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This and That-The Landeck Tornado-Part 2 PDF Print E-mail
Monday, March 18, 2013 9:01 AM

 

Around this part of the country, the March 19th tornado was always known as the Landeck Tornado. It was a very sad day, especially for the people of Landeck. Two ten year old boys, Norbert Bonifas and Gerald Kill lost their lives when the church steeple and the bells came down on them just as they were leaving church, after “saying the Stations” during their lunch hour on that fateful day in 1948.

 

The Lima News reported that Edwin Drerup, 37, of north of Ottawa died in St. Rita’s Hospital about 4 PM that day, from injuries received when a barn in which he was working collapsed west of Columbus Grove.

 

Local newspaper reports stated the storm crest formed in Texas Thursday night and moved northeastward through several states before reaching Ohio. Ohio City suffered considerably with 85 percent of the structures damaged or destroyed.

Irene Kill, the mother of Jerry was interviewed for the “Fifty Years After the Tornado” 1998 issue of the Delphos Herald. Irene said their two and one half year old daughter, Mary Lou, was asleep in her crib on the second floor of their home. When Irene got to her, she discovered the wind or the effects of the tornado moved the crib clear over to the opposite side of the room. Little Mary Lou was laughing because she had been rolled clear across the room.

Not long after the storm passed, someone came to pick up Linus. Irene was then home alone with baby Mary Lou. Later a relative stopped by to take Irene and the little girl to the hospital, where she heard that Jerry was one of the two boys to lose his life in the storm. She just about fainted. When talking about her son, she said “He was always such a good guy!” He always said “Have a beautiful day, Mom!” when he walked out the door.

In 1965 this area of Ohio was hit by the Palm Sunday Tornado. It covered a very wide area and this time the Kills got hit again.

Irene shared that day also: “It took the top off our house and our garage and the car was badly damaged. The hog pen was off the foundation and everything. Our youngest son, was 14 then, and just as the lights went out, I told him that we needed to get to the basement.” She said that she wasn’t going to let a storm take another son from her. She put her hands on his shoulders and pushed him toward the basement. He got to the cellar but “the wind just took me right out the door.” Irene was momentarily caught up in the tornado, but the winds shifted and pushed her back through the doorway, where she landed against the washer and dryer. Irene said her son was down the basement hollering for her and afraid she was dead. She said she broke her shoulder and injured her back but she was alive.

Velma (Hugel) Wehri and Angela (Wrasman) Meyer were the two girls who were saved when Sister Paschal ducked them into the closet in the church sacristy. Velma propped the closet door open with her foot to keep from being locked in the little closet.

They were in the closet for no more that 10 minutes as the storm, with the roaring wind passed over. Velma said when they opened the door, “there was the sky — I looked down and there was the basement.” Angela said “there was complete devastation — the church was just gone!”

Upon arriving home, Velma found the family’s barn had been destroyed. Angela’s home was spared but her grandfather’s barn was completely destroyed. Her aunt and uncle owned a store in Landeck. It too was demolished in the storm. “It was a mess but everybody helped everybody else; it was family”, she said. One thing that stands out in Angela’s memory was the sight of so many cars “lined up bumper to bumper for over a mile to see the destroyed church” There was no television at that time.

Norbert “Piney” Suever was only six years old in 1948 but the tornado left him with an indelible impression. He was in the first grade classroom, taking off his boots. The windows came in on him, shattering broken glass as he ran into the hall. He remembers one of the nuns saying “there goes the church”. Piney said when dangerous weather threatens, “I get a little leery. If you’ve seen one, you don ‘t want to see another.”

Diane (Ellerbrock) Kahle, now living in Kalida, was a second grader in Landeck, when the tornado came through. She recently reminded me that this all happened 65 years ago.

Diane wrote: “I will jot some of my most vivid memories. Gerald “Jerry Kill was my first cousin. He was such a nice kind boy. He had a crippled hand, from birth. I was in the second grade. We made our Communion in the upper level of the grade school. No church!” On the day of the tornado “I wore a yellow print dress made from feed sacks. It was terribly hot. Our noon recess was just about over. Everyone was hovering around the hand pump to get drink of water. The stones were stinging our legs. Us girls were trying to hold our skirts down. When back in the classroom it started to rain. One whole wall was windows. Several girls tried to close them but couldn’t. I was a ‘big girl’ for my age, so as I was trying, all the windows came crashing in, as we all ran to the hall. The wind sucked all our dinner buckets out of the cloak room and blew them away. When farming was started in the spring several items were found in the fields.”

When in hallway: “I recall seeing Sister Bernardine run her hand through a thick windowpane. There was so much suction that the kids inside could not turn the door knob and she couldn’t either from the hall. Once she broke the suction she reached inside and could then open the door to get kids out. I recall seeing Sister’s black cotton stockings in shreds and her skin. A no, no! Bare skin! They were shredded from little kids pulling on her. There was a lot of crying and screaming. We prayed (screamed) a lot of Hail Marys. We got louder and louder.”

Then: “The two boys were carried thru us 100 kids to the cot in the library. Kids were screaming ‘Are they dead?’ What a horrible sight. From then on, I can’t remember much, except seeing my Grandma Kill cry for the first and only time in my whole life. I think I was probably in shock or too dumb to know that my cousin, Jerry, was really dead.”

Janice (Kill) Mace of Van Wert was a third grader at the time. She was in the hall when Nelson Grothaus carried her brother into the school library and put him on the couch. He was covered with brick dust, “I didn’t see his face but I knew in my mind who it was. I recognized his coat.”

Another Landeck resident, Joe Miller said: “We had no idea that a violent storm was coming up. There weren’t any radio broad casts providing current weather conditions. We got to the basement when we saw the sky was getting black” They heard a loud noise as the storm passed over head, like “if you could have a freight train on the roof.” When they walked outside they saw their barn was down. They started to get the 25 surviving head of cattle rounded up. One cow was killed by falling debris. “We transported our milking cows to my brother’s place about two miles away and for about two months or so until a new barn was built we had to go back and forth to his place to milk the cows.” Although many lives were disrupted by the tornado – the community immediately set out to recover.

Within two months, the architects were contracted to design a new church on the old foundation. Construction of the new (and present) church began in August of 1948. During this time Mass was said in the auditorium of the school. The church was completed by 16 February 1950.

All the old windows in the school were replaced with aluminum windows in 1962. The stained glass windows in the church were installed in the fall of 1962.

 

Last Updated on Monday, March 18, 2013 10:24 AM
 

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