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How a 101-year-old linked to Willa Cather helped alter a small town's future


November 18, 2021

Photo courtesy of the Hastings Tribune

Antonette Willa Skupa Turner - Toni, to her friends - poses with young Willa Cather enthusiast MaKenna Karr. Turner is the granddaughter of Anna Pavelka, the real-life inspiration for Cather's most famous character in "My Antonia". She died at age 101 in August after spending the second half of her life speaking about her grandmother, her grandma's lifelong friend Willa Cather and the real-life world that Cather mined for her most famous novels.


RED CLOUD - It's not unusual to catch sight of a celebrity in Red Cloud, population 962, especially during the annual Willa Cather conference.

First Lady Laura Bush has appeared here. So has writer Maya Angelou, Golden Globe-winning actor Paul Giamatti and a drumbeat of talk show hosts, TV stars, novelists and artists.

And yet a tiny, energetic, elderly woman often stole the celebrity spotlight, holding court about the life and times of Nebraska's famed novelist.

Antonette Willa Skupa Turner - Toni, to her friends - lived most of her long life in Bladen, an even smaller...

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