Gwendolyn “Gwen” Stearns Turnbull Fenninger, 79, died on August 4, 2020, at Lake Norman Regional Medical Center in Mooresville, N.C., after a 12-year battle with Parkinson’s disease. She was born on December 2, 1940, in Boston, Mass., the daughter of Walter Jack Hetherington Turnbull and Vere Stearns Turnbull. She grew up mostly in Boston, spending time as a high society debutante and also running through the subway tunnels and hanging out in boxing gyms with her brother. Gwen told fascinating stories of living with her family in the Hotel Somerset, where Red Sox legend Ted Williams resided during the baseball season. She was a physical education major at Southern Seminary and then spent time teaching remedial reading at an elite boarding school for boys in Massachusetts. After her marriage, she taught an Upward Bound class at Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania before moving to North Carolina with her family in 1973.
Gwen was a dedicated Christian with a deep and abiding faith. She lived out her faith by example through her dependable attendance and through her service in many roles at Fair View United Methodist Church. Gwen was a Sunday School teacher and dedicated many hours to review materials and prepare meaningful lessons, served as chair of the Staff Parish Relations Committee, and became a Stephen Minister and Stephen Ministry Leader. She was always grateful for the support and care from her Fair View Church family.
Gwen was a dynamic leader in the real estate business for 35 years, a consummate, well-dressed professional serving as Broker-in-Charge for Allen Tate Company for most of her career. She served as a role model and mentor for many, many young agents. Devoting countless hours to research and study effective leadership, training and business development, Gwen shared that knowledge with all of her agents. Her leadership was recognized in 1999 when she received the Business Journal’s “Women in Business” Award. She was also named one of the country’s most powerful women in real estate by the National Relocation & Real Estate magazine, and was actively involved in the North Carolina Association of Realtors.
In essence, Gwen was a wonderful teacher in all aspects of her life, through her church, through her career and in her personal life. With many talents and hobbies, she was foremost an avid reader and passionate, zealous birder. She passed on her love and knowledge of birding to many others. Gwen had a wicked sense of humor and was infamous for her jokes and pranks, in particular her April Fools’ Day pranks. She possessed a fierce competitive spirit, tackling every challenge with tenacity. While she took her job and her role in leadership seriously, she had a remarkable sense of humility and the ability to laugh at herself. She was a wonderful athlete — she could throw a ball with strength and accuracy, sailed off Cape Cod in the summers, and could handle a punching bag like a born boxer.
She was predeceased by her parents and a brother, Guy Hobart Hetherington Turnbull. She is survived by her husband, Peter Laurence Fenninger. They married on June 18, 1966, and enjoyed 54 years together. She is also survived by her children, Michael Turnbull Fenninger (Cyndy) of Mooresville, N.C., and Hilary Hobart Fenninger Broadway (Greg) of Cornelius, N.C., and by her sister-in-law, Connie Dziok Turnbull of Colchester, Conn. She doted on her three granddaughters, Jordan Stearns Fenninger, Jessica Leigh Fenninger and Sydney Lauren Broadway, and was an active “Nani” in their lives. Nani supported them in all they did and served as one of their biggest cheerleaders. The family expresses their appreciation to Melissa Freeze and Cindy Houchins for their care and service to Gwen.
A Celebration of Life Service will be held at Cavin-Cook Funeral Home in Mooresville, N.C., on Saturday, August 15, at 2 p.m. with visitation of the family after the service. Social distancing measures will be observed and a live stream of the service will also be available. For those who are unable to attend the service, you may go to the following link for the live stream at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC864hAs96dTRLVVL1la0Qlw/videos?view=2&flow=list
Donations in Gwen’s memory can be made to the Carolina Raptor Center, 6000 Sample Road, Huntersville, NC 28078 or to Fair View United Methodist Church, P.O. Box 27, Mt. Mourne, NC 28123.
The Neptune Society and Cavin-Cook Funeral Home are serving Gwen’s family.