Lack of hands is no handicap for Hephzibah native Eric Turner

Saturday, Aug 24, 2013 8:41 PM
Last updated Monday, Aug 26, 2013 1:13 AM
  • Follow Latest News

Eric Turner has mastered the art of adapting.

Back | Next
One of Turner's three jobs is delivering for Pizza Hut. "I could be sitting back and getting a government check, but I don't want someone telling me how much I can make," Turner said. "Let me be responsible for that. I want to be in control of my own destiny."   JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/STAFF
JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/STAFF
One of Turner's three jobs is delivering for Pizza Hut. "I could be sitting back and getting a government check, but I don't want someone telling me how much I can make," Turner said. "Let me be responsible for that. I want to be in control of my own destiny."

He learned early on how to tie his shoes without fingers, how to twist doorknobs without thumbs, how to drive a straight drive by moving the gear shift with the crease of his wrist.

Born with a defect that left him without hands, Turner, 39, never saw the point in making excuses. He grew up not knowing what caused his condition and never really cared to find out.

The married father of two isn’t satisfied with just achieving the average. Along with his full-time position as a job coach at East Central Regional Hospital, Turner delivers for Pizza Hut and owns a lawn care business – on top of trying to launch a voice acting career – which keeps him working seven days a week, sometimes 14 hours a day.

“He can’t stop, period,” said his wife, Latasha. “He’s self-motivated and he can’t sit still. He’s got to be doing something always.”

It’s typically children who make a scene.

Turner arrives at their door, steaming pizzas in tow, and a little boy or girl will point, stare or yell what they see.

Turner’s left forearm is shortened close to the elbow, with two digits extending near his wrist. His right arm is longer, with one digit he uses to accomplish more in 24 hours than the average person.

“I don’t even have a hobby I stay so busy,” Turner said.

He works every weekday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at East Central Re­gional, helping patients learn job skills such as folding towels or housekeeping.

He heads to Pizza Hut on To­bacco Road five days a week and slings dough, answers phones, washes dishes, folds boxes and makes deliveries.

He cuts lawns about three days a week, sometimes with help from one of his sons, and gains customers by word of mouth. Turner has no modified equipment. He starts a lawn mower by wrapping the cord around his arm and trims by clutching the weedwhacker between his arms.

Turner wants to spend more time with his wife, whom he met 10 years ago at East Central Regional, and two stepsons, but the urge to provide for them won’t let him stop.

“I try to make time, but when I try to make time it’s as if I’m feeling like it’s rushed,” he said.

The real dream, however, is to hit it big as a voice actor.

Turner was born with a deep bass voice, with a set of pipes similar to Barry White. He dreams of doing voice-overs for commercials or movies.

Turner said that after taking a woman’s pizza order recently over the phone, she showed up to the store in shock “expecting me to be 6-foot-2 and 400 pounds.”

“He has such a rich, wonderful voice … it’s really an instrument,” said Marilyn Tomeo, an Augusta voice teacher who gave Turner a couple of vocal lessons.

Turner said he is willing to put in the work but has not navigated his path to stardom.

He hopes to move to Atlanta to break into acting, but something is still keeping him in Augusta.

Learning to adapt

Turner was born in Hephzibah. He and his two brothers and sister were raised by both parents, learning the value of hard work early on.

At 11 years old, he cut grass and swept patios for cash in the Castle Pines mobile home park where the family lived. At 14, he got
his first real job picking watermelon, corn and squash on a nearby farm.

“Anything to be able to make some money,” he said.

After graduating from Heph­zibah High School in 1989, he worked at Bi-Lo until he joined the old Gracewood State School and Hospital as a housekeeper. He worked through the ranks to his present position as job coach, earning the affection of patients along the way.

“As far as me having a physical dilemma, I can relate to them,” he said. “Being able to cope with what you got.”

Turner never understood the cause of his defect, but his mother used to tell him “it’s just the way God made me.”

As a young child, doctors gave Turner a prosthetic that slid on to his right arm to help him grip better and hold a pencil. It ended
up in the junk drawer, and he has never thought about getting a new one.

