VIENNA, Virginia — Family and friends are mourning the loss of Maxine Shelly Turner, 22, a vibrant young woman who was weeks from receiving a bachelor of science degree with honors in chemical engineering from Virginia Polytechnic University and embarking on a career with the makers of Gore-Tex.
“Not sure what I’ll be doing yet, but they are AWESOME,” Maxine wrote with typical verve on her Facebook.com site.
The lifelong resident of Vienna, Virginia, was attending what she told her parents was her “dream” college and, in typical fashion, had completed the exacting chemical engineering curriculum so rapidly that she was free to indulge in several electives in her senior year, including classes on film and literature, Chinese medicine and German. She was slain with classmates and her professor in that German class in Monday’s shooting rampage at Virginia Tech.
As a sophomore, she worked with close friends to found Virginia Tech’s chapter of Alpha Omega Epsilon, the national sorority for women in engineering. On the AOE web site she wrote: “We formed this sorority as a place for females who had never had female friends, as a chance for them to meet great girls with similar interests.” It filled a need, she added, “since Engineering is challenging.”
Maxine was funny and upbeat. After swing-dancing her way through James Madison High School in Vienna – she also played violin in the symphony orchestra – Maxine took up Tae kwon do in college with a passion. She had earned a red belt, a brown belt was in sight and no one who knew this petite but determined young woman doubted that her belt eventually would be black.
Last month, resisting friends’ pleas to join them on cruises or excursions to warmer climes, Maxine spent the week at home in Vienna, scouting apartments in Elkton, Maryland, where she planned to embark at the end of July on her career as a chemical engineer with W.L. Gore & Associates. She also got some dental work done. Ever the practical one, Maxine wanted to see the dentist one last time while still on her parents’ insurance, mother Susan Turner said.
Maxine also had worked as a summer intern and received a college scholarship for the Eastman Chemical Co. in Tennessee, and since age 16 returned repeatedly to work over summers and school breaks at Trousseau, a bridal and lingerie shop close to her Vienna home.
She was extraordinarily close to her grandfather, Ted Malinowski, who retired from a senior post with the Defense Communications Agency weeks after her birth and helped mind the baby in the Vienna home he shared with his daughter and son-in-law. Little Max insisted on calling him Grand-dan until lifelong friend Tina Diranian set her straight in kindergarten that the word actually was Granddad. Max came home and complained to her parents, “Why didn’t you tell me?” They had, but once this strong-minded child had a notion in her head, it was not easy to dissuade her.
The grandfather and granddaughter spent hours together watching Sesame Street. “Her favorite characters were The Count and the scientist,” said her mom, Susan Turner. She tried the Girl Scouts for two years at Louise Archer Elementary School, but decided it was too much arts and crafts and not enough outdoor activities and adventure.
She traveled to Hawaii as a youth ambassador, and one summer spent three weeks on a skipjack studying oysters in the Chesapeake Bay and the next summer went whale watching on a schooner off New England in Johns Hopkins programs for gifted children.
Maxine’s father Paul is from Norwich, England, and Susan’s late mother Joyce also was British. Maxine visited England on half a dozen occasions with her parents and brother, Anthony, 13, an 8th grader at Thoreau Middle School who is, like his sister, a violinist.
Maxine took algebra and geometry in middle school and received an Advanced Placement Program Diploma from Madison in June 2003 that allowed her to jump start her college career with 29 Advanced Placement credits. She received a Marshall Hahn Engineering scholarship and support from Manassas Elks Lodge No. 2512 in addition to the Eastman Chemical scholarship. A frequent volunteer at the animal shelter in Blacksburg, she dreamed of breeding dogs one day.
One friend wrote on her Facebook page — now a memorial — that Maxine “was one of those people that just made the world happier. You couldn’t be too upset when she was around.”
Maxine is survived by her parents, brother, grandfather Ted Malinowski of Vienna, Va., grandmother Patricia Turner of Norwich, England, an aunt in New Jersey, and uncles, aunts and cousins in England as well as Melbourne, Australia.
The funeral will be Friday April 27 in Vienna.