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Archives for : February2015

Freddie of Many Coats…

Friday, February 13, 2015 the congregation of First Baptist Church lost a treasured member of the staff and congregation of this beautiful church.  The loss of his joyful presence will be sorely felt by his family and everyone within this congregation.

Freddie Turner, Jr. came to the First Baptist Church well over twenty-six years ago as an employee under the leadership of Pastor Robert Davis.  Freddie’s many coats and duties consisted of custodial staff, facilities manager including the operation of ancient heat and air conditioning, errand runner and storeroom management.  He served as keeper of the keys to these beautiful church buildings, security personnel, liaison with many treasurers, pastors, secretaries, ministers of music, church musicians, and church members during his tenure.   His joyful presence was pleasantly experienced by many whether in church services during the week, at many social and meal events held within the Fellowship Hall, or his pleasant goodbyes as the last to leave the hallowed halls after all events.  Each one of his respective duties required a special coat which Freddie wore with joy, honor and much appreciation of his life and employment.

Over the years he functioned as a treasured friend and security guard with the members of this church.  In later years at the passing of many of the older men in this church he began a wonderful self-appointed duty of calling widows of our church requesting if he could be of service to them.  Some would need items purchased and delivered to their homes; Freddie cheerfully wore his coat of friendship and volunteered to share his kindness with all. His exuberance to help and his laughter were contagious.

My own father, Charles valued his friendship with Freddie and together they accomplished much with the physical plant of the church buildings, keeping all in good repair.  The two men loved to tease and joke and shared much laughter and respect each for the other.

In January of 2009, our father found his new home and Freddie was present in the Fellowship Hall to share a meal after the funeral.  Charles’ nephew from Franklin, Tennessee had arrived in a beautiful custom coach to usher his mother, Charles’ youngest sister home in comfort.  Her health at that time did not allow her comfortable travel by car or plane for an extended amount of time; the coach was the perfect transport complete with professional driver.  As the family gathered for a return trip to the Cemetery after a shared meal, we asked Freddie to ride with us.  He was at first hesitant but we coaxed him into the beautiful vehicle and together we travelled to the Cemetery to say our goodbyes.

He seemed very honored and pleased to ride in that very special ‘chariot’ and we were blessed and honored to have him with us.  As all the members of our family gathered around my father’s final resting place, Freddie stayed behind to quietly watch the proceedings; I’m sure he felt a little out-of-place.  I personally wanted to share this time with him because our Daddy respected their relationship highly.  We were honored to have him share that special time with us.

From that moment on, there was a special bond with Freddie; he loved to kid and joke with my sister who plans and prepares many of the meals served at the church and he fell on her every word.  He accomplished whatever she asked of him with what I can only describe as joy.  She was, after all an extension of our father, Charles.  When I visited the church, I always desired to seek his hand in friendship and greeting.

When I was honored to have published my two books of my family, I desired Freddie to receive his own copies to learn of my parents’ and grandmother’s lives and where they came from.  He made me feel he was honored to receive them and I hope he enjoyed my words.

He made it his job to assure my Mama’s safety to her car; often walking with her or at least watching her progress.  After Daddy passed, she once drove his car to church but could not get the headlights to work properly.  She was not as familiar with his car as her own.  Freddie was highly concerned for her to drive back home in the dark but to his relief she found the proper lights and arrived home with no further issues.

Over the years Mama has become somewhat known for her contribution of Nettles’ Sausage to the many covered dish meals served in the Fellowship Hall.  At each gathering, there was one special little Zip-Lock bag of a few of those treasured sausages separate from her Longaberger serving basket just for Freddie.  It has arrived here today as well.  He was always very pleased she thought of him and over the years looked for the presence of those little bags…she couldn’t have ended the tradition if she tried!

A very special coat our friend Freddie wore was when he joined the church membership of First Baptist Church of Lake City, Florida.  I marvel at the fact that for over twenty-six years he spent daily hours at his job in our church and many times must have worked overtime to carry out his duties during services and afterwards.  I only hope his family was neither distressed nor unhappy at his sharing of his time with our church membership over the years.  We sincerely thank his family for sharing him with us.

