Victor "Vic" Turyn, a retired Federal Bureau of Investigation and Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond official who had been an outstanding quarterback at College Park in the late 1940s, died Aug. 11 of heart failure at his Ellicott City home. He was 91.
Victor Turyn was born in McRoberts, Tenn., to immigrant parents. His father, Jan Poltorovski was from Poland, and his mother, Anna Zablocki Poltorovski, was from Russia.
"None of the family members know why immigration officials changed Jan's name to John Turyn, but they believe this was the way many immigrants in the 1900s received their Americanized names," said a daughter, Kathleen "Kathy" Stempkovski of Elkridge.
Mr. Turyn was raised in Holden, W.Va., where his father worked as a coal miner and his mother ran a boardinghouse for miners.
While attending Logan High School, Mr. Turyn was deemed too small to play football. After graduating from high school, he enlisted in the Navy and served 19 months in the South Pacific during World War II.
While he was attending preflight school in North Carolina, his roommate was recruited to play for the Navy football team there.
"The coach asked his roommate if he knew any other players, and knowing that my father was an outstanding natural athlete, he said that my father was a player," said Ms. Stempkovski. "He had not played football in his life, but thanks to his roommate's little white lie, he was recruited for the team."
At the first practice, their coach, the legendary Paul William "Bear Bryant," asked Mr. Turyn what position he played and he answered, "Quarterback."
"The coach worked him out, saw he was a good fit and kept him as quarterback," his daughter said. "Eventually, he told Coach Bryant the truth, and they had a good laugh about it."
When the war ended, the team decided their coach's future.
"Georgia Tech and Alabama had offered Bryant assistant's jobs, and Maryland offered a head coaching position," Mr. Turyn told The Evening Sun in a 1971 interview.
"He asked me to call a team meeting of the players, and 25 of us said we preferred Maryland because we wanted Bryant to be a head coach. We were discharged in Norfolk, Va., enrolled at Maryland the next day, and six days after that, opened the season with a 60-6 victory over Guilford College."
Mr. Bryant, who left College Park after a year and went to the University of Kentucky, was recalled by Mr. Turyn as "having the uncanny ability to motivate players, making them believe they could beat any team — and getting them to exceed their capabilities."
When Mr. Turyn and his wife, the former Eileen Dorothy Simpson, whom he met at Maryland and married in 1946, had their first child while they were students, Mr. Bryant sent a savings bond.
Mr. Turyn later played under Maryland coaches Clark Shaughnessy and Jim Tatum. He played in the 1948 Gator Bowl against Georgia, which ended in a 20-20 tie.
After graduating from College Park in 1949 with a degree in accounting, Mr. Tatum tried to talk him out of working as an accountant and take a job as one of his assistants.
"But even though I had an accounting degree, I didn't look forward to poring over books and records the rest of my life," Mr. Turyn said in the 1971 interview.
He took a job instead as a special agent with the FBI in 1949.
"I have no regrets about my decision," he said.
"When he was a boy, a hate group burned crosses on their farm in Kentucky because they did not like Catholic immigrants taking coal mining jobs," said another daughter, Laureen Peck who lives in Randallstown. "This was one of the things that inspired him to become a G-man. And as a boy, he had read books about director J. Edgar Hoover and he knew that the FBI went after such groups."
Mr. Turyn, who spoke Russian and was an expert in espionage, worked on such high-visibility cases as the $1.4 million Brinks robbery in Boston and the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg spy case.
Eventually, Mr. Turyn opened up about his FBI career and told his family about some of his exploits.
"There was nothing you could get past him as a teenager. His interrogation skills were too good, so we stopped trying," said another daughter, Noreen Turyn of Lynchburg, Va. "And gentleman callers found it a bit intimidating to go out with the daughters of a G-man."
"We never realized how dangerous Daddy's job was," said Ms. Stempkovski. "He and Mom did a great job of making us feel safe. We did know that he carried a gun for work and that his being an FBI agent was something to be very proud of."
During his 23-year career, Mr. Turyn was stationed in Boston, New York City, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Buffalo, Washington and Baltimore.
When he was special agent in charge in Baltimore from 1970 to 1971, Mr. Turyn supervised 130 agents in Maryland and Delaware.
In 1971, he was named special agent in charge of the FBI's Newark, N.J., bureau, to which he commuted weekly from his Ellicott City home, until his retirement in 1972.
After leaving the FBI, he was assistant to the president of the S.L. Hammerman Organization Inc., and then worked as head of security and later was vice president of operations for the Baltimore branch bank of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, from which he retired in the 1980s.
He was an avid golfer.
Mr. Turyn was a communicant of the Roman Catholic Church of the Resurrection, 3175 Paulskirk Drive, Ellicott City, where a Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Saturday.
In addition to his wife and three daughters, Mr. Turyn is survived by a son, Thomas Turyn of Ormond-by-the-Sea, Fla; three grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun