Gary Turner, the beloved owner of the Gay Parita Sinclair gas station on old Route 66 west of Halltown, Missouri, died Thursday night.
Turner’s daughter, Barb Barnes, confirmed his passing Friday morning. Turner had battled health problems in the last few years, including a stroke in 2012 and a lengthy stay in the hospital this month.
Barnes said her father would be cremated, and there likely would be no funeral service. However, a memorial service will be scheduled at the station he built and loved.
Turner’s station was a re-creation of a circa-1930 gas station owned by Fred and Gay Mason that stood in the tiny hamlet of Paris Springs, Missouri, until it burned down in 1955.
During his retirement, Turner rebuilt the station, and it quickly became a must-stop for Route 66 travelers because of his hospitality and quirky, homespun humor. A planned 15-minute for visitors often turned into three hours — and they didn’t mind.
One of the best stories that conveyed Turner was by Andrew Evans, writing for the Digital Nomad blog for National Geographic.
Gary is the opposite of intimidating. He offers me a cold root beer from his outdoor fridge, all the while telling me how business works on Route 66 functions today—how everybody on the road looks out for everybody else. “If you treat people right and I hear about it, then I send more people your way. But if you serve crappy food and have unfair prices, well then,” he pauses for effect. “You just won’t last.” He names an establishment in Oklahoma that I must avoid at all costs. “Worst hamburger I ever had,” he shakes his head, then swears. Gary’s wife Lena walks over and sits down next to him. “You’ll see — it’s a family, all of us on Route 66. When you get to Santa Monica, you’ll miss it and want to come back.”
Here’s a bit more pre-Parita history on Turner, via the Route 66 University website:
Gary G. Turner was born February 3, 1944 — a cold and blustery day in Abesville, Missouri — to Henry and Dorothy Turner. Gary has been married to his wife and best friend, Lena, for 47 years, and to this union four children were born: two sons and two daughters.
Gary moved to California in the 1960s, and led an adventurous life there. His occupations included stints as “bank robber” at world-famous Knott’s Berry Farm; cement truck driver; and owner and operator of a used car dealership.
After returning to the Missouri Ozarks in the late 1970s, Gary spent twenty-three years on American highways as an eighteen-wheel truck driver delivering groceries and produce to a four-state area. Upon retirement, Gary took over the Gay Parita service station on Route 66 in Paris Springs, Missouri, about twenty-five miles west of Springfield in Lawrence County.
Finally, here is a video of Turner shot by roadie Nick Gerlich a couple of years ago:
UPDATE: Turner’s son, Steve, posted this message on the Gay Parita Sinclair Facebook page:
Today is a day for celebration and life of a great husband, father, and friend, Gary Turner, Gary’s Gay Parita. He lived his life as he wanted to, to be able to sit on the bench and have a soda with you. He will be greatly missed but still be there to give directions to the greatest spots around. We love you and many more too “Friends For Life” to Each of You!
Steve also posted a link to a Springfield, Missouri, television station’s tribute to his dad.
The Gary Turner’s Gay Parita Sinclair group on Facebook also is where you can surf dozens of people posting memories of their times with him.
UPDATE 1/24/2015: Turner’s family will host a memorial at his residence from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday, according to an obituary by the funeral home. As previously report, Turner will be cremated.
UPDATE 1/26/2015: Another memorial celebration of Turner’s life will occur at the station at March 15, starting at 11 a.m. and ending at 5 p.m. the second. More about the event may be found here.
(Image of Gay Parita station by Larry Myhre via Flickr)