When Annette Turner tells you about her horse Nellie, the one she had as a girl, you can almost picture her at that time — a brown-eyed, brown-haired girl growing up in Bryan, Texas.
She was Annette Enloe then, daughter of Jewett and Ruby Enloe. Her dad was a dentist in Bryan and her mom was a teacher and later a counselor there. She was the sister of two brothers and she loved horses.
"I had a horse as a child; my parents surprised me with one when we moved onto 63 acres out from town. Her name was Nellie," Annette remembers. "I can recall being away at college and my dad asked me on the phone if it would be okay to sell Nellie. I told him yes, then that weekend when I came home, I told him I had changed my mind. He said he wished I had let him know sooner because they had just loaded her up on the horse trailer. As I looked out the road, I saw the horse trailer with Nellie on it being pulled away."
She still loves horses and she would like to go riding occasionally, but she is Annette Turner now, wife of Craig, and first lady of Catawba College. Here in North Carolina, opportunities for her to horseback ride are infrequent, but chances for her to see and play with her twin granddaughters, Madeleine and Peyton, occur more often.
If you ask Annette what she wants people to know about her, she'll tell you that she's a Christian and that "in my life, my faith is first, my family is next, and right now, Catawba is third." "I don't always exemplify that, but that is my desire," she explains, adding "feet of clay, you know."
She met her husband, Craig, while she was a homesick freshman at Baylor University. "I met him on my first day there," she recalls. "He was a year ahead of me and a host in my dormitory. He helped seat the girls during meals. I thought he was rather outgoing, but I was very homesick at that time. He would ask my roommate where I was at mealtimes and then he would have trays sent up to me in my room. He did that until he got in trouble for doing it and by then, I had started to think he was pretty nice and I was coming down for my meals."
The two were engaged at the end of Annette's junior year and were married in the middle of her senior year at her home church in Bryan. "Craig did a semester of post-graduate work while I completed my undergraduate degree," she says.
The fall following their marriage, while Craig went to graduate school at Baylor, Annette worked at the Armstrong-Browning Library there, which she notes, houses "the largest [Robert] Browning collection in the world." Craig was a graduate assistant and had his office in that library, across the hall from Annette's. One of her job responsibilities was to give tours of one particular room, a salon dedicated to Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
When Craig completed his master's at Baylor, he and Annette moved to New Orleans where he could pursue his Ph.D. at Tulane University. Annette was seven months pregnant with the couple's first child, Scott, at the time. Their daughter, Shannon, was also born in Louisiana a year and a half later.
For 17 years after her children were born, Annette taught in elementary schools in Texas and Mississippi. Looking back, she is quick to tell you her work was "fulfilling" and that first grade was her favorite grade to teach because "you could see so much progress in the children — they came in not reading, and left reading."
She did not conclude her teaching career until Craig landed his job as president at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas. Then, her schedule as a first lady was too demanding, although she did find time to tutor children in Abilene and be involved in several clubs in Abilene.
In a quiet voice, she describes the miracle of her own granddaughters and says "the most exciting moment of my life was to hold those babies." She notes that she relishes the time she spends with them and enjoys watching their progress in life. For now, her daughter and granddaughters live fairly close by in Jacksonville, N.C., however they've sold their home there so they can move to Dallas, Texas. Annette's son-in-law, Mike, Shannon's husband, recently resigned his commission from the military and landed a job in Dallas. Her son, Scott, is excited about being the closest uncle and looks forward to spending time with his nieces.
Now transplanted to North Carolina, Annette has come to enjoy the state. "I love North Carolina — the beauty of it. We lived in southern Mississippi, but what they missed was the Southern hospitality I've found here. In fact, when we first visited the Catawba College campus, I was wowed by how beautiful it was and how friendly and welcoming the students, faculty and staff were to us."
She has discovered the burial place of her D.A.R. ancestor who came from North Carolina, a John Barber buried in Cleveland County. She hopes to learn more about her North Carolina family.
Although Annette misses being "so separate from my extended family and friends in Texas," she has made some good friends in Salisbury who share her love for literature. She is a member of two book clubs, The Book Club with Martha West, Joyce Caddell and Peggy Wilson, and The Symposium Book Club with Patsy Rendleman, Mary Messinger and Lois Goodman.
Annette hopes to volunteer in Salisbury. She has filled in as a substitute with Meals on Wheels and notes that she loves working with kids and older adults.
Being an advocate for Catawba College occupies most of her time. She says she loves entertaining for the College in her home and considers Catawba "my #1 cause." "I'm going to do everything I can to help the college," she contends.
And, if she weren't first lady of a college what would she want to be? Annette is quick to answer that she would want to be a writer. And, if she could be like anyone who would she want to be like? Her ready answer is her mother. "She was some kind of special lady and a big influence in my life. She was a great cook, intelligent, a wonderful mother, and my biggest fan. She supported my every endeavor and had big dreams for my future."
PHOTOS: Catawba's First Lady