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Friday Findings at Stockmen's Memorial

"There's only about three or four of us old timers left, but we're still on the right side of the grass." - Sunni Turner

We made it through the first week of the new year and it feels like it flew by, or maybe that's just me.

Hopefully everyone is slowly transitioning back to work mode from holiday mode and with that being said, it's time for another Friday Find from Stockmen's Memorial Foundation ready to please those reading eyes.

This week, I wanted to give some love to the ladies in the ranching and farming scene, seeing as they play a big, big part in the livelihoods of their families. How does the famous quote go, "Behind every great man there's a great woman."

So I bring you the story of the lady behind the signature red hat she always wore, Mrs. Sonia (Sunni) Turner - whom it was an absolute pleasure talking to.

Sunni Turner was born on August 17, 1931 in Goldspring, Alberta. It was about 10 miles north of Buffalo, Alberta and to this day, no longer exists. She was a prairie born, prairie raised girl who grew up with three brothers and and seven sisters. Her father, Kasper Kulyk was an avid rancher and certainly had plenty of help on the farm with the heaping bunch of siblings being put to work. 

Growing up Sunni attended Grades 1-9, 3 1/2 miles away on horseback or buggy during the summer months and a sleigh or jumper in the winter months. She recalls summers being very warm while winters were rather frigid.

Sunni attended Grade 10 and 11 at Gem, Alberta north of Brooks and would arrive back at the family farm for the summer when she was out of school. She then went to Oyen High School and the Red Deer Composite High School to earn extra credits to become a school teacher. She eventually earned her way and enrolled at the University of Alberta, Calgary Branch in the education program from 1951-1952.  

It would be at Lochend School where Sunni would meet her lifelong partner, Bobby Turner. 

"I was teaching school and my friend said 'oh there's somebody working for us' so she made all the visitors, they had to sit next to me. So anyway, this young fella he was doing binding, that was years ago, you know. Instead of combines they would sloth the grain and then bind it and then it was in bundles. That's what he was doing for the ranch that I boarded at. My sister, she lived at the Ghost Dam and she would send somebody or pick me up to stay the weekends with her at the Ghost Dam. Anyway, I see this young fella going home and it looked like Bobby Turner and I thought 'Oh that's that young fella that sat beside me' so I waved at him and he said that's what turned him on," laughed Turner. "Anyway, he thought he'd ask me to go to some dances, like Beaupre and Glendale and Lochend and that was the beginning."

Together the happy couple created five boys. All of which live a short distance from the family ranch which Bobby's father, Bobby Sr. started back in 1928. Two of her sons, Jim and Norman always helped out on the farm but after their father passed away three and a half years ago they have taken over. And while it wasn't easy for Sunni nor her boys to loose the main part of the equation, she said things are starting to shape up. 

"I'm keeping busy and I figure, you know, you got to keep busy or else you're down in the dumps if you aren't," she said. Sunni added that she keeps herself occupied by cooking Jim and Norman a hot noon dinner because they are busy with the ranching and farming and her 18 grandchildren and her 10 great grandchildren keep her young at heart. 

Although Sunni never had any girls herself, she was quick to mention that her daughter-in-laws are great gals and are like the daughters she never had. 

Sunni and Bobby were also big outfitters. This was part of Bobby's doing but Sunni soon took an interest to it as well. I made a comment that she must be pretty darn good with a gun and I shouldn't get on her wrong side. She chuckled and told me of a time when her and Bobby went to the Northwest Territories and were part of the South Nahanni Outfitters. 

"There was about 20 hunters or more and they come for about six weeks, anyway, it turned out I got the biggest dall sheep of that season," explained Sunni. The outfitter must have been impressed and enticed by Sunni's infectious personality because he ended up naming a lake after her, "Sonia Lake."

Sunni is a very personable and lovely soul who did just about everything under the sun. Her red hat that's hanging in the rafters at Stockmen's has a couple stories to it. One being a small dinosaur pin on it, I found this interesting and needed to ask why. 

"I dug for dinosaurs about eight summers at Dinosaur Provincial Park and then I dug at an archeological dig at Milk River for Indian artifacts and then I was at Big Hill Creek." This was certainly a constant passion for Sunni. She also pointed out that she enjoys to write and has had a few poems published. That creative bone also stemmed to canvas where she has painted several landscapes. 

A few years back the president of Stockmen's, Don Hepburn was doing a trivia style event where individuals had to guess the person behind the hat. When he was pulling down Sunni's chapeau from the rafters an American $1 bill fell out. So, Don called Sunni and said 'some money fell out of your hat, what should I do with it' which she replied 'I know, just leave it in there that's my emergency fund.' She certainly has a sense of humour to her and Don Hepburn sure gets a kick out of telling everyone that story. 

Ending on a positive note I asked Sunni what we can all learn from her and she replied with the perfect answer.

"Always look on the bright side and live each day to the fullest that you can live."

She also mentioned that an old hunter in Wyoming told her a life lesson that she has tried to live by. 

"Every day do something that you didn't have to do, it might lead you to something very interesting."



About the Author: Chrissy Da Silva

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