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Eiffel Tower shines every night in Marion

Staff writer

In a dining room on N. 2nd St. in Marion sits a miniature silver Eiffel Tower trimmed in white lights timed to turn on at nightfall throughout the year.

It’s a special reminder for Clara “Chris” Kerns of the two years she lived in France as a teen-ager and is one of many to be found in her house. France also was the place the 16-year-old met the love of her life.

Kerns, then Clara Hocknell, traveled with her mother to Europe in 1951. Her mother was engaged to be married to Alfred Gravell, a U.S. Air Force sergeant stationed in France.

Kerns and her mother and siblings spent three months in a Paris hotel before her mother’s marriage. During that time, they toured the city and visited historic places including the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Notre Dame Cathedral. Kerns has photos of her family at the tower.

After her mother’s marriage, Kerns lived with her mother and stepfather in a small mobile home on a military base. That is where she met a young technician, Larry Kerns. She accompanied him and two of his friends on a trip to Italy. They felt an instant attraction.

“We had our first kiss in the Coliseum in Rome,” she said. “I was in awe of him.”

The couple was married in Dover, Delaware on Dec. 30, 1955. They moved to Marion in 1971. He died in 2004, shortly before their 49th anniversary.

A year ago, Kerns designated an upstairs bedroom in her home in Marion as the Paris Room. It contains numerous Eiffel Tower knickknacks, pictures, paintings, pillows, a rug, a picture frame, a candle, a vase, and even a wastepaper basket, to name a few.

The walls also display pictures of other historic Paris landmarks. Window curtains and the bedspread are decorated with Fleurs-de-lis French symbols.

Kerns said she spent $600 on the project.

The twinkling lights on the Eiffel Tower and the themed bedroom are a constant reminder of the love the couple found in France.

“I felt like God led me there,” Kerns said. “How else could an Oklahoman and New Yorker meet?”

Last modified Dec. 30, 2014

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