Spencer “Spence” Edward Turner

Spencer “Spence” Edward Turner, 76, beloved husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and friend, died peacefully at home in the company of his family on Aug. 26, 2016.

Arrangements are as follows: The family will receive friends from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm on Sept. 2 at the Missouri United Methodist Church. Memorial Services will be held at 2:00 pm on Sept. 3 at the Missouri United Methodist Church.

Spence was born in Wisconsin (WI) on December 10, 1939 to Spencer and Ella May Turner. As a youth, he spent his free time fishing, hunting, and skiing. He was introduced to fishing and hunting by his father. His love for fly fishing was developed during the summer days at the lake after his dad dropped him off on his way to work. During the winter months, he honed his skiing skills, and in high school became a member of the ski patrol.

In the 4th grade, he developed a crush on Joan Borgen. At age 18 using his great smile, he was able to woo her into dating. She soon became the love of his life. In June of 1961, Spence and Joan were wed in a lovely ceremony in Stanley, WI.

At the time, they were both attending college. Spence, having failed English for three semesters in a row, enlisted in the Air Force and was stationed in Anchorage, AK for 5 years where he was initially assigned to the ski patrol. After his time in the Air Force, he went on to complete his BS in Conservation with emphasis in fisheries management from Stevens Point (WI), and later his MS in fisheries biology from Colorado State at Fort Collins.

In 1963, Spence and Joan started a family in Anchorage, AK and together went on to raise 2 sons and a daughter (Warren, Mac, and Sue) before settling down in Columbia, Missouri.

Spence was a devoted family man who made sure to include his family on many of his wilderness excursions, even though his loving wife wasn’t “the outdoors type”. The occasional misfortune, like the cooler that went tumbling off the car roof, couldn’t darken his taste for the voyage.

It was his love for the environment and of being outdoors that enabled Spence to carve out successful careers as a biologist, writer, and photographer. He spent 28 years working for the Missouri Department of Conservation, and was pivotal in establishing the management program for trout and small mouth bass populations in Missouri’s water ways. Spence’s writing and photography skills allowed him to share the stories of his adventures in such publication as Outdoor Guide, Game & Fish, Field & Stream, Outdoor Life, Fur-Fish-Game, Missouri Department of Conservation, and had his own column in the Columbia Tribune, to name a few.

In addition, his wonderful way of getting a laugh provided the critical icing to so many of his legendary adventures. Many, who have had the opportunity to join him on his expeditions, can tell you a story (or two) about how Spence stumbled or rolled through their quest. He “practiced” stumbling so much that he became an expert at the art of the tumble; so much so that most people around might not have noticed that he tripped.

Spence bred, trained, and hunted English Setters for 30 years. The training and playing with the puppies was one of his favorite activities. He hunted birds with his dogs until he couldn’t walk the uneven ground in the fields following his left foot amputation.

Tales of his exciting adventures and antics have at times pre-empted an actual introduction, allowing someone to know him or of him even before they first meet. Over the years, Spence became an avid hunter, occasional gatherer, and a worthy cook…all of which he enjoyed and shared until the very end. One could say that he was a connoisseur of life and a great friend to many. Spence was known for having a winning personality, and was pretty lucky at drawings too. At times, it was almost expected that he would win something. Maybe that was the cost of getting to spend some time with such a wonderful man and hearing about all of his adventures in life.

Never one to sit on the sidelines, he was a member of several organizations. He served as the president of the Optimist Breakfast Club, became a life member of the Downtown Optimist, served on the Columbia (MO) Convention Visitors Bureau, and established and organized the annual “Day with Wildlife” event to educate the public about outdoors activities and conservation.

Spence earned Professional Conservationist of the Year awards from both Trout Unlimited and the Federation of Fly Fishers.

He was a member of the Outdoors Writers Association of America (OWAA) where he was president from 2005-2006 and received the following awards Outdoor Ethics Communication Award (1994), Outstanding Board of Director Member Award (1995), Ham Brown Award (2014).

Spence was an avid Fox News and Rush Limbaugh enthusiast. He could often times be found listening to both very loudly throughout the house. He was a conservative and tried to convert others to republican. He was a strong believer that everyone should vote, even if you voted for the “the other side”.

