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Dan Turner dies at 49; Times editorial writer

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Dan Turner, a Times editorial writer for nearly a decade who was known for his sharply witty observations on a broad range of subjects, died Saturday at his Los Angeles home. He was 49.

The cause was pancreatic cancer, which was diagnosed two years ago, said his wife, Jocelyn.

"No matter what the subject — and no matter how nerdy — he approached it with the same extraordinary voice and sense of humor," Nicholas Goldberg, editor of The Times' editorial pages, said in an e-mail to the staff announcing Turner's death.

"He was a lovely colleague, a mild, kind, smart voice in our editorial meetings. Yet in his writing, he was anything but mild — rather, he was powerful, biting, funny and opinionated," Goldberg said.

This year alone, Turner editorialized on such topics as state prisons, Lance Armstrong's legacy, the need to save Cameroon's elephants from poachers and, on repeated occasions, gun control.

"Happy days are here again for the makers and sellers of guns and ammunition, and why not?" he began a Jan. 10 editorial.

"There's nothing like a good school massacre to really move those Mausers off the shelf," he continued. "The timing of the Newtown, Conn., atrocity, moreover, couldn't have been better, coming as it did just two weeks before Christmas, when gun enthusiasts slumber with visions of high-capacity magazines dancing in their heads."

He also wrote about energy, local transportation, California prisons, the death penalty, climate change, Africa and the United Nations.

Jim Newton, who oversaw the editorial pages from 2007 to 2010, called Turner "a sharp, stylish writer with a really pungent pen."

"In recent years one hallmark in terms of influence has been our coverage of global warming and climate change," Newton said, "and that is a testament to Dan."

Daniel Clay Turner was born April 14, 1963, in Santa Rosa, Calif.

At Stanford University, he earned a bachelor's degree in English in 1985. He also met his future wife in a dorm production of the musical "Hair."

"He loved all things J.R.R. Tolkien, mandolin music and riding his motor scooter," said Jocelyn, whom Turner married in 1995. Devoted to travel and British naval history, he repeatedly returned to the British Isles.

He held a master's in journalism from San Jose State and began his career as a reporter for the Peninsula Times Tribune in Palo Alto and the San Francisco Chronicle.

Before joining The Times in 2000 as a copy editor in the San Fernando Valley edition, he had written a column for the Los Angeles Business Journal and served as its managing editor.

Turner continued to write editorials and blog until a few weeks ago, telling his colleagues in an email that it kept him "tethered to the world during some very rough times."

Survivors include his wife, father, stepmother and three sisters.

valerie.nelson@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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