David Flannery, who works in the department of pediatrics at Georgia Regents University, said limb defects are the most common type of birth defects. They result from genetic predispositions or a random flaw in the complex development people undergo from embryo to birth.

“When you deal with birth defects like we do, you’re amazed about how anyone can turn out halfway normal with how complicated our development is,” Flannery said.

‘Never give up’

Turner said he wouldn’t change much about his life, other than maybe making himself a famous actor.

Without 10 fingers, he can still do all functions of daily life and then some: brush his teeth, use a spoon, lift weights, raise a family, have a career, cut grass.

There are some things that are missing, though, that make him feel a hole inside.

He wants to know what it would feel like to lace fingers with his wife and to play baseball with his sons. He wishes he could high-five his friends.

“Some things like that folks might take for granted are those things I know I’ll never be able to do,” he said.

Still, his goal above anything is to be an example for his family that hard work can often fill any void in life.

“Never give up. Always strive to be who you want to be, who you could be, who you should be,” Turner said. “When you’re born into a situation, you have to learn to adapt to the environment. … Don’t let anybody say you can’t do it, because you can do it. At the end of the day, once the lights are out, it’s you. It’s you and no one else.”

Comments (26) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
KSL
139475
Points
KSL 08/24/13 - 08:27 pm
11
0
What an inspiration!

What an inspiration!

happychimer
19347
Points
happychimer 08/24/13 - 08:35 pm
12
1
Good to hear something good

Good to hear something good for a change. Mr. Turner, you set a good example for others. Keep up the good work, but don't forget to stop and smell the roses. Make time to spend with your family, because you will miss out on a lot if you don't. They need your money, but they need you most of all.

Lee Benedict
1649
Points
Lee Benedict 08/24/13 - 08:51 pm
7
0
Outstanding

Way to go, Eric!

just an opinion
2839
Points
just an opinion 08/24/13 - 09:15 pm
12
0
No Excuses

Mr. Turner sets the bar pretty high for the rest of us! His 4th job should be "Motivational Speaker".

Graymare
3582
Points
Graymare 08/24/13 - 09:35 pm
7
0
Great Person

I met Eric when he attended a local college. He is a great person and a good man! Way to go. Eric! from Ms. Kate

bdouglas
5567
Points
bdouglas 08/24/13 - 11:33 pm
8
0
What a great story and work

What a great story and work ethic! Nice work, Tracey!

Clemsondoc
179
Points
Clemsondoc 08/25/13 - 05:27 am
8
0
Great story

If even only half the people in this country had the work ethic of Mr Turner and his mindset what a great place this would be.

Pops
12145
Points
Pops 08/25/13 - 07:18 am
6
0
Why not add

County Commissioner to your resume.......could use someone that works for the good of others..........

nocnoc
46914
Points
nocnoc 08/25/13 - 07:22 am
8
0
All these things to use as an excuse

Sit back and draw a check.

But he wants to own his own life and determine what he can and cannot do.

How do we CLONE his attitude & mentality?
He is a role model.

seenitB4
93348
Points
seenitB4 08/25/13 - 07:24 am
8
0
Wonderful story

I hope this article brings you more work....You prove to us that anything is possible....thanks for this story.

CobaltGeorge
169914
Points
CobaltGeorge 08/25/13 - 07:30 am
6
0
Eric

sure makes a lot of humans that complain daily about little things real 'small'. A good life is what you make of it. High five to you, Eric.

bubbasauce
22957
Points
bubbasauce 08/25/13 - 07:35 am
7
0
Eric, this article was a

Eric, this article was a breath of fresh air to read. I just wish other people had your attitude. You keep up the good work and I truly wish you the best of luck!

i-feel-older-2day
77
Points
i-feel-older-2day 08/25/13 - 07:37 am
6
0
Thank you!

Thank you!

chascushman
6653
Points
chascushman 08/25/13 - 08:27 am
5
2
"What an inspiration!" I
Unpublished

"What an inspiration!"
I agree he did not fall for the entitlement mentality spread by liberals/progressives, democrats and black leaders.

deestafford
30233
Points
deestafford 08/25/13 - 08:34 am
6
0
Not only is Mr Turner a wonderful physical example he is

also an example of how to progress in one's life to be successful: finish school, get a job, get married, have children in that order. I noticed he is a product of a two parent family and he has never ask anyone for anything that he has not earned. A wonderful man who is the product of wonderful parents.

