrna and was a Past Junior Grand Warden of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of A.F. & A.M. of Delaware.  Jamie was a Past President of the Northern and Lower Delaware Shield & Square Club. Jamie was a proud member of his Masonic Lodge and the brotherhood he shared with so many.  He was also a member of St. Peters Episcopal Church of Smyrna.  

The firefighters from the Clayton and Smyrna houses were his brothers for more than 60 years.  They grew up together; their loyalty to each other and the fire service is unparalleled.  He loved them fiercely.  

Last, but not least, he was a son, a brother, a husband, a father, and – his favorite role – a Pop Pop.  People might be surprised to know that Jamie FaceTimed his grandchildren and texted his daughters every single day to check in.  Even when he was sick, Jamie would play tea party or trucks with his grandkids.  

Jamie is survived by his wife Debbie, with whom he shared 37 years of marriage and happiness; his daughters Kim Willson (Mike), Katelyn Olson (Sean) and the loves of his life – his grandchildren Keegan and Kolton Olson and Madelyn and Harper Willson.  He is also survived by his sister, Melanie Meyers, his “bonus” daughter Laura Wisler, and his lap dog, Holly.   He was preceded in death by his brother Stephen Turner.  He was so proud of his family, much as they were of him.

Jamie’s family also wants to thank Dr. Rishi Sawhney and the Bayheath oncology team for taking such wonderful care of Jamie over the last few years.  Because of them, Jamie had more time here with all of us and we are so grateful.  

Please join family and friends in a celebration of Jamie’s life. A viewing will be held on Wednesday, January 3, 2018 from 11am to 1pm at the Clayton Fire Hall, located at 300 East Street in Clayton. Masonic services will begin at 1pm, followed by the celebration of life services. Burial will be private.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Clayton Fire Company, c/o Scholarship Fund, PO Box 1050, Clayton, DE 19938.

Condolence letters may be sent by visiting

 Service Information

January 3, 2018

11:00 AM to 1:00 PM
Clayton Fire Department
300 East Street
Clayton, DE 19938

Funeral Service
January 3, 2018

1:00 PM
Clayton Fire Department
300 East Street
Clayton, DE 19938

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