Marianne Turley is one of this year’s City of Nanaimo Culture and Heritage Award winners for Honour in Culture. (Bulletin file photo)

Marianne Turley is one of this year’s City of Nanaimo Culture and Heritage Award winners for Honour in Culture. (Bulletin file photo)

Longtime Vancouver Island Symphony board member gets posthumous culture award

Marianne Turley receives City of Nanaimo Culture and Heritage Award for Honour in Culture

On April 30, in lieu of a ceremony, City of Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog hand-delivered the 2021 Culture and Heritage Awards to this year’s winners. The city also released online video profiles of the recipients. This is the first in a four-part series on this year’s award winners.

Marianne Turley spent the last 20 years of her life in service to the Vancouver Island Symphony and that support is continuing thanks to a newly established foundation.

Marianne, who died Jan. 7 at the age of 70, is this year’s recipient of a City of Nanaimo Arts and Heritage Award for Honour in Culture. Among her roles with the VIS were president, board member and fundraising chair. She founded the Women of Note, which supports the VIS’s integrated music education program, as well as Symphony of Roses Day, an event which ran for 17 years. She also served on the City of Nanaimo’s culture committee. She’s the city’s first posthumous award recipient since entertainer Ken Gogo in 2014.

“I feel so fortunate that she loved her symphony,” said VIS executive director Margot Holmes, who knew Marianne for 21 years. “Her impact will be lasting, let’s just put it that way. I don’t believe we’d be here today without her drive and dedication to ensure that the symphony is an important part of the community.”

Jim Turley, Marianne’s husband of 46 years, and his family have since set up the Marianne Turley Memorial Fund through the VIS Foundation, which he said will support the symphony’s youth education activities. Another foundation was set up through the Nanaimo Hospital Foundation for use in the cancer clinic.

Jim said at first he was the one approached to join the symphony board, but he already had his hands full volunteering for three other organizations. He suggested they offer the position to Marianne instead.

“I said, ‘I don’t think I can, but Marianne might be interested’ and she got into it,” he said. “And for those who knew my wife and my business partner, when she got into something it wasn’t half-hearted.”

Jim said giving up “wasn’t in [Marianne’s] vocabulary” and when the VIS went through tough financial times she would be the one to push the other board members to find ways to keep the symphony going. Jim said he was involved in many VIS fundraisers, “and I don’t recall any unsuccessful events.”

“I remember one of the fundraisers was something to do with Caesar and so I ended up having to be dressed in a toga at this event,” he said. “And Bill Robinson, who’s a school trustee, he was also conned into being involved but he was lucky. He got the longer toga. I got the short one.”

Another fundraiser with a Mozart theme resulted in Jim dressing up as the composer, “complete with tights and a wig and running around going ‘Te-he-he.’”

Jim said he and Marianne never sought recognition for their community involvement; they did it for the enjoyment. And although Marianne died before this year’s Arts and Heritage Award winners were announced, Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog let her know in advance that she was one of the honourees.

“She knew and I think she was pleased,” Jim said. “But from a broader perspective, I think the people in the community that had worked with her were probably more pleased than she was.”

Holmes said it’s “just lovely” to see Marianne recognized with the Honour in Culture Award.

“I regret it wasn’t given before she passed away,” Holmes said. “But I think she knew how important she was to us.”

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