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Doris Edwards family records original song

TURTLE RIVER -- On Wednesday, Region II Recording Day at Gary Burger's studio, four voices joined in unison to sing "The Gingerbread Boy."

Doris Edwards wrote the perky Christmas song, and she and her daughter, Robyn Edwards, granddaughter, Becky Hiltz, and great-granddaughter, Taylor Hiltz, made the recording together.

"I was thinking, there are songs about Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, but nothing about the Gingerbread Boy," Doris said. So, she filled the musical gap.

"It just comes natural to her," said Vernon Edwards, listening to the recording session. "She did a song about our 50th wedding anniversary. The year of '99 was 50 years married."

But Vernon spoke with deep sadness in his eyes. Doris is terminally ill with cancer -- lymphoma.

"Right now, there's nothing more they can do," she said. "Hospice is coming in and helping out."

Robyn said that when Doris was leaving for the Mayo Clinic, "bracing for the worst," she gave her the lyrics to "The Gingerbread Boy" and sang the melody so Robyn could share it with the rest of the family.

"Then when the bad news came that the cancer was terminal, I called my daughter, Becky, to ask her and Taylor to help make a photographic picture book and CD of the song," Robyn recalled.

Two weeks later, they gave Doris the picture book and DVD slide show.

"She loved it so much she shows it to everyone she sees when they come to visit," Robyn said. "She told me one day, 'Wouldn't it be great if four generations sang the song?'"

From that suggestion grew the idea to make a more professional recording with singers ages 6 to 74. Robyn applied for Region II Recording Day sponsorship and Mary Thorson, Region II arts marketing consultant, approved the grant.

"I called Gary up right away and said, 'This is pretty touching,'" she said. "I was happy we could make a dream come true."

Doris, a lifelong athlete, was playing in the Senior World Games last fall in Tennessee when she took sick.

"It came on so fast," she said.

She started chemotherapy in October. She said some of the song was written under the influence of the treatment.

Becky said that when she was growing up, she loved going to her grandmother's house and doing special projects. She said Doris always made up little songs, and she continued with her five great-grandchildren.

"Grandma Doris is an inspiration to everyone she meets," Becky said.

"My mother ... is an incredibly gifted and talented woman," said Robyn. "She is a wonderful role model. ... She has instilled in her family and friends a love for life, music, nature and friendly competition."

As Burger played the first take of "The Gingerbread Boy" back to Doris, Robyn, Becky and Taylor, their faces lighted with smiles.

"We were all pleasantly surprised," Becky said.

As for Doris, she said her love for life goes on.

"I guess I don't think about death," she said. "I think about living. It's in God's hands."