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John E. (Buck) Turnbull, 88, Des Moines
Obituaries · June 29, 2017



John E. (Buck) Turnbull, 88, passed away Friday, June 23, 2017, at Scottish Rite Healthcare Center following a recent hospitalization. Memorial services will be held on Aug. 19, 2017, at Grace United Methodist Church, 3700 Cottage Grove, Des Moines, Iowa. Visitation will be from 10:30 am – noon with the funeral service beginning at noon and a luncheon to follow.

Buck was born on Nov. 15, 1928, to Thomas Reed and Myrtle Philson Turnbull in Cincinnati, Ohio. He grew up in Bound Brook, New Jersey, and graduated from Staunton Military Academy in Staunton, Virginia, in 1946. Buck became an Iowan in the fall of 1946 when he enrolled at The University of Iowa. Buck went out for football as a freshman but soon decided that he would rather be behind a typewriter than facing the big guys across the line. The University of Iowa is where Buck met his future wife, Mary Jay Foster. They married in August 1951.

After graduation and a short time at Winona, Minn., Buck and Mary Jay moved to Des Moines where he began work as a copywriter for the sport’s section at The Des Moines Register. In 1963, Buck became a full time Register reporter. For the next 30 years, Buck covered endless major sporting events such as bowl games, The Kentucky Derby, The Drake Relays, and Big 10 and Big 12 football and basketball. In 1993, Buck retired from The Register and went on to write two books about Iowa football and basketball, Iowa Hawkeyes (Stadium Stories) and Iowa Hawkeyes Men’s Basketball (Great Moments in Team History). Earlier in his career, he had written, “From the Press Box,” which included some of his special columns and “The Iowa Conference Story.”

In his retirement, Buck enjoyed playing golf, reading, traveling, attending sporting events, and following his Cincinnati Reds. As a kid, Buck named himself after his favorite Red’s pitcher, Bucky Walters.

Buck is survived by his wife of 65 years, Mary Jay; two sons: Rick of Minneapolis and Curt (Leslie) of Las Vegas; three grandchildren; three sisters-in-law: Sue Turnbull of Boston, Doris Hagen of San Antonio, and Audrey Rex of West Branch; and many nieces and nephews.

He was preceded in death by his parents, brother, and son Gary.

Memorial gifts may be directed to the UI Foundation, P.O. Box 4550, Iowa City, IA 52244-4550.  On the memo line please note in memory of John E. (Buck) Turnbull; or to the National Ataxia Foundation, 2600 Fernbrook Lane Suite 119, Minneapolis, MN 55447.

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