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Making music is her mission

December 20, 2002|by ANDREA ROWLAND

andrear@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Faithfully, Linda Turner has brought music and scripture to Coffman Nursing Home in Hagerstown every Sunday for nearly 30 years.

"I'm one of the old-timers at Coffman. It just doesn't feel like Sunday if I'm not here," said Turner, 56, of Maugansville. "I love the residents. I thoroughly enjoy the elderly people."

Turner plays the piano, sings, leads prayers and gives Sunday school papers to the estimated 25 Coffman residents who regularly attend the 40-minute morning devotional services in the nursing home's activity area, she said.

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She also takes musical requests, regularly playing such favorites as "How Great Thou Art" and "Amazing Grace" - a hymn that "really speaks to residents' hearts," Turner said.

She arrives about half an hour early each Sunday to help bring residents to the service, and makes a point after the service to visit residents who were unable to attend the devotional.

"Linda is here faithfully," Coffman Activities Director Janine Clipp said. "She is just wonderful with the residents."

Turner knows just about all the residents by name and can find her way around the nursing home as well as most full-time employees, she said.

She also leads fun sing-alongs and "guess that tune" activities at the nursing home two to three times each month. She hosts sing-alongs for residents at the neighboring Western Maryland Hospital Center once a month, she said.

Turner has missed fewer than 25 Sunday services since she took over the nursing home mission work started by the Rev. Lloyd Baker of Faith Chapel in Hagerstown, she said. It took minor surgery, illness, childbirth and a European vacation to keep her away from the work she loves.

Turner even brought her two children with her to Coffman every Sunday when they were young, she said.

"I think it has given them a heart for the older people and the handicapped," said Turner, a sign language interpreter who teaches a continuing education class at Hagerstown Community College.

Faith Chapel for 28 years supported Turner's efforts at Coffman, funding the weekly hymn books and Sunday school papers and the toiletries she provides for residents during the holidays, she said.

Turner worked hand-in-hand with the late vocalist Alice Manuel to conduct the Sunday service for more than a decade. Although she would relish a musical partner, Turner remains a solo act because she hasn't found anyone devoted enough to fill the role, she said.

"I would love the help but it would have to be someone who is truly committed. My residents will begin to love you and expect you to be here every Sunday," said Turner, a native of Waynesboro, Pa. "For now, I will continue by myself with the Lord's help."

Faith has always meant "everything" in Turner's life, she said.

As a member of Calvary Assembly of God in Waynesboro, Turner began playing the piano for elderly residents at Franklin Farms - now the Franklin County Nursing Home - when she was a teenager, she said.

Turner began taking piano lessons at age 7.

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