In July of 2015, Spence was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and spent the next several months fighting to be cured with the assistance of his physicians (Dr. Chapman, Dr. Schlossman, and Dr. Joe Muscato). In the end, Spence spent his last days at home with his black lab by his side. He went peacefully thanks in a large part to Joan who took wonderful care of him. The support that Glenn Berkey, RN (Boone Hospital Home Care & Hospice) provided assisted in making Spence’s final days ones of peace and comfort.

Spence has brought so much joy and laughter to so many people throughout his life and he will be missed dearly. He can rest assured that his legend will live forever in our hearts, in his stories, and in the conservation efforts that made up such a large part of his time with us. We will miss you Spence so very much.

Spence is survived by his beloved wife Joan, children: Warren (Lida), Mac (Sheryl), and Sue Martin (Frank), grandchildren: Brandy Knehans, Ashley Baxter, and Kody Baxter, and great grandsons Spencer Connour and Gabriel Baxter.

In Lieu of flowers, Spence’s family requests donations be made to the OWAA Bob Smith Fund (http://owaa.org/store/donation/voluntary-contribution/).



  1. Tom Dailey on September 1, 2016 at 6:13 am

    I am deeply saddened by the loss of Spence. I was one of the fortunate ones to have been mentored by Spence as a biologist and quail hunter, and Spence made it clear his family was dear to him. Spence was a blessing to many, and lives on our memories. May God give you peace and comfort during this difficult time.

  2. Tom and Linda Kuschel on September 1, 2016 at 9:22 am

    We fondly remember Spence coming up to North Central Minnesota hunting on our property – thou he did spend some time “tripping” on brush or resting on the bush piles (because the dog was tried, he said) we’re pretty sure he enjoyed himself and he actually may have gotten a Grouse or two over the years!!!
    Our heartfelt condolences to Spence’s family. He truly will be missed.

  3. Ted Nelson Lundrigan on September 1, 2016 at 10:44 am

    Good Night. Good Night.
    As we so oft’ have said
    ‘neath this roof at midnite;
    In the days that are no more
    and shall no more return;
    Thou hast taken up thy lamp and gone to bed; whilst we linger a bit longer to tend the coals that still burn.
    H. W. Longfellow

  4. Gregg Messel on September 1, 2016 at 6:27 pm

    Spencer was a wonderful friend to trout and trout fisherman. I worked over the years closely with Spencer on many of his pet projects in Missouri. He allowed sportsmen a chance to enhance trout streams and regulations. On his last visit to me in Montana in July 2011 I had the chance to host him and his mentor Dr. Jack Heaton on a float of the Madison. stumpy had a great day on the water and chance to share many stories. I had hoped to see him this summer and to have a final visit with him and Dr. Jack. He enjoyed my fishing logs and used to fish vicarious through me. RIP Spence.

  5. Rich Patterson on September 2, 2016 at 1:42 pm

    I was saddened to learn of Spence’s death and my thoughts go to his family and many friends. I had the good fortune to know Spence and work with him for many years as volunteers for the Outdoor Writers Association. A few years back I spent a memorable day with him fishing for redfish and sea trout in Louisiana, but darn, he outfished me.

  6. Glenn Covington on September 2, 2016 at 5:12 pm

    I enjoyed working with Spence while he was a research biologist, and I was a starving grad student, at MDC’s research office. I still remember you at my grad project presentation on smallmouth bass in the Ozark National Scenic Riverway. As a trout fisherman, thank you for all you did for trout fishing in Missouri. Some of my fondest memories are from spending time on a Missouri trout stream! Rest in peace my friend!

  7. John hinshaw on September 3, 2016 at 8:46 am

    Wonderful man. Recall him as one of the leaders in the Scouts when I was in it. Great guy, always happy. He will be missed.

  8. Roger Ponder on September 4, 2016 at 3:04 am

    I am sad to learn of Spence passing. He was truly a great person and contributed much to the Missouri Department of Conservation. God be with you.
    Roger Ponder. Retired HR Director. MDC

  9. Mike Reed on September 4, 2016 at 9:30 am

    I don’t have words to describe what Spence did for or meant to me in my early career. I was fortunate to work as a graduate student on trout with Spence and can’t count the things I learned from him. We spent many hours on the river in jon boats, hotel rooms and his old green suburban talking fishing, fish and conservation. He always had an answer for my questions and a quip or quote for when I didn’t have anything to say. I will always have those many memories of days afield with Spence. Thank you Spencer.

Leave a Condolence