Dan Turner, mystic activist from the prairie to the streets, dies at 81

Dan Turner earned his training wheels as a mystic when he was just 10 years old. His teacher? A little prairie, brimming with wild, untamed greenness that lived just beyond the backyard fence of his family’s Chicago home.

“The prairie grounded him for life,” said Elizabeth Turner, his wife of 44 years. “He met God in nature. He saw the cosmic in the very simple.”

Dan Turner’s green, mystical life ended in the early morning hours on Christmas Eve. Turner, 81, had battled Alzheimer’s disease since 2010. On his bedside table at the Oakland, Calif., care center, where he had spent his last months, rested a copy of When the Trees Say Nothing, a book by Kathleen Diegnan that explores the connection between the nature spiritualties of Thomas Merton and Thomas Berry — two of his favorite writers.

Prior to his illness, the former Dominican priest’s life had been an ongoing quest for environmental and social justice on behalf of the earth, the poor, youth and the LBGT community; he advocated for peace and for Catholic acceptance of married and women priests. Hierarchy was never a part of his understanding, said his wife. “He always had a conflict with the doctrinal God of the Catholic church.”

Like many others, the best way to understand the basis for Dan Turner’s modus operandi is to delve into some of his words. Turner’s essay on “The Prairie” appears in A Ragged God, a 2015 collection of his poetry and reflections. His soul-set is right there. (m0re)