WESTERLY — Colleagues and friends are recalling Joseph T. Turo, a former town manager and town solicitor, for his dedication to his family and the town he grew up in.
Turo, 81, died Monday night.
"I lost a good friend," said state Sen. Dennis Algiere.
On Tuesday, Algiere recalled trips he and his wife, Leigh, took to Italy with Turo and his wife, Jeanne. During Turo's term as town manager from 2003-09, after which he retired, Algiere said they often met early in Turo's office at Town Hall.
"Joe was a gentleman, I don't think he had a mean bone in his body. He cared about the community and he cared about his family. When he was manager, we worked together on many issues," Algiere said.
The Turos raised their four children, Joseph, David, John and Amy, in Westerly and were often seen on local golf courses and tennis courts. In recent years, Turo attended meetings on proposed bicycle paths in the town.
Joseph T. Turo was a pillar in the town, said his good friend, Larry J. Hirsch. The two often shared breakfast and lunch together and were daily walking companions. They traveled together, including to Europe, and were planning a trip in April to Key West and were awaiting COVID-19 vaccines to make their vacation safer.
"He's respected by many and was an icon in the community, but when you got to know him he was a down to earth, fun guy. He was a great friend and a brother to me," Hirsch said.
Hirsch said he got to know Turo after Hirsch talked with Turo, while he was town manager, about his vision for the Stand Up for Animals shelter. At the time the shelter was just an idea that Hirsch and others were committed to bringing to fruition. Turo, Hirsch said, suggested the town would lease land for the shelter if Hirsch's group could raise enough money to build the shelter.
"He said 'Larry, you're never going to raise the money,' but we did and he helped with the lease and we were dear friends ever after," Hirsch said.
When Jeanne Turo became ill and was treated at the Westerly Health Center, Joseph Turo became a regular figure there.
"He was there every day," Westerly Town Council member Christopher Duhamel said. "He was a great person taking care of his wife."
Duhamel, a longtime member of the Town Council, said Turo enjoyed the support of every councilor he worked for. Councilors tried to convince Turo to stay past January 2009, just as they had encouraged him to apply for the position, but he insisted on retiring, saying he wanted to spend more time with his grandchildren.
Turo, Duhamel said, earned the respect of members of the council and residents through his prior service as town solicitor and distinguished himself as a leader while serving as town manager.
"He had a hands-on approach and was focused on a lot of neglected infrastructure that the department heads wanted to fix but previous councils had been against," Duhamel said.
Prior to becoming town manager, Turo practiced law in the law firm of Nardone, Liguori and Turo, and later with with Turo, Naccarato & Fracassa.
Former Town Council President Joseph J. Iacoi recalled nominating Turo for the position of town solicitor in 1990.
"I'm sorry to learn of the passing of one of my good friends, Joe Turo. When I was elected to the Town Council I was elected council president and nominated Joe Turo for our town solicitor. It was his first position in town government and led him to town manager eventually. He was a good Westerly man," Iacoi said.
As town manager, Turo created the position of chief of staff and hired Sharon Ahern, now president of the Town Council, to fill it.
"He was a wonderful town manager and a really wonderful man," Ahern said.
As a close observer of town government for many years, Ahern said Turo "always knew the back-story of all situations and would tell them with a sense of humor."
The Turos raised their family on Sherwood Drive. Turo was graduated from LaSalle Academy in Providence prior to attending Providence College, where he received a degree in political science in 1961. He was graduated from the University of Connecticut School of Law in 1994 and began to practice in Boston.
This article was updated on Jan. 15, 2021 to add comments from Larry Hirsch and Joseph Iacoi.