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Remembering Lillian Turchin

Lillian Grace Athey Turchin, a remarkable artist whose life was an embodiment of love, family, and the joy of creation, passed away on May 13, 2023, at the extraordinary age of 97, leaving behind a legacy that will forever inspire. Born on July 8, 1925, in New Orleans, Lillian was the daughter of Mena Pulitzer Athey and Bert Floyd Athey. Growing up in a close-knit family, she shared countless joyous moments with her adored brother, Harold Athey, and a vast network of aunts, uncles, and cousins.

With an innate talent and a passion for painting, Lillian’s art became an integral part of her life. Having painted hundreds of pieces, she turned her homes into galleries of her own making, adorning their walls with vibrant colors and capturing the essence of her family’s love. Her art was a testament to the belief that a life well-lived is itself a work of art. Her journey as a painter was not driven by a desire for recognition or fame but by a deep need to infuse her home with something truly special—an expression of her innermost joy.

Lillian’s artistic spirit influenced her children, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, and friends, turning them into a family of artists in their own right.

Lillian’s childhood was shaped by the elegance and rituals passed down by her mother, Mena Pulitzer Athey, even amidst challenging times like the Great Depression and death of her father when she was just 12. Her hometown forever shaped her love for colors, flowers, food, and the rituals that sustained her art and her family.  

Lillian’s childhood in New Orleans, with its warmth, elegance, southern charm, and amazing culinary tradition, left an indelible mark on her artistic soul. Everywhere she looked, she saw the presence of family, especially in her joy of food and New Orleans southern style cooking. 

The spirit of making things special resonated deeply within her, and she carried this sentiment into her married life. Lillian, affectionately known as “Lil” to her closest friends, first encountered the love of her life, Bob Turchin, during a fraternity dance at Tulane University, while she pursued her studies at LSU. Their romance blossomed, but their path took a temporary detour as Bob courageously served in the Navy during World War II. Upon his return, they exchanged vows in New Orleans and embarked on a journey that would shape their lives. 

Together, Lillian and Bob ventured to Miami Beach, where Bob founded his construction enterprise, Turchin Construction. With unwavering dedication, their business flourished, becoming one of the largest and most successful construction companies in the country. Lillian and Bob embodied a spirit of philanthropy, contributing to causes that resonated deeply with her. Her commitment to Tulane University, including Turchin Baseball Stadium at Tulane, Turchin Library at Tulane AB Freeman School Of Business, and the Appalachian State University Turchin Center for the Visual Arts exemplified her dedication to supporting education, the arts, and her community. Amid their professional pursuits, Lillian and Bob built a loving family, blessed with five children, their greatest source of pride. Throughout their lives, their unwavering focus remained on the profound love they shared for their family.

An avid traveler, Lillian and Bob embarked on grand adventures, exploring the world’s vast oceans on various ships. Their love for sailing knew no bounds, and they cherished the freedom and beauty that the open seas offered. These maritime escapades created unforgettable memories that they shared with their children, instilling in them a deep appreciation for the wonders of the world.

Lillian’s multifaceted talents were a testament to her extraordinary nature. She possessed exceptional culinary prowess, delighting in hosting elegant dinner parties for their cherished circle of close friends. Her keen eye for design led her to create stunning and eclectic homes in Miami Beach, Bimini, and North Carolina, showcasing her artistic flair and unwavering creativity. 

Her art resonated with a fluidity of living—a belief that home is not confined to physical boundaries but resides within oneself. She transformed her kitchen of her North Carolina home and back porch of her Miami home into art studios, and each brushstroke became a doorway to eternity. Home, for Lillian, transcended walls and became a space defined by experiences and cherished moments.

Although offered the opportunity to showcase her talent in a prestigious New York City art gallery, Lillian declined, recognizing that her true purpose lay not in pursuing a career in art but in cherishing the precious moments shared with her loved ones. Her family was the canvas on which she painted her most profound expressions of love and happiness.  Her husband, Robert Luis Turchin, was her unwavering anchor—a grand love who never ceased to dance alongside her. Their enduring partnership and shared passion for life propelled them forward, infusing each day with a sense of adventure and joy. To her children, Lillian was not just a mother but a rock, a guide, a teacher, and a role model. She instilled in them an appreciation for art, beauty, and the power of love. Her unending patience, kindness, and unwavering hope served as a guiding light, showing them the way.

Lillian Grace Athey Turchin is survived by her loving children and their large immediate family: Barbara (Dr. Jack) Grossman, and grandson, Dr. Robert (Lindsay) A. Grossman; Robert L. (Stephanie) Turchin, Jr., and grandchildren, Lauren (Scott) Turchin and Michael (Lance Bass) Turchin; Melanie (Howard) Beckerman, and grandchildren, Mathew (Cathy) Beckerman, Alyssa (Matt) King, and Jared Beckerman; Thomas (Theresa) Turchin, and grandson, Jesse Turchin; and John (Susan) Turchin, and grandchildren, Ashley Turchin and Jordan Turchin. Her legacy continues through her ten great-grandchildren, with more on the way. 

Lillian’s family greatly appreciates the devoted and loyal support provided by her care-providers: Anita Alcaide, Nelly Garcia, Karina Gonzalez and devoted and loyal support provided by her family’s executive secretary, Cathy Kirzner. 

Lillian Grace Athey Turchin’s legacy will forever remain in the hearts of her family and friends. She leaves behind a remarkable lineage that will carry her spirit for generations to come.