By Debbie Hall
Edna Turner has seen it all, done as much of it as she desired, and the 104-year-old has no plans to stop anytime soon.
As she works on her 105th trip around the sun, she lives life by a simple catchphrase: “That’s no problem,” or a variation thereof is her mantra, she said.
When her doctor told her he did not want her navigating the steps to the basement, “I told him ‘that’s no problem.’ Shoot, I do laundry down there,” she said.
Turner also noted that “most people my age are in the nursing home. There’s not many walking around on two feet, but I don’t have a problem.”
Turner was born on April 3, 1915 in the Goblintown community of Patrick County to John and Rosa Shelton. At the time, Woodrow Wilson was serving his second year as president, the Gallipoli Campaign of WWI was underway, and Babe Ruth hit his first career home run.
The family then moved to West Virginia, and spent 10 years there before Turner moved back to Virginia.
She settled in the Bassett area of Henry County, and was 17 when she married Austin Turner.
“She got married on the train tracks near Stanley Furniture,” Turner’s granddaughter, Krista Beeson, explained.
“It was a side track” used to move furniture, according to Turner, who explained that she and Austin planned to take their vows at the preacher’s home. However, the preacher was at work, so they went to the factory in hopes of getting him to perform the ceremony.
From the rumble seat of their vehicle, Turner’s sister and a cousin served as witnesses for the ceremony, as did John D. Bassett, who took time away from his work to attend the marriage.
Bassett formed the Bassett Furniture Company in 1902 and remained its president until 1930, according to online reports.
Turner chuckled, and said, “he didn’t even give us a bedroom suit” for their wedding gift.
The Turners were married for 78-years until Austin Turner’s death.
Comment that that is a long time, Turner doesn’t hesitate before responding simply, “yeah.” Almost as an afterthought, she adds “I’ve been married most all my life.”
Her son, Donald W. Turner, is 82 and served as the treasurer of Henry County; her daughter, Nancy Turner Beeson is 80, Edna Turner said, adding that her daughter was Bassett’s secretary.
The family was among the first to have a TV, and often attracted a crowd — “children, really,” to enjoy the novelty, Turner said.
She also was among the first in the area to hire a housekeeper to help in the four-room house that was built in 1939, according to her granddaughter. The house was later moved, according to Krista Beeson, who added that she now lives in “the old family home.”
While she has enjoyed her later years, Turner said not all memories are good.
She worked outside the home, first at Bassett Furniture Company and later at Pannill Knitting Company, where she remained for 46 years. “The last 15 years, there, I was floor lady supervisor. I’ve seen a lot of hard times. I’ve seen the time when I didn’t have 50-cents. I made $8 a week for working 40-hours. They call that the good ole days, but I didn’t see anything good about it. Times are better now, but I’ve been through hard times.”
She was 15-years-old when she started driving. Just last year – when she was 103, Turner renewed her license. She drives to Stanleytown United Methodist Church, arriving on time for church, albeit sometimes late for Sunday School.
She said she also drives to the Hardee’s in Stanleytown regularly “to meet with the bunch. Anything to be with people.”
Each week, she attends the Historic John D. Bassett (HJDB) event center for the Friday morning get togethers. While there, she often joins the band to sing a song or two and dances when the fast tunes are played. (Video online at www.henrycountyenterprise.com)
“I like to dance. It’s good exercise,” Turner said. While watching a video of her dancing with a friend, Turner’s granddaughter asked Turner if she enjoyed watching herself dance.
“I’m looking to see how much better the other one is than I am,” Turner quipped, and added that she is surprised as anyone at her age.
“Our parents died when they were in their 70s, and we thought that was old,” she said.
The secrets to her longevity are simple.
“Being with people and enjoying life, that keeps me going,” she said. As for her motto, “it keeps me. I’ve enjoyed life.”