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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…

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