Archelaus Rye Turrentine of Williamsburg, VA was born on April Fools’ Day, 1936 and passed on peacefully to his Lord on August 7, 2019 in the presence and under the loving hands of his family and friends. When he was planning for his passing, he joked that the first line of this obituary should be, “If you are reading this right now, I guess I must be dead.”
Arch was the eldest child of Florence Rye and Percy Winfield Turrentine. He and his sister Florence (Sissy) grew up in the small college town of Arkadelphia, Arkansas. Arch was a proud Eagle Scout, played football, delivered newspapers, and worked as a butcher at the Piggly Wiggly and a surveyor for the Pacific Paper Company. His many adventures as a boy reappeared in embellished form in hand-illustrated rhymes and bedtime stories for his children and grandchildren. From sightings of backyard hippos to myths about arrow wounds sustained while crossing the Great Plains, Arch’s tales excited laughter and reverent belief that his every tale was “true.” Even now, some in the family admit to believing the arrow wound story well into their 20s.
Arch attended The College of William & Mary, graduating in 1958. While at the college, he lived for several years at the Tucker House with his godmother Mary “Granny” Coleman and waited tables at the King’s Arms Tavern. As a Naval Officer from 1958-1963, he served in photo intelligence squadrons and was especially proud of the photographs he took during the Cuba Missile Crisis. He remained an avid photographer throughout his life.
Joining the Foreign Service in 1963, Arch was posted to the US embassies in Bonn and Stockholm, and served on numerous delegations to NATO; the IAEA in Vienna; arms control delegations in Geneva, Russia, Japan, China; and the “foreign-est of foreign” assignments—the United Nations in New York.
Arch attended the Armed Forces Staff College and served in the National Military Command Center during Vietnam. He received his Master’s from MIT, where he boasted of surviving a year of Boston drivers and chilly nights in Fenway Park. Returning to the State Department in 1974, he recruited scientists and ran State’s science programs. Later assigned to the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, Arch ran several bureaus and delegations. He handled nuclear nonproliferation, chemical, biological, and radiological weapons treaty negotiations, as well as arms control debates at the UN.
Retiring from the Foreign Service in 1986, Arch established his own international consulting firm focusing on national security, defense, and space issues. He was instrumental in the demilitarization of Soviet SS-18 missiles. and traveled widely in Russia and Ukraine, making many friends and perfecting staying upright through long nights of even longer Stolichnaya-fueled toasts.
Arch was an avid skier and tennis player. His wife Blair discovered only posthumously that he was once a league bowler. Who knew? He loved boating with his daughters on the frigid waters off Stockholm, and sailing in the even colder waters of Penobscot Bay with friends.
Arch was happiest of all spending time with his many and much-loved children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren (this family requires a flow chart to understand). They filled Arch and Blair’s Richmond Hill house every summer for nights at Busch Gardens, days at Water Country, and long walks around Colonial Williamsburg with their precious Berners Cergue, Tori and Sazi.
In addition to his own family, Arch loved his Bruton church family. He looked forward to seeing who was delivering the sermon each Sunday and felt blessed to be part of a church with so many perspectives and beliefs, so freely and beautifully shared. He loved Monday bell rehearsals and Bruton’s concerts. He loved Sunday music, picnics with the choir, and supervising gourmet dinners at his home with the Gang of Eight. Before his strokes, he rarely missed a Wednesday night supper or lecture series. He felt privileged to be part of the Men’s Book Club (and thought the wine selections were particularly excellent).
Arch is survived by his beloved wife Blair Murray; his children Shannon Wall, Beth Turrentine, Sarah Hodgson, Madeline Bernal, and Grant Price; grandchildren Jack Wall; Stuart Allen; William and Harley Davis; Alissa Berger; Sara Arno; Olivia, Lily Francis, Charlotte and Chloe Price; in-laws Royal Murray and Cindy Henenberg, Judith Murray, Lawrence Arno, and Seth Weber; and great-grandchildren Samantha, Dylan, Olivia, Julia, and Jacob. He was predeceased by his parents, Percy and Florence, his sister Florence, granddaughter Neva Weber, and brother-in-law Dennis Freda.
The family would like to thank Darlene Duncan Simmons and the Sentara Hospice team for their dedicated, compassionate care and laughter at Arch’s puns and practical jokes.
A celebration of Arch’s life will be held on Saturday, August 17 at 1 pm at Bruton Parish Episcopal Church, 203 W. Duke of Gloucester Street, Williamsburg, followed by interment of his ashes in the churchyard, and a reception in the Parish House.
In lieu of flowers, donations to Bruton Parish Episcopal Church (PO Box 3520, Williamsburg, VA 23187-3520), or the Sentara Hospice Foundation (11844 Rock Landing Drive, Suite C, Newport News, VA 23606) would be much appreciated.
Cremation Society of Virginia-Newport News assisted the family with arrangements.