Harmony native Lillian Turner turns 100
Wednesday, October 10, 2012 6:39 AM
Sitting across from Lillian Turner, one would be hard-pressed to believe she's been alive for almost 100 years.
Lillian Turner, currently a resident at Green Lea Manor in Mabel, will be celebrating her 100th birthday this week. She grew up as Lillian Hoiness in Harmony and lived in Montana for many years before returning home to Harmony in her retirement.
With barely a wrinkle on her face, she could easily pass for someone 30 to 40 years younger.
"I remember a doctor asking me once why I didn't have any wrinkles," said Lillian, who now lives at Green Lea Manor in Mabel.
"I told him, when I was a little girl, my folks used to put soap on my face and I couldn't stand it. So I never use any soap on my face. Isn't that a simple cure?"
Lillian (Hoiness) Turner was born Oct. 15, 1912, the daughter of Edward and Jane (Ellingson) Hoiness, in Kendallville, Iowa.
"My father was a creamery man and owned a creamery in Harmony, making butter for the New York and Chicago markets," she said.
She remembers an enchanted childhood, as one of 11 children growing up in Harmony.
"My dad came from Norway and played the violin. I think that as children, we didn't quarrel because we were so busy playing and singing. It was just wonderful how our father taught us that," she said.
"And there wasn't any question on Sunday about what we were doing. We never said, 'Oh mother, it's Sunday. Do you think we should go to church?' We went to church,'" she said.
Lillian said she's had a love for music her whole life, playing piano by ear, singing and dancing.
Her brother, the late Don Hoiness, went on to be a famous performer and well-loved professor of music at St. Olaf College in Northfield.
"He sang all over the world," remembered Lillian.
By the time she was 16, Lillian had decided she wanted to be a nurse, but couldn't gain admittance to nursing school in Rochester until she was 18.
"I needed to have a little job of some kind, so I worked for a doctor and dentist in LeRoy," she said.
"The doctor had me doing everything...even giving ether and everything like that. That's more than crazy," she said.
When Lillian's second oldest brother, a Montana attorney, came back for a visit, he couldn't believe what his sister was being required to do.
"He asked if I wanted to come to Montana for a vacation and I did. But when I got out there, he explained why he had invited me and wanted me to stay. He said if someone had died, I would have been as guilty as that doctor," she remembered.
It was during her stay in Montana that Lillian met her first husband, Johnny "JR" Jones.
"He had seen me earlier in the day on the street and had no idea who I was. Later I was at a dance with my cousin. He was up in the balcony, and when he saw me dancing he jumped right over the railing and off the balcony to come dance with me," she said.
After they married, Lillian and Johnny had two children, Jacque and Robert. They lived in Billings, where Johnny worked for Billings Metropolitan Life. Lillian owned and operated a knitting store, where she taught knitting to both men and women.
"There were men who couldn't play ball or anything, so they learned to knit," she said.
Johnny was a Shriner and Lillian enjoyed being a member and performing with the Daughters of the Nile.
"We used to love to do things with that group. I remember one night when we gals were performing in a room that was dimly lit. Like a smarty, I always wore lighted earrings. One night when I was finished performing, these two ladies in the audience came up to me and put their arms around me and started singing 'You Light Up My Life.' I got a real kick out of that," she said.
The next chapter
After Johnny's death at just 70 years old, Lillian decided it was time to come home to Harmony.
Some time after her return, she had a surprise reunion with someone from her past.
"Of all things, I was at a funeral at Greenfield Church in Harmony. As I walked down the aisle, this fellow saw me," she said.
It was Earl Turner, Lillian's high school sweetheart.
"I had gone with him in high school and hadn't seen him in 51 years," she remembered.
Lillian and Earl later married and lived out their years together in Harmony. They frequently wintered in Arizona.
A good life
When asked what Lillian's favorite memories are, she had a hard time narrowing it down.
"I loved to cook, travel, sing, and spend time with my family. I was such a Republican. I really liked Gerald Ford," she said.
"I'm also proud of the fact that, living in Billings with my brother, I walked nine blocks to get to college every day. And once I drove from Montana all the way back to Harmony by myself. I think that was determination. But sometimes I wonder how I ever had the guts to do that," she laughed.
"I just feel like I have been so lucky in my life. Growing up we had such a good family life and my parents passed that down to all of their children. My son, bless his heart, lives in Houston, Texas. He has been such a wonderful son. And my daughter (Jacque Crutcher of Lanesboro) is the same way. Between the two of them, I've had a wonderful, wonderful life," she concluded.
The public is invited to an open house to help Lillian celebrate her 100th birthday on Saturday, Oct. 13, from 1 to 4 p.m. at Green Lea Manor in Mabel.