IN MEMORIAM Lives Lost at Virginia Tech

A Short Life Lived to the Fullest

Maxine Turner's 13-year-old brother, Anthony, is comforted after his sister's funeral in Vienna.
Maxine Turner's 13-year-old brother, Anthony, is comforted after his sister's funeral in Vienna. (By Bill O'leary -- The Washington Post)
By William Wan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 28, 2007

The hair dyeing started when she got to college. Blue, green, purple and red. It was a silly thing, a fleeting indulgence for a young woman serious about her future. But not too indulgent -- Maxine Turner would dye only the very tips of her locks. That way she could quickly get rid of them the second she landed a job interview.

That was Maxine, her friends say, whimsical and practical, fun and studious.

Her friends and family have spent the past two weeks laughing and crying, rocking loud and weeping soft. And yesterday, on a chilly day under a cloudy sky, they gathered for her funeral at Church of the Holy Comforter in Vienna. It was the last in a long week of memorial services in the Washington area, home to six of the Virginia Tech dead.

There were two sides to senior Maxine Shelly Turner, 22, her family and friends said, and the studious side emerged early in life.

After getting on the bus for the first day of kindergarten, Maxine opened her pencil case and wondered: "Are these the right kind of pencils?"

"She never messed around with school," said her friend Tina Diranian, who sat beside her that day on the bus.

One of Turner's favorite "Sesame Street" characters was Count von Count, and she often finished her homework -- especially math -- days before it was due. At James Madison High School, she signed up for the hardest math and science classes, even when it meant she was one of the only girls in class.

"She ended up putting us guys to shame," Darren O'Brien, 22, said.

But when work was done, and sometimes before, all that seriousness would evaporate and a wild, fun streak would emerge.

Turner once volunteered to be duct-taped to a window to win a game. She could quote entire Monty Python movies. She got a big kick out of working at a lingerie store while in high school, cracking up over clueless husbands trying awkwardly to buy something for their wives. And whenever, wherever she heard music, she would rock to it -- dancing, shuffling, even doing homework to the beat.

Turner, a Vienna resident, was accepted to Carnegie Mellon and Johns Hopkins but chose Virginia Tech after falling in love with the campus. The bright green grass of the Drillfield and the stone-facade buildings made it all look like some fairy-tale castle, she told her roommate.

Living with Maxine could be messy at times, but also inspiring. "I was a little more reserved before I met Max," said Michelle Vrikkis, 22, who roomed with her all four years. Maxine took Michelle to her first rock concert, taught her to swing dance and expanded her tastes in music.

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