One of Vidalia’s greatest fans and supporters, Ronnie Turner, passed away Wednesday after a brief illness. Turner, 64, was a 1974 graduate of Vidalia High School and was known all around the state of Georgia for his love of Vidalia High School and its Athletic teams, especially baseball.
Turner, fondly known around the Athletic Department as RT, could be seen at Vidalia Baseball, Football, and Basketball games, oftentimes 2 hours before game time, ready to cheer his beloved Indians on. His love for the Indians, according to longtime friend and former Vidalia Baseball Coach Greg James, began while Tuner was in High School “we had study hall together back in the early ’70s, and Ronnie and I would talk sports all the time. Even back then, he could tell you what was going on with every Vidalia team, along with Georgia and the Braves. That’s really where our friendship began, and we have remained friends this whole time. I am really sad that he has left us because we have lost a True Vidalia Indian.”
James, who began his head coaching career in 1987, says that although Ronnie loved all Vidalia Sports, he was drawn to baseball where he could recite stats from the team that was playing at that time and from years past. “In the early 90’s Ronnie began hanging around the baseball teams and wouldn’t miss a home game and very few away games, because of Mary (James Wife) and folks like Don English and James Parrish. So he naturally became part of our baseball family. One day I told him, “Ronnie, you know the Braves have John Schuerholz (GM), so why don’t you become our GM?” And from that point on, Turner became the GM of the Vidalia High School Baseball Team. And for anyone who knew Ronnie, that was a title he wore with pride. The players and coaches loved him and loved having him around, said James “they made him a part of our program, and everybody loved him. So much that the 1995 & 2003 State Championship teams made sure he had a State Championship Ring.”
As previously mentioned, Turner also loved Georgia and the Braves. Still, it was the Indians that really got his motor running so much that he would call the media all around the state to tell them of the accomplishments of his beloved Indians. “He knew every sportswriter from Savannah to Atlanta, and he would let them know exactly what was happening and would get on them if they wrote something he thought was negative.”
One of those who played on that “95” State Championship Team is Doug Roper, who said, “when I heard the news yesterday that he had passed, I thought back to my playing days and remembered just how important a part of the process he was and what an important part of our community he was. I can tell you that no one epitomizes what it means to be a Vidalia Indian any better than Ronnie Turner.” And Roper agreed with James about his assessment of Baseball being his favorite. “Although he loved all Vidalia teams and all of the student-athletes, I think he would have told you himself that he was very much partial to the baseball program and partial to Coach James and his leadership. And being the leader he was, Ronnie held a very special place in Coach James’ heart and made sure that he was active and was included in everything we did. He will be greatly missed.”
“If you were a Vidalia Baseball player during the last 30 years,” Roper continued, “you knew who Ronnie was and he definitely knew who you were, along with your stats, and Ronnie was your biggest cheerleader. To think there will be no more “strike em’ outs” coming from the stands is sad. Still, he will always be a huge part of our program and greatly missed.”
Longtime Vidalia Softball Coach Brad Thompson echoed his former Head Coach and teammate’s assessment “I met Big R in 1993, at you guessed it…a Vidalia Indian Baseball game. I knew he was about the right stuff because Coach James endorsed him wholeheartedly! From that day, I felt Ronnie was the most harmless Vidalia fan there ever has been. He had no agenda, just pure support, and love for ALL our programs,” Said Thompson. “Strike em out, will forever ring in my head. He will truly be missed.”
Vidalia Principal John Sharpe, who played Football and Basketball and taught and coached at Vidalia before becoming the current Principal, said, “Ronnie Turner loved all things Vidalia, UGA and the Atlanta Braves. No one enjoyed their victories or anguished over their losses more than he did. I will miss his “Let’s go Indians” yells at ball games and even miss his frequent phone calls to talk about upcoming games. Every school needs a fan as loyal as Ronnie was to the Vidalia Indians!”
James concluded his comments by saying, “you know up until September, he never failed to call me at 8:00 every morning since I retired. We have lost a super fan, a good GM and teammate, and I have lost one of my best friends, and I will miss him.
Graveside Funeral Services for Ronnie will be held Saturday, at 1:00 PM at Pinecrest Cemetery with visitation at Ronnie L Stewart Funeral Service Vidalia Chapel, Saturday from 10:00 AM until time of service.