Antonette Willa Skupa Turner: 1920-2021

For many of us in the Cather community, a trip to Red Cloud wasn't complete without a visit with Antonette Turner. The granddaughter of Anna Sadilek Pavelka (Cather's prototype for Ántonia), Antonette provided us with a link to a connection to Cather. "We thought of Toni as a primary source, a reporter of historical fact," Daryl Palmer wrote in a 2018 article he co-authored with the National Willa Cather Center archivist Tracy Tucker. "We have discovered that she is much more than that. Antonette is a natural teacher, a raconteur of public history, a family historian, a lively spokesperson for Czech culture, a warm hostess, a deeply religious person with a gift for spontaneous prayer, and more than anything else a storyteller from a long line of storytellers." Moreover, she was a friend.

Antonette passed away on Friday, August 13, at the age of 101. She was a blessing to have known, and our circle is already diminished by her loss. But she leaves behind a long legacy of service to her grandmother's memory. She spent decades talking in schools about her grandmother's friendship with Willa Cather; she established scholarships to honor her family's Czech heritage and place in literary history. Antonette shared our vision for the restoration of the Pavelka Farmstead, and her leadership gift helped to make that vision a reality. "You'll always remember me when you think about old times, won't you?" Cather wrote in My Ántonia. "And I guess everybody thinks about old times, even the happiest people."

  • Read Antonette's obituary HERE.
  • Read article about Antonette HERE in the Winter 2018 issue of the Willa Cather Review.