Those who knew him well remembered Dentistry student Ryan Turner as a man with a taste for adventure who was devoted to his friends, family and country.
Turner collapsed early Wednesday morning while exercising at the Central Campus Recreation Building and was pronounced dead a short time after. He was 27.
The unexpected tragedy left Turner’s friends and family in shock. He had no known health problems and lived a healthy life, said fellow Dentistry student A.J. Lytle. Turner didn’t smoke or drink heavily, and he exercised regularly.
Preliminary results of an autopsy showed that Turner died of natural causes, said Diane Brown, Department of Public Safety spokeswoman.
A natural athlete, Turner played varsity football and baseball at Willamette High School in Eugene, Ore. He graduated from high school in 1998. At Oregon State University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree, as well as at the University of Michigan, he played in intramural leagues.
Turner completed basic Army training with Lytle two summers ago. The two friends used money provided by the Army to pay for their dental training and shared plans to begin serving as Army dentists in July.
The arrangement would have combined several of Turner’s passions: his country, traveling, new experiences and helping people.
“He was what you would call a ‘go-to guy,’ ” Lytle said. “He’d drop what he was doing to do something for you or with you.”
Lytle recalled a weekend Turner kept him company on the long drive to upstate New York so that Lytle could attend a bachelor’s party.
“He just said, ‘I’ve never been to New York – lets go,’ even though we only had two days.”
Dentistry student Andrew Green, a housemate of Turner’s also remembered him as fun-loving.
He and Turner frequented local bars like Leopold Brothers and Mitch’s after its reopening to play pool and have a few beers.
Green and Turner met on their first day as School of Dentistry students three years ago when they moved in together. Green was just a name Turner picked out of a list of incoming School of Dentistry students looking for housemates, but they fast became friends.
“It felt like he was a buddy of mine I’d had for years,” Green said.
Turner came to Ann Arbor knowing no one, so his social life largely revolved around the School of Dentistry, Green said.
Dentistry had always been important to his life, family members said.
Turner decided he wanted to be a dentist when he was 11 or 12 years old, said his mother, Kim Turner.
“He loved his patients,” she said.
He was a representative of the American Student Dental Association, a group that advocates for the legal interests of dentists. Through the association, Turner helped push for a national system for licensing dentists.
“He wanted to get rid of the idea that the dentist is scary, that it’s painful,” said his brother, Eric.
Turner’s parents, stepfather, two brothers and his sister came to Ann Arbor yesterday after learning of Ryan’s death. Turner’s close friends received the grieving family.
“Ryan’s friends are the best friends we’ve ever met,” said Brian Ble, Turner’s stepfather. “They’ve taken care of us amazingly over the last few days. It’s a credit to Ryan. His friends are amazing because he was amazing.”
A memorial service for Dentistry student Ryan Turner is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday in the Sindecuse Atrium at the School of Dentistry. It is open to those who knew him, family said.