By Leilani Roberts Ott
The homes of Muskogee Mayor Bob and wife Gwen Coburn, and Noble and Pam Beck along with Three Rivers Museum are a few of the stops guests will make on the 20th annual Christmas by Candlelight from 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday.
The night tour features food and beverages along with Christmas music presented by local entertainers like Michael Dunn, who is playing piano and singing at the museum. Advance tickets are $25 by calling Donna Taylor, (918) 683-6600. Proceeds benefit the Kelly B. Todd Cerebral Palsy and Neuro-Muscular Center.
About the Coburn home
Christmas is a big deal at Gigi and Pop’s house. It’s a family tradition that Bob and Gwen’s mothers, the late Marj Coburn and Margie Burris, passed on to them. They also share a passion for children and want to open their home for the tour to help the children at the Kelly B. Todd Center. They knew the Todd family, whose son was the inspiration for the center. They also know other families who have benefited from the therapy their children have received there.
When you walk into their home in River Oaks, the four grandchildren’s photos hang on the wall to the left.
“That’s each one of them at 2,” Gwen said.
They are Cate and Rhett, children of their son Joey and wife Mindy (Parks) Coburn of Keller, Texas, and Charlie and Carter, sons of their daughter Jami and husband Wayne Divelbiss of Muskogee.
There are family treasures throughout the home like a wooden antique optometry case that holds lenses that belonged to Bob’s father, the late John Coburn, when he was an optometrist in Altus. He moved from there to Muskogee to work with his brother, the late O.W. Coburn, at Coburn Optical.
Bob’s mother made pink and blue needlepoint Christmas stockings that are brought out each year.
“Christmas is a fun time for us,” Gwen said.
The couple built their family home in 2000 and moved in January 2001 from just a couple of blocks over. Bob had found the area, which didn’t have a road then. Gwen and her friends, Berna Lester and Doris King, were walking past the wooded area and decided they all should buy lots and build homes. Several members of the Lester family bought lots and built. The Kings did buy a lot but sold it and didn’t build. The street is sometimes called “Baptist row” or “Lesterville.” Most of the neighbors, like the Coburns, attend First Baptist Church of Muskogee.
The floor plan is just like their previous home, except they turned the garage around and added an office. It’s about 3,600 square feet with four bedrooms.
It has flooded twice because of a hot water tank and a busted pipe, both while they were out of town. In fixing the home the walls are now taupe in the living room instead of red and the flooring in the kitchen is tile instead of wood. Gwen likes red so there is a touch of it in every room.
The breakfast table is set the Christmas china, a gift from Bob to Gwen. There are plenty of Santas on the buffet and a Christmas village in the dining room that includes a tuxedo shop, in honor of the family business, Coburn’s Tuxedos. There’s also a doctor’s office in honor of Bob’s cousin, Dr. Tom Coburn. Gwen also worked in the doctor’s office. In the family room, Gwen’s collection of miniature carolers look ready to sing.
“I love their expressions,” she said.
On the Christmas tree in the family room are ornaments from the couple’s travels and from Gwen’s friends. She is part of a group of six women friends who have met for nine years and exchanged ornaments. That’s 54 ornaments from those friends, Gwen said. A pink glass high-top tennis shoe represents the 60 miles the couple walked in Dallas for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation that supports cancer research. Breast cancer has struck both sides of their family including causing the death of Bob’s sister, Sharon Wetz, in 1999.
A Christmas tree in a guest bedroom holds the white crocheted ornaments made by the late Gertrude Nash, an avid supporter of the Kelly B. Todd Center. The lace tree skirt was from a mission trip.
Gwen calls another bedroom her “hope room.” It was the room she created for grandchildren before they were born. Snoopy ornaments hang on the tree in this room. Their son, Joey, got them while on a shopping trip with Gwen’s mother the day after Christmas when he was a child. Now, the grandchildren also have a play room upstairs in finished attic space.
The master bedroom has artwork by Bob’s nephew, Bryan Wetz of Dallas. He created the silhouette of a pink ribbon with names around it in memory of his mother who died of breast cancer.
The Coburns want to people to feel comfortable in their home when they come on the tour.
“Christmas is a big deal in our family,” Bob said. “Bill Dublin came to our house as Santa. Our kids would come out at 5 or 6 in the morning to have Santa in their living room.”
About the Beck home
Noble and Pam Beck will light the path to their home with candles in old Mason jars when they open their home for the tour.
Noble, owner of Beck Construction, said his father, the late Jack Beck, who started the company, told his three sons it was time to pass on the business.
“He said he had stopped building people’s homes and was building houses,” Noble said. “I didn’t understand it then but I do now. This is not a house, it’s a home. We built it around us. I’ve built enough houses. It’s nice to build a home.”