This is a wonderful man who believes in "Bloom where you are planted."

TrulyWorried
16053
Points
TrulyWorried 08/25/13 - 08:58 am
6
0
A shining example

of what one can do when he sets his mind to it (and I am SURE had a lot of input from both parents!) Congratulations and admiration to a man like Mr. Turner! Yes, how fortunate the world would be if there were more Mr. Turners that don't look for others to help but proves that IT CAN BE DONE - God bless you and keep you well. I know your family is very proud of you and rightfully so.

butterflygina
159
Points
butterflygina 08/25/13 - 09:03 am
6
0
Outstanding and inspiring! He

Outstanding and inspiring! He delivers most of our pizzas and he has a wonderful personality and a voice that makes you do a double take! I pray that everything continues to work out for him and his family! God bless!

IBeDogGone
3015
Points
IBeDogGone 08/25/13 - 10:51 am
5
0
GREAT STORY

I bet every employer in America wishes they could have 50 Eric's, this article is a breath of fresh air and an a great push to quit feeling sorry for yourself and make your life productive and happy. If you work as hard as he does you will be able to sleep soundly at night!

gladtobeinna
121
Points
gladtobeinna 08/25/13 - 11:39 am
3
0
Mr. Turner is what is known

Mr. Turner is what is known as a real man. I hope he accomplishes all of his dreams.

SteveWinburn
11
Points
SteveWinburn 08/25/13 - 12:28 pm
2
0
Article error

As someone who ran track with, played football with, and graduated high school with Eric, I thought I would let you know you have his graduation year incorrect. Eric graduated in 1993.

SteveWinburn
11
Points
SteveWinburn 08/25/13 - 12:29 pm
5
0
On another note

The article is wonderful, but it is hard to do justice to a guy as awesome as Eric.

carcraft
27782
Points
carcraft 08/25/13 - 03:06 pm
3
0
Excellent, excellent,

Excellent, excellent, excellent. I am humbled be Eric!

Gage Creed
18769
Points
Gage Creed 08/25/13 - 04:40 pm
3
0
Bravo Mr. Turner... Bravo!

Bravo Mr. Turner... Bravo!

Here's wishing you success in all of your endeavors, and from the sound of it, you have everything you need to accomplish anything you put your mind to!

SheilaJ15
476
Points
SheilaJ15 08/25/13 - 05:07 pm
2
0
Wished I could share

I wished that this video was on You-Tube so I could download and share it with all my friends and family who don't have the Internet. I think this is the most inspiring story I have ever read and if I could, I would share it with the world--maybe it would give a lot of people encouragement and hope if they saw this video. He would make things not seem so bleak.

Truth Matters
7771
Points
Truth Matters 08/25/13 - 05:21 pm
3
0
Mr. Turner makes you want to

Mr. Turner makes you want to institute a "National Day of Gratitude" in honor of his "can do" spirit.

Only one person injected race into this story.
You know who you are and shame on you!

Dixieman
16479
Points
Dixieman 08/25/13 - 08:05 pm
2
0
Inspiring!

Great object lesson in how to deal with the obstacles life presents all of us with (hint: going on welfare and whining are not on the list). Wonderful story about a great guy. Keep it up! We're all rooting for you.

TrulyWorried
16053
Points
TrulyWorried 08/26/13 - 04:42 pm
0
0
Mr. Turner

needs to be presented on those communication channels - I don't know a thing about them myself but I feel that they could bring a lot of inspiration to a lot of folks all over the world. Make Mr.Turner a Hero of the World - we need a lot more of them!!

Back to Top

Top headlines

Disc golf tournament benefits Augusta charity

APPLING — When Paul Childs runs a disc golf tournament, he wants it to mean something for the rest of the community. Childs he found a cause worth supporting: the Ronald McDonald House Charities.
Search Augusta jobs