Gin Turner was head cheerleader at Lubbock High School when I was a lowly, very uncool sophomore, fall semester, 1964. My locker was next to that of another uncool kid. Neal wore a bow tie, a pocket protector and carried a brief case. I tried to ignore him. So did practically everyone else. Except when they were making his life miserable.
I saw that happen up close and personal one day when, after slamming his locker door shut, Neal dropped his briefcase and it sprang open. Papers flew everywhere, all over the dark brown linoleum hallway floor where two corridors intersected. Neal dropped to his knees to pick them up. About that time a group of “cool” guys came around the corner and began kicking the papers out of his reach, laughing, shoving, and taunting him. I stood by and did nothing. So did everyone else.
Around the other corner came a group of cheerleaders. It was a game day, and they were in uniform. Gin was front and center and her eyes immediately took in what was going on. She didn’t say a word. She dropped to her knees and began helping Neal. She kept at it until everything was in order. She smiled at him and wished him well, and went on her way. And I stood there — changed. From that moment on, I knew one thing: I wanted to be like HER.
Look her up in the yearbook, and you’ll see that year she was not only head cheerleader, she was prom queen, homecoming queen, most popular, most EVERYTHING. We all adored her. She was love personified, and she walked among us. She led simply by being who she was. Bullying disappeared because it simply couldn’t exist when Gin was there. And she was present, everywhere.
And then, in a few short years, she was gone.
If ever there was a Guadalupe presence, Gin Turner was it. She set a standard of love and respect at Lubbock High School that year, and her influence, I feel sure, continues in the lives of those who knew her. I raise her image in this time of bullying. Perhaps her story can continue to change lives. It changed life for Neal. And it certainly changed mine.