Ellen Turner, a two-time breast cancer survivor, is remembered as a kind and involved teacher and grandmother, and her granddaughters want to honor her. Contributed / Emily Eddy

Special education teacher Ellen Turner had a patience that couldn’t be matched. She loved her students in Cumberland and North Yarmouth, her family and ice cream with a passion. As a proud two-time breast cancer survivor, she was dedicated to the cause of fighting cancer.

“She was probably the kindest, sweetest person ever,” her granddaughter Emily Eddy told The Forecaster. “Everywhere I went, everyone said she was the nicest, kindest, most patient person.”

Turner died last fall at age 95. Eddy and her sister, Cristin Turner, will walk 60 miles over three days in November in their grandmother’s honor to raise money for the Susan G. Komen Foundation, a national nonprofit group working to end breast cancer. Eddy, who lives in Ohio, and Turner, a Portland resident, are seeking sponsors for their walk that starts Nov. 1 in Dallas, Texas, and hope to raise $2,300. As of Tuesday, they were more than halfway to that goal.

Ellen Turner, one of the first special education teachers in the district, retired at 65, but after a brief time off, she returned to SAD 51 schools as a substitute teacher.

The relationships she had with her students were important to Turner, and she was directly involved with the students’ families, Eddy said. Often Eddy, who lived with her grandmother, would come home to find Turner having lunch with a student and their family.

Greely High School graduate Dustin Shea said Turner was one of the reasons he stayed in school.


“When I was in elementary school, she came in and was just so happy to teach,” he said.

Another former student, Jonathan Waite, said Turner gave him and his peers a lot of support.

“She always believed in us,” Waite said. “She was so nice and caring.”

Her granddaughters will always remember her for her strength, resilience and her “devilish side,” they said.

Christmas was Turner’s favorite holiday, Cristin Turner told The Forecaster. Every year, she would take Cristin around town to pick little red berries for the holiday.

“It was kind of our thing,” she said. “We’d sneak into people’s yards. She had a little devilish side to her.”


She loved playing games and baking with her granddaughters and would take them out for ice cream even when their parents said no, they said.

“As I got older, we had Friday night date nights,” Turner said. “We’d go to the Portland Players and get dinner together.”

Their grandmother would be proud of them now for their fundraiser to fight cancer, they said.

“She would be proud of my sister and I for doing it together,” Eddy said. “I think she would be laughing at all the good memories she had.”

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