When he wore that new coat at becoming a member, he could always be found in the congregation worshipping but his presence was also ultimately required to safely secure the buildings afterwards.

As I document these memories I am struck by the wonder of the last coat Freddie has now earned; that of a member of the greatest congregation of them all.  His last days were difficult as his health declined but I believe his “eyes were on the prize” for which all Christians long and pray to receive.

My heart assures me that he has now joined that heavenly congregation along with friends, family and acquaintances which he shared his life and love with and who have passed before him.

To our friend Freddie, I thank you for your service and your friendship; you wore all those many coats so graciously, thankfully and well over the years; however this last one fits you best of all. 

God Speed your journey friend; you are sorely missed…

Horror In The Moment…

In the early years of the seventies on a warm day of sunshine in the little town of Lake City, Florida, My Mama, Lois Marion was driving her young daughters home from the grocery store back to their farm on Pinemount Road.  Their chariot was a huge beast of an automobile, a dark green Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight with beautiful gold brocade interior.  Although a very large car with a huge engine it was absolutely safe, road-worthy and a powerful but very comfortable and stylish ride.  Mama was so proud of that new car and Daddy had been just as proud to present it to her!

Mama had purchased four flats (2 ½ dozen eggs per flat) that day for use in her home cake-baking business and were set along with mountains of sugar and flour for yet another wedding cake creation for one lucky young Lake City bride’s special day.

The girls were enjoying the trip home, the radio was playing (not softly I’m sure since all of us enjoyed our music… I’m sure Mama was wishing HER music was playing instead of “The Big Ape” radio station out of Jacksonville.  She was mostly a good sport when we wanted to rock!)

As they neared what was then called by the locals “Dead Man’s Curve”, a sharp curve in the highway anchored by an extremely old and large oak tree, Mama slowed to the posted speed. Their driveway was within the next mile and Nola Jane sat in the front passenger seat, Charlene in the back seat and both were simply enjoying the ride and their music.

Mama noticed a Camaro fast approaching from the west at a high speed and to her horror realized “the wheels just collapsed right before me!”  The Camaro driven by the young wife of one of her tobacco workers apparently did not realize the curve was that close and unfortunately was too late in braking.

As the Camaro blasted toward them, Mama attempted to drive defensively and while screaming to the girls “get down…!” pulled that huge beast to the right toward the culvert on the side of the road.  The Camaro crossed the median to her right then corrected back to the left again but because the wheels had apparently been damaged, the car careened into the path of Mama’s “Beast”!   The ensuing crash was a mighty sound in the countryside which brought the neighbors running.

As the smoke cleared, the Camaro lay near the western lane in the culvert with that big old Beast smashed to ‘smithereens;’ its nose in the culvert and totally ‘bonded’ into the other car.  Mama’s car had smashed into the broad side of the smaller car which was definitely totaled.  However, because Mama had braked when she did and travelled down into the culvert, it possibly saved the other driver’s life.  The young woman was severely injured and Mama and my sisters were all cut up rather severely as well.  A neighbor immediately called the Florida Highway Patrol for help.

Mama’s initial fear was for her daughters but was also very fearful the impact may have killed the girl in the other car.  Her prayers began immediately and were constant for the next minutes, days and months afterwards.

At the arrival of paramedics, her mind was a total scramble, her chin was full of glass where her face had hit the steering wheel and the car interior was bathed in yellow from the total annihilation of two hundred and forty eggs within the car.  She gratefully allowed herself and her daughters emergency transport to the hospital.

I was in my late teens and not present on this day.  I was with my Grandmother on Hillsboro Street, just a few blocks from the Lake Shore Hospital at the eastern end of Lake Desoto.  The call came in to my Grandmother that Mama and my sisters had been in “a very bad” car accident and were presently being taken to the hospital.

