July 31, 1941
Lawrence Turner is the first son and second child of Raymond and Clarentine Turner. His siblings are Wilma Turner Boyd and Walter Turner. He was born in Valentine and grew up in a log house 2 miles east of Sparks. As a child, he worked on his parents’ ranch. Even though he almost lost his life after a horse stepped on his stomach and still has the scar to show for it, he never lost his love for cattle and horses.
He attended grade school at Pleasant Valley and high school in Valentine. In his younger years, he was active in 4-H and FFA. He was the first person from Valentine High School to become a state and American Farmer and a state officer. He also participated in football and track, competing at state. After graduating from high school in 1959, he attended the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, majoring in Animal Science and working at the Veterinary Science Department.
He returned to Cherry County to marry his high school sweetheart, Sue Harms, on June 12, 1960. They were married for 58 years, until Sue passed away in September 2018. Lawrence and Sue built up a successful ranch and raised four children: Tammy, Marianne, Sonja and Larry.
When the children were young and in 4-H, Lawrence was an active adult leader and paid his children’s wages for working in the hayfield and doing chores with steers for the annual stocker feeder show and sale. From his and his wife’s work ethic, his children learned the value of hard work. His children showed his premium registered heifers and bulls, as well as stocker feeder and market beef steers, at Aksarben, the Nebraska State Fair, and at state and national Junior Hereford Association events. He also supported Tammy and Larry in high school rodeos and Larry in PRCA>
After they were married, Lawrence and Sue bought land 2 miles east of Sparks on the eastern edge of Cherry County and began ranching. Lawrence still lives on their original place. Initially, they specialized in registered Hereford bulls with a registered Hereford herd. As their business grew, they added to their holdings with land in Keya Paha County in the 1970’s. With true cowboy grit and determination, they navigated the cattle market collapse in the 1980’s by going into the commer5cial cattle business and raising yearlings. After his father passed away, Lawrence and Sue purchased his parent’s ranch and secured land in Cherry and Keya Paha County that had been homesteaded by paternal and maternal grandparents. In the early 1990’s, they purchased additional land that had belonged to his paternal grandparents. He sold a major portion of his land holdings to his son Larry in 2019, making his son a fourth-generation rancher, and ensuring the legacy of the ranch and the land that had been homesteaded by his family remained in the family. They continue to work together and help each other and their neighbors. Lawrence still manages his portion of the ranch and, leasing land as needed, raises about 1,000 yearlings a year. Over the past 20 years, he has marketed the exceptional cattle of the Sandhills and built an outstanding reputation as a producer of superior cattle. He has sold prime Hereford and black baldy heifers to more than 20 states, from Pennsylvania to Utah and Idaho and New Mexico and Texas to South Dakota. He has even sold heifers to the same ranch in Colorado for 20 straight years.
Lawrence is a role model for community service. He served as Cherry County Commissioner for 12 years, representing the county on the North-Central Nebraska Mental Health Board and bringing a variety of improvements and services to the county. Other examples include: serving on the grade and high school Boards of Education, adult leader for 4-H and Future Farmers of America, Soil Conservation Board and secretary of the Nebraska County Officials Association.
An ethical man, passionate Christian and member and deacon of the First Baptist Church for more than 40 years, he has supported the community by helping organize numerous interdenominational services. He is one of the primary coordinators of the annual church service at the Cherry County Fair, building attendance to around 200 people and arranging for preachers and musicians for more than 10 years. He is one of the co-founders of a new Cowboy Church in Valentine, has preached at numerous churches and services and has given his testimony at the Nebraska Big Rodeo in Burwell. He has also gone on three mission trips to Guatemala, sharing his faith and his knowledge of cattle and ranching and hosted a delegation of Guatemalan ranchers, touring Sandhills ethanol plants, sale barns and ranches.
While he hasn’t competed on a professional scale, he has participated in rodeos in the Sandhills in a variety of ways. He served on the Old Settler’s Board for many years, organizing, announcing and participating in its rodeo events. To many, he was known as the voice of Old Settlers. In the 1980’s, he announced many mid-state and high school rodeos, including the high school state finals in 1988. He hosted cutting events at his ranch for years. To celebrate the cowboy and ranching way of life, Lawrence organized two 20-mile cattle drives from his ranch to Valentine, camping and dining with a chuck wagon along with way. Since they started hosting the team sorting even at the ranch rodeo of the Cherry County Fair more than 10 years ago, he has provided the stock, free of charge. If he isn’t at an even in the community, most evenings now will find him watching whatever rodeo event is on the RFD channel.
Lawrence is the perfect example of the true definition of a cowboy and a servant leader. He has demonstrated perseverance through the ups and downs of the cattle industry and has built his ranch into a successful operation, he has contributed to the county and State in countless ways, and is an accomplished horseman and rodeo advocate. Throughout his entire life he has worked to ensure that the way of life that is so important to the Sandhills and the Great Plains can endure through changes in the industry and society.