Feature Articles

2023 Black Forest Keeper of the Keys 

By Erin Malcolm 

Jace and Marie Turner were honored at The Black Forest Festival when they were named the 2023 Black Forest Keepers of the Keys. Mack Sharp, the president of the Black Forest Community Club, was runner-up and named the 2023 Counselor to the Keepers. 

The Keeper of the Keys tradition started in 1960 to recognize Black Forest residents for their positive community impact and service. Keepers of the Keys are known in the community for actively promoting and preserving the seven “keys” that represent characteristics that residents feel make Black Forest special. 

The seven “keys” are 

  • Storms and blue skies
  • The changing beauty of the trees and meadows
  • The storehouse of wildflowers
  • Birdsongs and music of the waters
  • Squirrel nests and small animal homes
  • Deer trails and antelope playgrounds
  • The spirit of neighborliness

Each year, residents nominate candidates to receive the honorable title of Keeper of the Keys awarded through We Are Black Forest. To be eligible, candidates must have been Black Forest residents for at least 10 years and live a life dedicated to volunteer service that improves the community, environment, lifestyle and/or education in Black Forest. Once nominations have closed, a committee of past Keepers of the Keys selects finalists based on the depth of their community service, then it is up to Black Forest residents to vote. The person(s) elected is recognized during the Black Forest Festival Parade. They serve as the Keeper of the Keys for the year, supported by the runner-up who is named Counselor to the Keeper and whose role is to advise the Keeper. 

This year’s Keepers, Jace and Marie Turner, moved to Black Forest in 2000 and immediately got involved in the community. Starting in 2011, when they first became eligible to be Keepers of the Keys, residents nominated them for the award year after year.  

In an email to The New Falcon Herald, the Turners said, “We usually worked to make sure one of the other nominees won before us. We wanted to make sure that other, long-time volunteers received the honor first. Many people we nominated and/or who won have since passed away. We are so glad they were recognized as Keepers.”

The Turners served as “Counselors” to those Keepers several times before finally becoming Keepers this year. 

“We are grateful to our community for this recognition of our decades of hard work. It was a blessing to be in the Black Forest and be given the opportunity to volunteer alongside so many amazing, talented people,” the Turners wrote. 

The Turners are well-known for their volunteer service in many areas within the Black Forest community. 

The We Are Black Forest Keeper of the Keys nomination webpage recognizes the Turners for their exceptional service through the Black Forest Community Club, where they helped with the Black Forest Festival and seedling tree distributions, construction and maintenance efforts around the community club building, and volunteering at other various events offered by the club. 

The Turners also have been recognized for exemplifying what it means to be neighborly. 

“We gave hay when people ran out in the dead of winter, loaned our spare car for extended time periods and even could loan a spare horse and saddle. Jace would get up at 2:30 in the morning to use his plow truck to plow for free for seniors, single moms or people who couldn’t get out — sometimes complete strangers. We gave what we could to others,” the Turners said. “That all changed in a brief, dark moment, when we lost everything in the Black Forest wildfire.” 

According to the We Are Black Forest Keeper of the Keys nomination webpage, the Turners became an important resource within the local wildfire victim community and put their efforts toward assisting other fire victims when possible and continuing the community’s annual Fire Remembrance Ceremony. 

The Turners were among the hundreds of Black Forest residents who suffered a total loss of their property during the fire. 

“After we lost everything in the fire, friends we made through volunteering offered for us to live in their homes for extended periods of time. We are so thankful for them!” 

This type of selfless friendship with other volunteers is what the Turners consider one of the best things they have gained from living in Black Forest. 

“Through volunteering, we accomplished worthwhile goals, made connections with people with different outlooks, learned new skills and had fun. But most of all, we made friends with people we could count on,” the Turners said. 

The 2023 Black Forest Festival theme is “At Home in Black Forest,” which is true for the Turners. 

“The expression is ‘home is where the heart is.’ We put our heart into Black Forest, and it became a wonderful home.” 

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