Joseph Turkaly was born in 1924 in Croatia, the eldest of three sons. At the age of six he witnessed a bust of a local hero being installed in the town square where he grew up. This seemingly innocent event stoked the interest of the young boy, which would later turn out to be a lifelong passion. This school-aged child modeled a small horse out of clay and presented it to his teacher who immediately recognized his talent. With her encouragement and the support of his family, he attended a high school of the fine arts in Zagreb.
After World War II, Joseph Turkaly continued his education at the Fine Arts Academy in Zagreb, Croatia. In 1952, he traveled to Italy as a student and decided that he would continue his studies in the birthplace of Renaissance art. In Rome he was accepted to the Fine arts Academy, where he received his Master's degree in 1954. That year he won first prize for sculpture at National Students Exhibition in Milan, Italy.
After seeing his works, world-renowned sculptor, Ivan Meštrović
, offered Joseph Turkaly a position as his assistant at the University of Notre Dame in 1957. After Ivan Meštrović's death in 1962, Joseph took over his teaching position at the University, where he taught sculpting for the next two years.
In 1965, he moved to Cleveland. Here he accepted a teaching assignment at Gilmour Academy. At the time the high school had no art department and Joseph Turkaly laid the foundation of a new curricular option. The department steadily grew under his guidance and received many accolades from state accreditation committees.
Throughout Joseph's career as a teacher, he continued to be a prolific sculptor, commissioned to create many public and private works. Among them are Moses, an eighteen foot bronze on the campus of Notre Dame, George Washington, a nine foot bronze outside the County Courthouse in Buffalo, New York, Our Lady of Peace, and Our Lady of Bistrica, two seven foot marble pieces at the National Shrine in Washington, D.C. He has works in public and private collections throughout the United States, Canada, Italy, Croatia, and Argentina. His recent work, The Immigrant Mother, has been commissioned in limestone in Toronto, Canada, and bronze pieces have been installed in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Zagreb, Croatia, as well a one in front of Josephs home in Cleveland Heights.
Joseph Turkaly's pieces received many acclaims and awards. In addition to the award in Milan, he has also won the award for Best Garden Sculpture at a joint exhibition of the National Arts Club and The National Sculpture Society in 1961, and won the prestigious John Gregory award 1965, an award based on an artists entire portfolio of work. He has been a member of the National Sculpture Society
since 1965 and has been elevated to Fellow in 1994. He has exhibited there, in New York, numerous times over the years. In 1999, he received the "Presidential Award for the Advancement of Croatian Culture", an award bestowed on him by the Government of Croatia.