Harriet B. Turner

June 14, 1922June 5, 2018

Harriet B. Turner, age 95, of San Diego, California, died June 5, 2018. A viewing will be held June 15, from 5PM-9PM at the Funeraria Del Angel (Mortuary of the Angel, formerly Humphrey’s), 753 Broadway, Chula Vista, CA 91910. She was preceded in death by her husbands Lt. Col. Corwin Grimes and James Turner, her parents, Harry and Julia Benson, and all of her five siblings, including Jewel Benson (died in infancy from influenza), Walter Benson, Marjorie Anderson, Betty Eichler, Bill Benson, Esq. (whose daughter, Betsy Benson, Esq., was recently elected judge in Broward County, Florida) and many friends including her dear friend Col. George Wayne Powell, MD. She is survived by her three children: Patricia Gallimore, Masters in Sociology, Michael Grimes, Esq. and Jeffrey Turner, CPA. Also her grandson Michael Norelli, her Grandson Jason Norelli and her granddaughter Gabrielle McNealley, her great grandson Syris Norelli and her great-granddaughter Camille McNealley. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations be made to Mrs. Turner’s favorite charity, The Southern Poverty Law Center. (link below)

Harriet was ahead of her time. Back when most women were homemakers, Harriet was a newspaper journalist, a teacher, a political PR person, a real estate broker, author and psychiatric social worker.

Harriet was born June 14, 1922 in Charleston, South Carolina to Julia and Harry Benson. Harry was a Navy Chaplain in World War I and a Maytag washing machine salesman at the time of Harriet’s birth. With the advent of the depression in 1929, Harriet’s family moved from Missouri to Florida and bought a small farm with Harry’s father (who was a County Judge) and his brothers. Harriet enjoyed a rural childhood. The family moved to Gainesville, when Harry decided to get a college degree and open a laundry. Harriet graduated from High School at 15 and college at 19. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from Florida State College (for women at the time).

During college, Harriet interned for the local newspaper, the Lakeland Ledger, and was assigned the task of interviewing a departing group of Army Air Corps officers. Tough job for a young lady. One of the airmen was Corwin Grimes. Soon after, she met Corwin at a dance and their relationship began. Harriet and Corwin were married on the day she graduated from college. Daughter Patricia was born in 1943 in Tampa. Son Michael was born in 1947 in Nuremberg, Germany when then Squadron Commander Corwin was stationed there during the U.S. occupation. Harriet and Corwin separated in 1952.

Harriet moved to Palo Alto, California in 1952 with Patricia and Mike to be with her mother and sister Marjorie who was getting her Masters in Music at Stanford. After several more moves down the Peninsula, she arrived in San Jose where she was a reporter for the San Jose Mercury News (the education and society page beats as Harriet Grimes) and served as a teacher in a one room, rural Air Point School in the Milpitas foothills.

Always interested in politics (with lifelong concern for the environment and labor), she became a campaign public relations person for Al Alquist then running for the State Assembly who won and later became a Senator and ran for Lt. Governor. She did the same for Don Edwards who was running for Congress, won and served many years with distinction and Henry Hammer (father of later San Jose Mayor Susan Hammer) who was running for Mayor of San Jose among others. These liberal democratic politicians combined resources and often met to map strategy over Harriet’s dinner table. Harriet worked with acclaimed community and labor organizer Ernesto Galarza during the 1958 teacher’s union dispute. Mike and Patricia remember going with Harriet as children to a meeting at the Galarza home and being gently put to bed by Mae Galarza, Ernesto’s sweet wife, when the meeting went late into the night.

Harriet met James Turner during this period in San Jose and they married in 1959. Jim was a Real Estate Broker and gifted musician who could play almost anything but specialized in the trumpet. He led the bands at the Hawaiian Gardens and Lou’s Village in San Jose. Harriet and James had a child, Jeffrey Turner born in 1961. Harriet and James were divorced in 1964.

Harriet decided to become a psychiatric social worker, went back to college at UC Berkeley and received her MSW also in 1964. She commenced a long career counseling and doing what she loved, helping others. She moved to San Diego with Jeffrey in 1972 where she continued in social work with San Diego County Mental Health and retired in 1986. A colleague said of her: “Harriet seemed to me to be the epitome of all that is good and special about social work. She represented social work with an intelligence, a wisdom really, that filled me with pride in just being associated with her, just being able to say to people ‘Harriet Turner is the leader of our group.’ I saw her as one of those rare types who have not only leadership responsibilities, but also unshakeable principles.”

Harriet established a lasting relationship with her San Diego neighbor George Powell who died in 2008. Dr. Powell, who introduced Harriet to investing and genealogy, had a long lasting positive influence on her. She was well traveled visiting: Germany, Italy, Greece, Australia, Canada, Alaska, Hawaii and Mexico. Additionally, she undertook the task of extensively charting her family’s genealogy, writing a novel and dozens of short stories, played bridge, loved dabbling in her garden, and stayed well informed with current events. All who survive her, miss her.

The Southern Poverty Law Center:


  • Visitation and Vigil Service Friday, June 15, 2018

Harriet B. Turner

have a memory or condolence to add?

Sandy Ornelas

June 13, 2018

Please accept our deepest condolences for your family's loss

Sandy Ornelas and The Funeraria Del Angel Chula Vista Staff

Mark Knight

June 13, 2018

My sincere condolences to all of Harriet’s family and friends.

As a friend of her son, Jeffrey (who I met at the San Diego Chess Club in 1978), I frequently visited the Turner home in the Clairemont area of the city. Harriet kept quite busy, and was seemingly never without a project or three in the works. But she always had time for a kind word or witty comment—usually both. Although my encounters with her were , sadly, infrequent, when I picture her in my mind the first things I recall are the twinkle in her eyes and her infectious joie de vivre.

If one of the measures of a life well lived is how not only friends, but also casual acquaintances remember you, then let me say that I remember Harriet as a smart, gracious, good-hearted woman, a great mom to Jeffrey, and a wonderful human being who lived life to the fullest.