, Muskogee, OK

November 28, 2012

Homes opened for tour

By Leilani Roberts Ott
Phoenix Correspondent

— It’s all about the children ... that’s why Toni Redo and Joan Eaton are opening their homes for the 34th annual Muskogee Christmas Home Tour.

The tour benefits the children who receive services at the Kelly B. Todd Cerebral Palsy and Neuro-Muscular Center in Muskogee.

About the Redo home

Toni and her husband, Vernell, bought their Country Club Drive home about 14 years ago. It was built in the 1970s by the late newspaper publisher Tams Bixby III.

“I feel so honored that God has allowed me to stay here and enjoy this house,” she said.

The house has 10,000 square feet with four bedrooms, seven baths and an indoor heated pool. The great room alone is 1,500 square feet with a rock waterfall and fireplace in the center.

Toni said of the room: “When my granddaughter saw it, she said: ‘Why do you call it a great room? It’s an awesome room.’”

Jasman Redo was about 6 then; she’s now a student at Langston University.

Toni’s other grandchildren are Victor Redo, J.T. Redo, Norman Mitchell and Jordan Mitchell. She also has a great-grandson, Jordan Mitchell Jr., who was born on Christmas morning two years ago. Toni and Vernell’s children are Lisa Mitchell and Victor Redo. They’ll be home for Christmas for a gift exchange and family dinner at Toni’s favorite piece of furniture — her plantation table in the formal dining room.

She had it made from mahogany for her family of 13 siblings. For the tour, it is decorated with magnolia leaves from the yard of her sister LaTrassi Thomas. The first chairs she and Vernell bought when they married are at the table along with some Henredon chairs. A Bombay chest from Jordan is nearby.

Toni explained that the plantation table was in the basement and used by the servants to teach their children how to eat. The women would play mah-jongg at the table.

“This is part of my history,” she said. “My grandfather was a runaway slave. I tell young people about the story. My father’s mother was a Watusi African lady, and my mother’s mother was Indian. My grandfather was the child of the master and walked from Texas to Oklahoma.”

Artwork in the home includes soap stone statues from Africa and a bronze Native American woman.

Religion is important to the Redo family. Toni said she tries to be a positive role model for the children since God has blessed her. When she’s not working as a Realtor or fixing the hair of the five women customers she still has, she’s cooking. She enjoys it but gives most of the food away.

Sometimes, she’s feeding her grandsons who are little cowboys, she said. Her niece, Cherry Wilson of Kansas City, Mo., painted cowboy figurines in honor of the grandsons. Near the figurines in the “awesome” room are photos of Toni and her family when they were students at New Hope School. It was four miles east of Oktaha and four miles west of Keefeton.

Most of her furniture was bought in memory of a teacher or cafeteria worker from Manual Training High School. Her teacup collection trimmed in gold is just like the wallpaper in the kitchen — a sign she was meant to have the home, she said.

About the Eaton home

Joan volunteered her home for the tour when there was a need by the Christmas Home Tour Committee. She has been on the evening tour, Christmas by Candlelight, but not the day tour. She is on the committee.

Joan and her late husband, Orville, bought the home 32 years ago. She recently changed out most of the carpet to hardwood floors. The house is warm and full of Christmas decorations, including Santas made for her by a woman in Kansas. Joan’s daughter, Kathy Straub of Great Bend, Kan., has them made as gifts. Joan’s sons, Jimmy, Kenny and David Eaton, all live in Muskogee. She has 11 grandchildren and two great-grandsons.

“I realized I’ve been reading ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’ for 62 years,” she said.

Some of the ornaments and the icicles on the living room tree are more than 80 years old.

“Everything goes back in its original box,” she said.

In the kitchen, her prized piece is the old switch board from Muskogee Central High School, where she was the registrar.

In the master bedroom, a door from the home of Orville’s aunt bears all the family names. He was raised by his uncle and aunt, the late Jack and Lorene Dean. Also in the room is her Singer sewing machine. The new addition to the room is a top hat from her secret sister in Epsilon Sigma Alpha sorority that matches the one Frosty is wearing on the rug beside the bed.

Her bookshelves are brimming with Santas, angels and a Christmas village.

“All this stuff I’ve had for years and years,” she said. “Every room has a Santa or two or three.”

If you go

WHAT: Muskogee Christmas Home Tour.

WHEN: 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

HOMES: Michael and Ellen Mayer, 3535 Mayer Lane; Ken and Linda Johnson, 2921 Mayer Lane; Vernell and Toni Redo, 3706 Country Club Drive; Joan Eaton, 308 Kingsbury Drive; and Thomas-Foreman Historic Home, 1419 W. Okmulgee Ave.

TICKETS: $10 available at the door or in advance at Economy Pharmacy, Bella Mea’s, Rustic Elegance, Haley and Loyd Jewelry, I’m A Basket Case, Bebb’s Flowers, and Kelly B. Todd Cerebral Palsy and Neuro-Muscular Center.

PROCEEDS: All money goes to the Kelly B. Todd Cerebral Palsy and Neuro-Muscular Center in Muskogee.

If you go

WHAT: Christmas by Candlelight.

WHEN: 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday.

HOMES: Matthew and Annette Williams, 1403 W. Okmulgee Ave.; Bob and Gwen Coburn, 3420 River Bend Road; Noble and Pam Beck, 3415 Harris Ave.; and Three Rivers Museum, 220 Elgin. There also will be an open house at Haley and Loyd Jewelry, 3421 Chandler Road.

ADVANCE TICKETS: $25 by calling Donna Taylor, (918) 683-6600.