Sunday afternoon, June 4, a beautiful bronze statue of Frisco resident John Turner led by a faithful Seeing Eye dog was dedicated at the Frisco Heritage Center. Over 250 people gathered for the event.
John, a life-long resident of Frisco, lost the sight in one of his eyes at the age of four years old and the second during his teen years.
In1953, only weeks before high school graduation in the small town of Frisco, a detached retina, due to a hereditary weakness began affecting John’s sight. John loved sports and played high school football, lettering all four years. He was also catcher for his baseball team. It was during his senior year that John began seeing more than one ball being pitched to him.
Blindness is a heavy burden for anyone and you can only imagine for a young man about to begin his future.
“What am I going to do?” John asked his mother during a hospital visit in Chicago.
“Return to our farm in Texas and continue doing what we have been doing,” she replied.
With that attitude, John never let blindness stop him from achieving what he had set out to accomplish.
His wife Linda says, “John lives his life with the philosophy that blindness is an inconvenience; not a handicap."
While the bronze statue represents hope and encouragement “to never give up,” it also symbolizes friendship and love for one another.
In rural Texas towns, most students in the 19th and early 20th centuries attended a one room schoolhouse where a single teacher taught multiple grades all at the same time. Such a school was the setting that formed a life-long friendship between first graders John Turner and David Griffin.
As the two boys grew and sports entered their lives, their friendship grew stronger and they became best of friends— a real team. And they were constantly doing what boys do, looking for mischief.
David’s wife Shirley said that John had to be convinced that skipping school was a good idea, where as David was always at the ready.
“I can’t believe we just did that,” John would say.
“Well, we did and now we are going to ride some horses.” David would answer and off they went.
Following their senior year at Frisco, David enlisted in the U.S. Marines and served in Korea. It was during that time that David learned in a letter from his mother about John’s sight.
John attended the University of North Texas and graduated with a BBA in Marketing. He became an independent insurance agent and was one of the five most successful agents in Dallas.
The friendship that began in the little schoolhouse in Frisco continues today. John respects David for his service to our country and David says of John, “he does not know he meaning of quit.”
The two stay in touch and often spend New Year’s Day sharing tamales and black eyed peas.
David and his wife Shirley, now living in Dallas, commissioned Houston sculptor Bridgett Monjeon to capture and immortalize the hope and determination of John and his faithful seeing eye dog in the bronze statue erected at the FriscoHeritageCenter.
For over 60 years, John has shared his life with eight guide dogs from The Seeing Eye. l
These incredible animals become part of the family, a constant companion to the blind even sleeping at the foot of their master’s bed. John’s first companion was Villa, then Inky, Pepper, Gordy, Steffie, Corenne, Robyn and currently, Eben. All of John’s dogs have been female with the exception of Gordy and Eben.
Weddings rarely go without a glitch and Linda shares the amusing story of hers. Gordy, having been with John throughout the day of the wedding was also forced to respect the tradition of not seeing the bride before the ceremony. When the ceremony began, John and Gordy were solemnly stationed at the altar. When Linda came down the aisle, John remained stoic, but Gordy could not contain his excitement. He wanted to say “hello” to Linda. Wedding guests are still laughing.
The Seeing Eye, located in Morristown, N. J. is the oldest existing guide dog school in the world and continues its role as a pioneer in the guide dog movement.