Penelope “Penny” Turner Musson, 73, died on Nov. 29, 2021, enveloped in the love of her family and friends. She generously shared her love and was source of light to those who had the opportunity to know her. She was a beloved wife, mother, grandmother, sister, daughter, and friend. Penny was born in Tryon, grew up in Asheville and graduated from nursing school at Emory University in Atlanta. She is the daughter of Lois G. Evans and Capt. Wallace W. Turner. Penny married Thomas (Tom) M. Musson in 1973, and moved to Wilkesboro in 1979, where she called home for the last 42 years.
From her earliest years, Penny was called on to care for others. Her father, a Silver Star medal recipient, was killed in the Korean War when Penny was 3 years old, leaving her, her mother, and her younger sister to forge ahead in the face of devastating loss. Penny was embraced with love by her father’s family in S.C., and loved to tell stories of her Grandma Turner, her uncles, and the Turner cousins. Out of the necessity of the family circumstances, Penny assumed the role of caregiver at an early age, nurturing her sister, Patricia, and later her brothers, John and Chris, while her mother worked as a nurse and her stepfather operated the family filling station.
Penny’s early experiences shaped her identity as a caregiver and led her to her lifelong profession as a nurse. She shared her skill, compassion, and devotion for the well-being of others throughout her career, working as an oncology nurse, nursing instructor, school nurse, and medical missionary with the people of the Chiapas region of Mexico. Penny loved each of these opportunities to help others, but her time volunteering with Indigenous, rural communities in Chiapas brought her a unique and beautiful joy. She worked diligently over the last 17 years with the Hebron Foundation to establish and maintain a medical clinic in Ocosingo, Mexico, and traveled back twice each year to provide medical care to the community. Over those years, she built meaningful relationships with local communities and with the other American medical providers and volunteers who shared her commitment to this work.
Service was Penny’s way of life, and she held firm to her commitment to bettering the lives of those around her. Even in the final months of cancer’s stubborn grip on her, Penny made cakes each week for His Light soup kitchen, crocheted blankets for others, and served on the board of the Wilkes Health Foundation and the Hebron Foundation. Penny reached so many people with her love and generosity, and she attributed much of this commitment to her faith. Penny was an active member of the North Wilkesboro Presbyterian Church throughout her years in Wilkes County, where she served as mission and outreach leader, youth leader, and in many other leadership capacities. After moving to Wilkes County, the church quickly became the primary community of her and her family, and she cherished the many friendships and service opportunities that were cultivated through her church engagement.
Beyond her service as a nurse and church member, there were numerous other gifts Penny shared with her community. Penny was known as a gifted cook and baker, delivering cinnamon rolls each Christmas Eve to family friends, birthday cakes to her co-workers and Tom’s staff, crocheting countless baby blankets for the children and grandchildren of friends, and hosting lovely and memorable meals. Penny also devoted countless hours to cultivating a beautiful vegetable and flower garden each year, and found joy and pleasure working outside in the soil. She did all these things and more with warmth, a generous spirit, and boundless energy.
Penny shared her life and love with Tom for 48 years of marriage. They met at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, where Tom worked while attending dental school and Penny worked as a nurse. After they married, they spent two years in Izmir, Turkey, where Tom was stationed with the U.S. Air Force. Penny treasured the adventures and relationships that were built and shared during this time, as she and Tom explored many corners of the world together. Many of those friendships lasted decades, sustained by numerous family trips and countless memories. After Turkey, they returned to Atlanta, and a couple of years later they welcomed their first daughter, Erin. Shortly after the birth of their second daughter, Devon, they moved to Wilkesboro for Tom to start a pediatric dental practice. Their family continued to grow as they built their lives in the beautiful N.C. foothills, and they welcomed their third daughter, Elizabeth. Penny embraced and cherished her role as a mother. One of Penny’s favorite places to be was in her rocking chair, holding and singing to a little one. She was a fierce and devoted advocate of her girls, and modeled for them how to be strong, independent women, willing to speak up for those in need. She and Tom built a strong family life, filled with beautiful traditions, and generous love and encouragement. They cultivated a sense of adventure and curiosity in their girls, though Penny was never shy about expressing her wish that this adventurousness had not led her youngest daughters to settle so far from home.
Penny’s most cherished role was that of being a grandmother. She had many nicknames during her life, but her favorite was Gigi. Penny greeted each of her four grandchildren, (Lucy, Zoe, Gavin, and Birdie), with love, joy, and deep devotion, along with numerous crocheted blankets and hats. She supported Devon and Elizabeth in their roles as mothers, offering guidance and reassurance along the way. Until her illness, Penny made frequent trips to Santa Barbara and Salt Lake City to share in the lives of her grandchildren, where she built traditions and memories with each of them. Her grandchildren thought their Gigi hung the moon, and they treasure and hold dear the time they shared with her, filled with affection, learning, laughter, and songs. Penny is present in each one — Lucy’s gentle kindness and love of nature; Zoe’s creativity and thoughtfulness of others; Gavin’s enthusiasm for life and boundless energy; and Birdie’s independent spirit and generous affection.
Penny was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer in the summer of 2019, which she faced with unwavering courage, determined to be able to watch her grandchildren grow. Her stubborn spirit, firm faith, and strength served her well, and she endured the ups and downs of cancer with grace and optimism. Penny was filled with gratitude for the care she received from Dr. William Baker and his staff at the Novant Health Cancer Institute, as well as the compassionate support provided by Angel Calhoun and Mountain Valley Hospice in her final weeks. Penny and her family treasured the love shown by close friends who visited and sent wishes from near and far over the course of her illness, especially in her final months. The family is grateful for those who will remember and honor Penny and her legacy of love and service.
Penny was preceded in death by her father, Wallace W. Turner. She is survived by her husband, Tom M. Musson; her three daughters, Erin M. Musson of Durham, Devon T. Musson Rose (Jeff Rose) of Salt Lake City and Elizabeth A. Musson (Adam Lowenstein) of Santa Barbara; her grandchildren, Lucy and Birdie Rose, and Zoe and Gavin Lowenstein; her mother, Lois G. Evans; her siblings, Patricia Jones, John Evans and Christopher Evans; and numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins.
A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021, at the North Wilkesboro Presbyterian Church, with Rev. R.C. Griffin and Dr. Rob Evans officiating. A celebration of life will immediately follow.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Hebron Foundation (c/o Outfitters4, 715 Coliseum Drive NW, Suite 100, Winston-Salem, N.C., 27106), the Wilkes Health Foundation Shelton Helping Hands Fund, 1902 W. Park Dr., N. Wilkesboro, N.C., 28659, or to the North Wilkesboro Presbyterian Church, 804 E St., N. Wilkesboro, N.C., 28659.
The family respectfully requests that those in attendance remain masked throughout the service, to honor Penny’s commitment to the health and well-being of her family and community.
The service will also be available via livestream at https://www.nwpres.org/.
Online condolences may be made at www.reinsturdivant.com.