Christopher Madison Turman III died of natural causes on April 24, at his home in Chestnut Hill. He was 85.
Turman was the President and CEO of Morris Wheeler, & Co. Inc., a leading Philadelphia steel company, which for 175 years was owned and operated by his family—one of America’s longest continuously family-run businesses. Morris Wheeler steel supports William Penn’s statue atop city hall, the roof of Independence Hall, the fence around Christ Church and many other important historic business, government and cultural landmarks across the Delaware Valley.
He was the son of the late Dr. Christopher M. Turman Jr., longtime head of obstetrics and gynecology at both Abington Memorial and Germantown Hospitals and champion amateur golfer and athlete, Elisabeth Flower Morris Turman. Born in Philadelphia, Turman grew up and lived at his grandfather Frederick Wistar Morris, Jr.’s homestead, Valley Farm, at Church Road and Washington Lane, in Wyncote. His grandmother, Sophia Starr Morris, died as a result of volunteering with the Red Cross during the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic.
He lived with his wife, raising a family together, at his current and beloved residence in Chestnut Hill for nearly 50 years.
Turman attended Germantown Friends School through the eighth grade. In 1953, he graduated from Woodbury Forrest School in Virginia and followed his father in attending the University of Virginia, earning a BA in 1957. He was a member of Delta Phi Fraternity.
As a freshman varsity college wrestler, Turman suffered a career-ending injury in a pre-season match against Gallaudet University, the nation’s preeminent university for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. In an ironic twist of fate, Turman dedicated 31 years to volunteer service to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf (PSD), the last six, as its chairman and CEO. He was among a group credited with relocating the campus and significantly expanding its programs and outreach, thereby impacting a generation of Philadelphia’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing community
Turman also served on the boards of Germantown Hospital, the Mid-Atlantic Steel Service Center Institute, the Allegheny West Foundation and Springside School (now known as Springside Chestnut Hill Academy). He was active in his later life as a volunteer at the Philadelphia Free Library’s Chestnut Hill Branch.
Turman was a tireless fundraiser for charities, raising millions of dollars over his lifetime and often joked about people seeing him and crossing the street to avoid a solicitation. An avid reader, he was also an accomplished sailor, a hunter, lifelong fan of Philadelphia sports and even a Nantucket Lightship Basket weaver. He could often be found on the streets of Chestnut Hill walking his white, black and red poodles.
His extensive charitable work was recognized by both the Philadelphia Phillies and Eagles, the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Council of Southeastern Pennsylvania, PSD, Germantown Hospital, among many others.
Turman is survived by Molly Cornelius Turman, his wife of 55 years; daughter Elizabeth “Binney” Turman Granade and her husband Erik Granade, son Tim Turman and his wife Wendy Deats Turman; son Christopher “Friffer” Turman IV; grandchildren Grace Granade Riley and husband Tim Riley, Eliza Granade, and Madison Turman; his sister Elisabeth “Betsy” Ervin and brother-in-law Robert Ervin; and dedicated longtime caregiver, Florence Parker. James Morris Turman, his younger brother, predeceased him.
A memorial service will be held at a later date. In this pandemic time of dire need to drive hunger from our community, donations in his memory can be made to Philabundance, attn: Turman Memorial, 3616 S. Galloway St, Philadelphia, PA 19148.