Story by Gracie Martin/Contributing Writer
The man with the white beard is not tentative when he steps up, arms open wide, to hug a stranger. He offers a strong embrace, as if his life– or at the least, his purpose in life–depended on it. After one hug, he looks for someone else to hug. He’s a serial hugger in a world, he believes, needs a hug. On the bus, at a grocery store or just walking on the street he hugs everyone he sees. Few refuse him. There are YouTube videos of his hugging ways, bringing a smile to someone’s day.
But the truth is, no one needs a hug more than the hugger himself, Mike Turner.
“It’s just what me and my son used to do, we always hug everybody,” Mike said.
His son is Logan Turner.
On August 4, just days after his 30th birthday, Logan was out with friends in Dayton, Ohio, when he became one of 334 people killed so far in mass murders in the United States in 2019. On that summer night, a gunman opened fire in a crowed street near a bar, killing nine people. Another victim of the shooting was the gunman’s sister.
The photo accompanying Logan’s obituary shows a handsome man, with ruddy cheeks, hazel eyes, a welcoming smile and a head of blonde hair. Logan, an only child, grew up in Springboro, Ohio– a town of about 20,000 located 16 miles south of Dayton on Interstate 75. He was a 2008 graduate of Springboro High School where he played football, and he chose to work there after high school, too. At one time he was the manager of a local pizzeria and bartender at a popular night spot, but was most recently employed by Thaler Machine Co., a maker of precision manufacturing parts for applications in a variety of industries, including NASA. In the young man’s obituary, company president Greg Donson called Logan “a rising star” at Thaler.
His star faded on that fateful August night when a disturbed 24-year-old man from Bellbrook, Ohio, opened fired in Ned Peppers Bar, a popular gathering spot in the Oregon Historic District of Dayton. The shooter was fatally wounded by police who were already in the vicinity and responded to the shots fired.
Within hours, a knock came on the door of Mike’s mother’s house. Mike, a retired car salesman, had moved to the small East Tennessee town of Ooltewah, just north of Chattanooga off I-75, about four years ago to be with his fiancé Kathy Wagner. He had returned to Ohio on that weekend in August to visit with his mom and to celebrate his son’s birthday.
Mike was amazed to see how many people reached out and talked so highly about his son following his death–hundreds of people attended the funeral. Many told the grieving father that Logan had been there for them at a crucial time. “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him,” Mike said many of the mourners told him.
“Those are things you don’t hear people talk about when you are alive,” Mike said.
For some who have lost loved ones to the violence of an irrational gunman, it becomes easy to fill the void with hate and acrimony. One could say, it’s the natural reaction.
But Mike decided to honor his dead son with love, rather than hate. His life’s desire to give a hug began at the funeral. The father said he tried to hug everyone who came through the receiving line.
He just wants to spread the love.
“Hate has such a loud voice right now. In politics, in everything. We are just trying to get more love out into the world. Everybody can use a hug,” Mike said.
Hugs are a way of showing people that you care and that you matter. Hugs can make people feel good instantly and that’s what Turner wants to do.
“If somebody looks like their hurting, give them a hug,” he said. “I want the whole United States and the world to know that love is more important than hate. I wish we could just take the word hate out of the dictionary.”
He wants love to outshine all the bad, and says there is no need for bullying or talking badly about people. “None of that is necessary. It really and truly isn’t. Why can’t we just have love, peace, and harmony?”
Logan was an encourager, Mike said.
“He was very loyal. He would give you the shirt off his back. He was just a great kid.”
Mike chooses not to talk about gun control. He’ll leave that to others. Instead, the father’s focus is on sharing a message of peace and harmony through #loganhugs, a hashtag that went viral in the aftermath of the Dayton shooting and continues to be widely used. In addition, Mike has spearheaded creation of a nonprofit foundation called the LovelightT Circle Fund. The capital “L” and “T” stand for Logan Turner. The fund has a Facebook page where people can view stories of kindness and goodness from thousands of people across the country.
The foundation will use donated funds to make grants to deserving nonprofit organizations across the country that are dedicated to similar missions. Their wish is to bring love and goodness and make the world a better place.
Mike described his son as an awesome child growing up. “He was difficult like every child, but he was a good kid,” the father said. Mike has thousands of favorite moments with his son, but he particularly remembers when his son earned his black belt in Taekwondo and the day he got his driver’s license.
Mike said losing his son has given him an appreciation for the human touch.“Give somebody a hug, don’t be afraid to just see people walking down the street and give them a hug.”
There is nothing wrong with spreading love and kindness by sharing hugs, he said.
Hugs don’t replace Logan, but they keep the connection alive, as does remembering to be kind, Logan’s family members said.
Logan’s sister-in-law, Melissa Wagner, made a heart-wrenching appeal on Chattanooga radio station WUSY101 in the days after the shooting.
Her emotional plea came amid tears falling down her cheeks.
“It gives you such a different perspective when you hear these horrific news stories and it hits you on a really personal level,” Wagner told her radio audience. “What you don’t think about is your opinion on gun laws or which political party should be to blame. You think about, were they okay in those last few moments? What were they thinking?”
She concluded: “I just really encourage all of you to please, love one another.”
Sue Turner, Melissa’s stepmom quoted Ohio native Charles Kettering, a prolific inventor and head of research at General Motors in the first half of the 20th Century: “Every father should remember one day his son will follow his example, not his advice.”
“And that’s exactly what Logan did,” Sue said. “As I sat in the funeral home for several heart wrenching hours, watching as hundreds and hundreds of mourners passed through the receiving line to his beautiful family and his sweet girlfriend, there was not a dry eye in the house,” Sue recalled.
“I learned a great deal about Logan that very sad day. He was just like his Dad,” Sue said. She described Mike as a kind, humble, easy-going, uplifting man whose personality lights up a room.
“I have never attended a gathering with Mike where I didn’t receive a hug as a greeting and a hug before he left,” she said. “And, so did everyone else in the room. Logan had a personality much like his father. Kindness that was followed by the example Mike had given him. That’s why I am so confident that Logan lived every day of his life to the fullest and he died with a happy soul. It is incredible strength this father has demonstrated, through his deep grief and despair, by sharing these #loganhugs. Spread the love and kindness to the world. Why? Because that’s what Logan would do.”
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