Myrna Turner had a serious brush with death late last year. Now, a few months later, she is going strong again and believes she has regained her health because God isn’t finished with her yet.
The 72-year-old St. Clair resident remains extremely active in her community through volunteering in the local R-XIII school district, city government and her church. She also uses her lifelong passion — sewing — to help others.
“My spiritual gift is service,” Turner told Senior LifeTimes while taking a break from working with pupils at St. Clair Elementary School. “I love doing it. I don’t do it for any personal gratitude. I do it because I love being with and helping people.
“It makes me feel good to help others. I get the gratitude by serving others. I believe it’s what I am supposed to do.”
Turner, who has lived in St. Clair since 1966, underwent a catheter ablation this past September to fix atrial fibrillation, the most common type of irregular heartbeat.
She said the procedure worked, but then one day shortly thereafter she collapsed and spent eight days in the hospital afterward. Her treatment required seven units of blood.
“I was told it happened because of too much coumadin,” she said in referring to a drug that can be prescribed for individuals with certain types of irregular heartbeats.
“It was touch and go,” she said of her hospital stay. “They almost lost me once.
“The thing of it is, I didn’t realize how serious my condition was. I just know that God was there and (He) brought me through it. ...
“I just know He isn’t finished with me yet.”
Turner said she has since made a full recovery, even though she officially has not been fully “released” from care. She has resumed her daily routine, which, she said, really doesn’t have much routine in it.
At St. Clair Elementary School, Turner volunteers as a Bulldog Buddy, meaning she spends time with children who may not otherwise have a strong adult influence. She also serves as a teacher assistant at the school and travels with pupils on various field trips.
In the St. Clair district, she has volunteered her services for other things, including being a judge for speech competitions.
She also is a major part of St. Clair’s Good News Club, a Christian-based organization that spends one afternoon a week after school. Bible stories are shared, singing takes place and guest speakers are invited to talk to the children. Her role there is to lead children through songs and stories.
Turner works with third-graders at Edgar Murray School.
She also was a teachers aide in the 1980s.
As far as city government, Turner is the chairman of the St. Clair Planning and Zoning Board, which meets monthly to discuss rules and regulations affecting city residents and forwards recommendations to the board of aldermen. She has been a board member for 11 years and president for the last five years.
At her church, First Baptist, Turner is the Sunday school director, she directs the children’s choir and she is active on the women’s missionary team. She also volunteers to help with church-related events and activities.
She has been an FBC member for 45 years.
As part of her church service, Turner has traveled to Haiti 11 times since 2002 as a missionary through Global Compassion Ministries. She said she has delivered more than 500 “witnessing dolls” to Haitian children.
“I call them comfort dolls,” she said. “Most of these kids don’t have anything.”
She said some of the homemade dolls have a heart sewn on them while others say “Jesus Loves You.” The dolls also are distributed locally.
Her church-related work also includes being a part of “Lay Renewals,” a group of lay people belonging to different churches who travel on certain weekends to give testimonies about what God has done in their lives.
And, she also volunteers to drive members of the community who struggle to get around to appointments.
“Being a Christian woman, I view all this as Christian service,” Turner said. “God has led me here to do what I can do.
“I really don’t have a typical day,” she said. “I always try to stay busy and help others.”
But on the rare day she gets to spend the day alone at home, she sews.
“I cherish those days, too,” she said. “Sewing is my therapy. It’s my most favorite thing. I pray while I sew. Talking to God helps me clear my head.”
Turner said she learned how to sew from her father, who ran a dry cleaning business and also did clothing alterations.
Turner was born in Harrison, Ark., and moved to Missouri when she was 2 years old.
She was raised in Aurora, located southwest of Springfield, and said she learned her “Christian spirit” from her parents and grandmother.
Turner said her parents, grandparents and an aunt and uncle, who all lived together in what she referred to as a compound of sorts, continually invited less-fortunate individuals to stay with them while she was growing up.
“There were people who didn’t have anything, didn’t have anywhere to go,” she said. “We would invite them to eat with us because they didn’t have any food. They would stay with us because they didn’t have anyplace to sleep.”
Shortly after her graduation from Aurora High School, Turner married her husband, Jim. She said everyone knew him as “Blank.”
The couple operated the Green County Boys Farm in Springfield for about three years. There, 13 boys “who came from all over and were labeled as troublemakers” stayed with them 24 hours a day, seven days per week.
“We were Mom and Dad to 13 boys,” she said. “We strongly felt that God led us there.”
The Turners also had two of their own children, Jeff, who now lives in Alton, Ill., and Patty Stockton, who lives in St. Clair. She has seven grandsons, three of whom were through adoption.
When funding for the boys school ended, Jim took a job with the Missouri Highway Patrol manning the weigh station on Interstate 44 on the south side of St. Clair. They moved to the city in 1966.
After moving to St. Clair, Myrna worked various jobs, including at a local service station and an abstract and title company.
Jim died in 1992.
Even though Myrna Turner said she always was involved with serving others and was a regular church attendee and member, she didn’t become a Christian until 1994.
She said for a long time she thought she was saved according to the biblical principal after she went through the motions at age 8. But later in her adult life, she realized she really wasn’t.
“It just hit me,” she said. “So I got saved at that time.”
She said her favorite Bible verse is Isaiah 40:31.
“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”
“I’m not in control of my life. God is,” Turner said. “So, I need to wait upon Him. God has seen me through all the things I’ve been through. That’s very comforting.
“I guess my motto would be, ‘Turn your eyes upon Jesus.’ My reward is what I do for the Lord.”