María Fernanda Vallecillo de Turnier, 72, of Chapel Hill passed away peacefully on Monday, January 12 surrounded by family, after a complicated medical illness. A native of Puerto Rico, Marifé, as she was affectionately known, was born on October 11, 1942 in Mayagüez to the late Fernando A. Vallecillo Franceschi and Emma Inés Vidal Lassise. While attending a master’s program at Penn State, she met her husband, William John Turnier. They were married on June 4th, 1966, and spent 48 joyful years together.
Education and the pursuit of knowledge were essential to Marifé. She obtained a bachelor’s degree, two masters, and was a dissertation away from her PhD. Her dedication to learning was evident in her many teaching positions. Whether teaching school children in rural Virginia, students at Durham Tech, or future lawyers at UNC Law, Marifé brought enthusiasm to her work. Her husband, children, and grandchildren benefited as well from her calm but vibrant encouragement in their academic endeavors.
Marifé had a genuine sense of curiosity, as demonstrated by her diverse love of literature, singing arias, painting, and meeting people from all walks of life. Over the years, her interest in genealogy grew as she pieced together her family tree and how it connected with others. While others so often emphasize division, Marifé sought out a common history.
Though Marifé settled in Chapel Hill with her family in 1973 when her husband joined the faculty of UNC School of Law, she was a passionate traveler. Her adventurous spirit took her from England to Taiwan to Israel and all points in between with many stops in her beloved Puerto Rico. Along the way, she put her considerable linguistic talents to use as she befriended people on every trip.
This ability to connect led to her incredible community of friends. In Chapel Hill, she cherished her lifelong friendships and maintained ties with loved ones all over the world. Marifé’s notion of family was never limited to mere genetics, but extended to anyone she cared for.
Her family is truly grateful for the kindness shown by family and friends over the past year. Your visits, shared meals, willingness to listen and hold our hands- these small gestures helped ease Marifé’s path and ours.
She is survived by her husband William Turnier; her children Anne-Marie Turnier Munn and husband Scott of Apex, NC; Andrew Turnier and wife Vanessa of Chapel Hill, NC; Christine Turnier and husband William Tammick III of Boston, MA; five grandchildren Alexander Munn, Ethan Munn, Max Munn, Matthew Turnier, and Elise Turnier.
A celebration of her life will be held at Walker’s Funeral Home in Chapel Hill, NC on January 25th from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. A funeral mass in her honor will be performed at the Newman Center Parish in Chapel Hill February 28th at 11:00 am. Memorial donations may be made to Doctors without Borders.