I was close with my little sisters and loved each one of them and initially thought all three had been in the accident with our Mama.  As I sped through the streets of Lake City, Hillsboro Street, the street my Grandmother lived on was a mere 4 blocks away from the hospital so I opted to cross what was called First Street in those days.  As I approached the intersection at Hillsboro and Marion Street, I looked to my right into what was then Dixon’s Grill and owned by friends in our family church.  I was highly agitated and so anxious to get to the hospital but at that moment totally “locked eyes with my second sister, Kay Sue” eating lunch in the Grill with friends from the church.  I had no idea she was NOT with Mama and my other two sisters.

I stopped my car in the middle of the street and screamed to Kay to come outside.  I’m sure I was extremely frantic and abrupt but she certainly got the impression something was wrong.  She ran from the Grill and together we embraced.   “Come with me…Mama and the girls have been in an accident!”  I cried.  I’m sure she was certain I had totally lost my mind!  However, I was soooo thankful that at least one of my sisters was safe!

Together we raced to the hospital and I think we got there before Daddy and Grandmother arrived but I will most definitely never forget walking into the Emergency Room. I first saw my sister Charlene with blood over her entire face!  Her nose was broken when the impact had sent her face first into the back seat of the car and her face was already turning black and blue.  Her green eyes were no longer green, but were severely swollen and her face tear-stained.  She was in total shock.

We moved over to check Nola Jane’s condition  who was, bruised and battered, suffered no breaks but looked so terribly small on the gurney…

We then saw our Mama with blood, cuts and bruises over her face and the nurse attempting to remove the multitude of shards of glass from her chin.  We could hear the pain in our Mama’s voice as she spoke with the nurses and doctors.  Daddy and Grandmother arrived and we all hovered and prayed to learn the conditions of our family.  We prayed hard for the safety of everyone involved.

The one image that remains in my mind all these years later while standing by my Mama’s bedside and the medical team worked on her, was when the very large and imposing uniformed figure walked into the Emergency Room in search of my Mama.   I don’t remember his name but will NEVER forget the horror and embarrassment on my Mama’s face when that uniformed young man walked into the Emergency Room with her WIG clutched within his hand…”Oh my Lord” she cried “MY WIG!”

The young FHP patrolman had arrived to check on my family members’ conditions but apparently as a very thoughtful young man, was determined to return the wig to the rightful owner.  Someone along the way had schooled that young man in vanity of a woman and need and desire to appear as “put together” as possible .  He was doing his level best to return my Mama to her best!

Later Mama admitted “I wanted to crawl UNDER that bed I was so embarrassed!  I know he was very kind to bring back my belongings but that young man was standing there with my hair in his hands…!”  She also admitted it was pretty shallow to have worried about how she may have appeared in the horror of the moment…

At the time in Mama’s life, even though she had beautiful black and very thick hair she occasionally wore a wig.  It looked nice on her but I’m certain it was the convenience of the ability to “set a cap on her head” to rush out the door and do that shopping necessary for her needs than to stop and style her hair!  She was a mother, farmer’s wife, chauffeur/tractor driver, cake baker/master decorator and a housewife all rolled up into one.  She sometimes just didn’t have the time.

Charlene had her nose set (extremely painful but necessary), Nola Jane survived the ordeal of the crash and Mama picked shards of glass out of her chin for months afterwards.

The Oldsmobile unfortunately was un-salvageable but brought Mama a brand new Tan Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight which she graciously accepted as a surprise gift by our Daddy.   Seems to me I remember however, the purchase of the large numbers of eggs from then on was relegated to the trunk of the car for their ride home.

The other driver in the Camaro did thankfully survive the ordeal but endured a very long recuperation.

The prayers sent up that day by my Mama, Daddy and all of my family definitely revealed the Grace of God and ‘Grace’ allowed my family members to stay here with us.

My Daddy was always open for laughter and lots of it.  I can’t honestly remember if my jokester of a parent laughed at Mama’s reaction at that particular moment in the Emergency Room however, the jokes and memories he shared over the years since then certainly have brought lots of guffaws!

 …Daddy could ‘shore nuff’ spin a good yarn!