They cleared about an acre of land in the Country Club area to build the home moving in on Christmas Eve three years ago. It is built on an angle on the lot so you can see its beautiful lines from all directions. For the tour, their neighbors, Ken and Jane Hayes, have loaned them lighted reindeer that will twinkle in the back yard.
The floor plan is designed similar to those Noble’s father built 30 or 40 years ago with a bedroom suite. It has a large study where both can be on a computer or sit in a comfy chair to read a book. Through pocket doors is the bedroom with a vaulted ceiling, a large bath and at the end a walk-in closet with a window.
Pam describes the home as European, Old World, Tuscan, country French. She is a creative putting together different textures throughout the home and in her holiday decor. She bunched wide cranberry ribbon tied with black toile and animal print fabric bows, and draped it around her doorways and windows. She attached it to the walls with push pins.
“I love designing,” said Pam, who was once a family consumer science teacher at Muskogee High School. “It’s like an art project you’ve started and you never know how it’s going to turn out. It grows.”
Animal print like zebra and leopard is used in accents in almost every room of the 2,700-square-foot home. It has three bedrooms and three baths.
“Animal print never goes out of style,” she said.
There are a lot of textures in the wood from the Brazilian mahogany front door to the distressed wood in the formal dining room table. The floors are maple hand-scraped distressed wood.
“It’s just a look we like,” she said. “We play off each other on the creative side.”
Although the home is elegant, Pam said their grandchildren, BeBe Hix, 5, and Parker Hix, 6, of Stillwater have the run of the place when they visit. Pam and Noble enjoy being “Nan” and “Gee.”
“We play a lot,” she said.
The grandchildren like the fun holiday decor like a skinny reindeer that stands in the living room with a silver swirling hat. The reindeer is on loan from Pam’s friend, Jacque’ Griffin, who works with her at the Department of Veteran Affairs. She also gave her long stockings that hang in the formal dining room.
A curio cabinet in the living room holds “memories and treasures” like Barbie and Midge, her grandchildren’s baby shoes and a tiny tea set that was her daughter’s at age 2. In the dining room is her mother’s snow village from the family home in Vian.
Her children, daughter Jamie and husband Casey Hix of Stillwater and son Eric and wife Marie Synar of Muskogee will enjoy the holidays with them.
Pam hopes people on the tour will see that they are very warm and not fancy people.
“I want people to feel relaxed and at ease. That’s how we live.”
About the museum
A doll from the Singer Sewing Center store front in the 1950s, a rocking horse from 1940s and a dolphin that belonged to Roger Bell, chairman of the museum board, from the 1960s are just a few of the toys you’ll seen when visiting Three Rivers Museum on the tour. The toys are under a Christmas tree in the lobby. The ornaments on the tree are old, too.
Director Sue Tolbert and museum volunteer Michael Dunn along with others have spruced up the museum with 22 lighted Christmas trees, rows of garland and red ribbon, snowflakes hanging from the ceiling and several large groupings of Christmas villages. The villages are on loan from Janie Riddle. They are from her mother, the late Frances Ashwood. There’s a downtown with billboards, a neighborhood with tiny bicycles, a school and church.
The museum celebrates the area’s history in the restored 1916 Midland Valley Depot. The museum has different exhibits featured from the water and railroad trader history of the Three Forks area. A Christmas tree in the corner of the railroad area will have ornaments related to trains.
“Muskogee wouldn’t be where it is if Katy Railroad hadn’t come through here,” Tolbert said.
In another area of the museum, Miss Alice’s Parlor has a life-size mannequin. She is formed to be hanging an ornament on a tree. Old toys are on a piano given to the museum from Hyde Park Baptist Church that no longer meets.
Tolbert said Alice Robertson was the first woman elected to the U.S. Congress in 1920 from Oklahoma and only the second in the nation. She was 66.
“She was the first woman postmistress,” Tolbert said.
Dunn said he volunteers at the museum because Muskogee’s history is important.
“I love this area,” he said. “I moved away for five years and came back,” he said.
He’ll sing Christmas music and play during the tour. His favorite Christmas song is “Some Children See Him” by Alfred Burt. Burt wrote it with a neighbor about how we see baby Jesus, Dunn said.
“Kids see Baby Jesus like themselves with dark skin or doe eyes,” he said.
The museum’s gift shop tree has handmade ribbon angels created by Marty McConnell and his mother, Louise McConnell.
There’s a giant sleigh with toys pulled by a horse from the old Bully Good Saddle Shop. A railroad bench has a giant moose waiting for a ride.
Tolbert, who has been working at the museum six years, hopes people will come and reminisce about their childhood with the old toys and decorations while leaning about Muskogee’s history.