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Willa Cather Foundation - Red Cloud Nebraska (NE)

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A Treasure Named Toni

A Treasure Named Toni


Eighth-grader Makenna Karr met Antonette Willa Skulpa Turner when she was a child at church, and they shared a friendship for over a decade until Toni's death in 2021 at 101. The two formed a unique and special bond and in 2022 Makenna self-published a book of her memories of Turner, and her life story from interviews through the years. 

Here is an article about Makenna and Toni's presentation at the Bladen School in 2019 when Makenna was a sixth grader, and another about their friendship.


I first met Toni when I was three years old. I met her at church after my family moved to Bladen, Nebraska. She always sat in the pew behind us. She hardly ever missed a Sunday and she was always so kind to my family. I always liked talking to her before church started. Toni did so much for me. She helped me learn so much history, and most of all she became an amazing friend for me just to call and talk to. Her one-hundred and one year journey is something we can all learn from.

Excerpt from "The Corals"

Inside, she found a coral necklace. It was made with a bunch of real corals. She put on the coral necklace and then ran downstairs to show her mom. Once her mom saw her, she yelled at her and said, "Antonette, go put those corals back where you found them! They aren't toys!."

Willa Cather had gifted the corals to Toni's parents after she heard that Toni's middle name was Willa after her.

They were real coral beads from Saks Fifth Avenue in New York City. They were not just average dimestore beads.

Even though Toni's mother told her not to play with the corals, Toni still got the corals out every day. She really liked them and thought they made her look prettier. Eventually the box came apart because she played with it so much.

When Toni was older she got some real coral earrings to match the coral necklace, but when she was on a vacation to Texas she lost one of the earrings, so she just put the one earring on to the necklace and still wore them together until she passed. She always said that it was her most prized possession.

Table of Contents

  1. The Start of It All
  2. The Corals
  3. District 31
  4. Toni's Early Years
  5. The Dirty Thirties
  6. Favorite Birthday Memory
  7. Her Teenage Years
  8. Toni's Jobs
  9. Becoming a Turner
  10. Their Married Life
  11. Finding God
  12. Going to College
  13. Becoming a Barber
  14. Humanities Nebraska
  15. Later in Her Life
  16. When I Met Toni
  17. October 15th
  18. Celebrating 100
  19. Lived Through Lots
  20. Her Beautiful Story