On Aug. 29, Reba Turner went to her heavenly home. She was born Nov. 19, 1919, to Clyde and Nellie Yandell. She married Paul Stewart, who preceded her to heaven, along with one brother and two grandsons, and her second spouse, James Turner.
I’ve known Reba nearly all my life. Following the death of Paul, she and her three sons, Bill, Mark and Jerry, moved next door. Our two families visited frequently. Although there are many memories connected with those years, I’ll tell you a couple: Jerry, Jimmy and I were invited to eat with Reba and her sons. Reba was a very good cook, let me say that first. One of the things she sat before us, looked delicious. After taking the first bite, one of my ornery brothers, probably Jimmy, asked if I knew what I was eating? “Pork tenderloin, I guess,” I told him.
No, it’s mountain oysters, he said. “And what’s mountain oysters?” I wondered. After hearing his explanation, I asked Reba, “That’s not true, is it?”
“Yes,” she answered with a grin. I pushed my plate back and didn’t take another bite.
Another time we ate at her house, she fixed some delicious fried items. I went home and told Mom that she needed to get Reba’s recipe. Mom wondered what I had eaten. “I don’t know, some kind of fried dogs,” I answered. Come to find out, they were hush puppies. Apparently, I really liked them.
As an adult, I’ve enjoyed keeping our friendship alive. She and I belonged to the Fair Grove Sunshine Club. Each month, me and the other members looked forward to eating Reba’s delicious turnips, or cabbage casserole, or freshly baked bread. Until recent years, she took turns playing hostess. We arrived to find her long dining table all decorated, and smelled her fantastic food.
Down through the years, her lifelong connection to Fair Grove provided fodder for some of my writing. She grew up in a house on Highway 125, north of the Wommack Mill, and graduated from Fair Grove School. The first job she had was in a cafe on the south side of the Odd Fellows building’s lower floor, but her second job was selling dry goods and groceries in Rathbun’s store, in the building where Somewhere in Time is today. Her wages were 50 cents a day from 1937 to 1939. That was when she got married and moved away from Fair Grove. After returning to Fair Grove, she worked in the post office with John Goodwin. Reba was required to fire up the stove every morning, and it put out very little heat.
Due to macular degeneration, Reba lost her center vision. In 2005, I interviewed her for an article to be published in the Ozarks’ Senior Living Newspaper, about the Low Vision Solution device she obtained that magnified printed and handwritten material. The device helped her pay her bills, check the ingredients on recipes and work word search puzzles.
She was very grateful Jerry made arrangements some years ago for her to record onto a CD several hymns, featuring her singing and piano music. At least 40 copies were made, to be given to family and friends, and some were sold. She began her musical career when she was 9 or 10 years old, by playing piano at both the Baptist and Methodist churches, in Fair Grove. Her talent earned her a permanent position in her home church until her eyesight forced her to turn over the reins to someone else.
At her funeral, the songs from her CD played while numerous photos flashed on the overhead screen. Then, as part of the pastor’s message, one of Reba’s songs was included. It was lovely.
One of the stories the pastor included was the time two boys fought over her, “and I didn’t end up with either one of them,” she said. She had told that story at one of our club meetings, and we ladies got quite a kick out of it.
Reba is survived by three sons and their wives: Bill and Gail Stewart, Mark and Carrie Stewart, and Jerry and Chris Stewart; one granddaughter and her husband, Jeff and Amanda Kleysteuber; and three great-granddaughters.