Fifty nativities decorate Turner home

Collecting for 57 years

by: Photo By Susan Matheny - Frances and Dick Turner greet guests with treats in their festive holiday kitchen.

Frances Turner loves to decorate, and during the holidays the Turner home is transformed into a Christmas wonderland as she brings out 57-years worth of figurines and ornaments, including 50 nativity sets and 150 angels.
   "Everybody knows I love to decorate. It was one of my jobs to decorate the store and the church, and people started giving me things," she said of her collections, which now fill an entire storeroom of their back bedroom.
   Before retiring, Dick and Frances Turner operated Ben Franklin stores in Madras, Prineville and John Day, and Dick pastored the Faith Fellowship Church in Madras for 20 years.
   Frances explained how her collection got started. "When I worked in the store, I noticed we never sold very many nativities at Christmas. People always bought Santas and other things. I felt so bad, because it's Christ's birthday, and people weren't thinking of the true meaning of Christmas. So, I began decorating my house with angels and nativities," she related. Each room of their large, rambling house also has a fully-decorated Christmas tree.
   Her collecting began 57 years ago with an artificial, silver Christmas tree, some ornaments, and a windup music box nativity scene she got for their boys which plays "Silent Night." The Turners have two sons, David of Bend and Daniel of Klamath Falls.
   "I start decorating the day after Thanksgiving and it takes me about a week, Frances said, noting her Christmas arrangements range from high-end collector nativity pieces to a shelf stuffed with Dollar Store teddy bears. "The children love the bears," she said.
   Everything is labeled by room and stored in large plastic boxes, which have to be unpacked, and sometimes untangled. "It's a lot of work, but I love to do it. And I enjoy the memories, as I put things out, of the people who gave the things to me," she said.
   A row of lighted ceramic churches on the living-room mantel were made by Carol Summer, a friend in Prineville, whose mother worked in Turner's store for 30 years.
   Summer loves to do ceramics and through the years has also given the Turners a jumbo-sized set of carolers, a scene featuring purple-hued reindeer, and a purple angel holding a candle.
   A beautiful manger scene, nestled in a cloud of cottony snow, graces the living-room. "There was a lady with cancer that our church prayed for and she was healed. She sent us that nativity as a thanks," Frances said.
   There's an Indian angel made by her 83-year-old sister-in-law Dorothy Barlow, a nativity scene tole painted on wood from Kathie Olson, and a cartoon-like nativity that was a gift.
   In the Turner's cheery kitchen, a gingerbread house made 25 years ago by professional baker Wilma Tolman is the centerpiece. Surrounding the candy-coated house are tiny toy figures that were given as gifts to Frances' sister Mary Forbes Johnson during her many years of teaching, and eventually contributed to the Turner's display.
   Collector figurines include a Sarah's Attic nativity featuring African American figures, an all-crystal nativity, a Native American nativity, and a Thomas Kinkade ceramic Christmas tree adorned with a tiny Christmas village scene.
   There is an antique painting of the Madonna and child, plates painted with the Holy family, more music box manger scenes and nativity Christmas ornaments.
   Her smallest piece was a nativity in an egg-sized container -- that is until someone gave her a key-ring-sized pewter nativity.
   After all the decorating is done, "Then I send invitations to my friends to come over for `Christmas cheer' and they all come and visit and see the decorations," Frances said, sipping hot cider from a mug imprinted with a nativity picture.
   She welcomes her guests with snickerdoodle cookies, fudge, popcornballs, hot cider and coffee, and sends them home with jars of homemade raspberry jam.
   Their house, perched on top of a hill on Shady Lane, used to be known for its spectacular display of Christmas lights, but Dick, 81, and Frances, 75, gave up doing lights last Christmas.
   "I used to hold the ladder so Dick wouldn't slip and he would hang up a big star that you could see clear downtown. People used to come by and bring their kids to see the lights," Frances said.
   "We're not able to do that anymore, but what a joy it was to do for the town all those years. We really enjoyed it," she added.