Quilt donation to Bertram Nursing Center reflects Turner’s giving spirit

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By Dana Delgado

It is often said that amazing people do amazing things and Odell Turner, longtime Liberty Hill resident, is no exception, even at age 92. In a variety of ways, she has been serving her community throughout her life.

Recently, she donated 19 lap quilts to the Bertram Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center in Bertram.

“We were acquainted with the nursing home,” Turner said about her choice for the donation. “I donated five at first but they liked them so much that they asked for more. They are perfect to put over your legs. They really appreciated the quilts and I even got a thank you note.”

That’s only a fraction of all the ones she has donated over the years to family and friends. Her designs have varied from the simple to the complex and at times, included embroidered and cross stitched patterns. Although she says she remains in good health, she focuses on patterns that are “easy and simple” these days.

“I’ve always sewed,” she said. “My mother got me interested. It was slow going at first, but I just watched her.”

The skill has been a lifelong companion, an on-again off-again affair that has served her well.

“I worked for years and sewed at night,” Turner said.

After she retired, she sewed on cross-country trips while her husband drove the motor home. “We were on the road a lot,” Turner said.
Eventually, the couple settled back in their Liberty Hill home, which they had built off of US Hwy. 183 and the North Fork of the San Gabriel River in 1979. There, she tended to a much adored garden filled with flowers and vegetables. After her husband’s death, she took up sewing again and even sold quilts at various craft fairs.

She lived alone for the next 23 years, from 1995 to 2018, taking on all the chores around the house including mowing and edging. She had plenty of company though. Her four children — West, Ron, Rickey, and Paula along with a handful of grandchildren, and 11 great-grandchildren visited often. Rickey, who along with Paula had attended Liberty Hill High School, passed away in 2012.

This past January, she moved in with her son and his family just down the road from her old homestead. On Thursdays, she makes it a point to make her way to downtown Liberty Hill for the weekly luncheon and gathering of the Over the Hill Gang, a regular reunion of sorts for the area’s senior citizens where Turner says she gets to “meet all the friends and hug them all.”

Recently while at one of the luncheons, she met up with a lady who told her she had been the town’s postmaster until her retirement.

“To my surprise,” Turner said, “I found out her husband had been my mailman for years. It’s been fascinating talking with her.”

Born in 1926 in Wolfe City just northeast of Dallas, Odell (Stidham) Turner probably never imagined serving hundreds and possibly thousands of people in the way that she did – through the food service industry.

“I hate to cook,” she said reflecting on an early childhood experience.

Her mother died when she was only nine and she was thrust into the kitchen to assume all duties including cooking while her brother and father worked on the farm and cotton fields. A biscuit recipe stuck to her mom’s kitchen door is a vivid memory of those days. A number of childhood experiences including riding deep in the filled cotton wagon to stay warm as her father took the cotton wagon to town became only fond memories after her mother’s passing.

Ironically, despite her distaste for the kitchen, she would be involved in owning and operating a series of restaurants at various stages of her adult life.

Among the first was a 1952 hamburger drive-in, which she and her husband named “Toot-N-Tell-ER.” The idea was that when customers drove into the lot of the Midland, Texas restaurant, they would honk their horns and then tell their order to the waitress who ran out to assist.

“It was crazy at first,” Turner said. “We really didn’t know what we were doing.”

Her second restaurant experience happened in North Austin.

“My husband was out of a job so we opened a restaurant,” she said. “It was the Lazy T BBQ & Fish, a strange combination but it worked.”

In 1979 when they moved to Liberty Hill, the couple opened a restaurant by the same name at the intersection of Hwy 183 and Hwy 29, an icon for years.

“It was hard work,” said Turner. “I didn’t especially like cooking but it was interesting and fun at the restaurant. I met a lot of people and still run into people I met there.”

One job she thoroughly enjoyed and had nothing to do with burgers, fish, or barbecue involved working in a paleontology lab in west Texas. So enthralled working with geologists guiding oil drillers, Turner stayed for 13 years.

“It was so interesting,” she said.

While life has presented Turner a variety of challenges, she says she has “not had too many hard times.” She seems to always find a way through things. Sewing and making quilts have been a way to bring a smile to others. One prime example comes to mind. Not too many months ago when her daughter-in-law was ill, Turner showed up at the door with chicken soup and a quilt to ease her pain and soothe her soul.

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