Millbury residents Edward and Julie Blank began the process of rebuilding their Main Street home immediately after an EF-4 tornado struck on June 5 last year.
For two months following the tornado, they stayed with the Bihn family in Perrysburg, and the following four-and-a-half months rented a condominium in Oregon.
On December 17, they moved into their new home.
“I love it. I would trade my new home to have my old one back and to have our friends that were lost in the tornado back in a heartbeat,” Ed said.
Still, when storms approach, it doesn’t get easier for the Blank family.
“I think everybody does well when the weather is nice,” Ed said. “But, as soon as there is questionable weather coming or bad storms or we read about disasters in other areas, it’s different. We are not just tornado victims, we are disaster victims, and when you see people’s lives affected by disaster you have a special place in your heart from that point forward.”
The Blanks become semi-celebrities after the Toledo Free Press followed their progress this past year.
“My original concern wasn’t fame, it wasn’t fortune,” Ed said. “Obviously, that is not going to happen. It wasn’t my day in the limelight. My whole goal was with the devastation at the (Lake High) school, to allow the media to be an avenue to get our students into one facility and to make sure that (grades) 9-12 these kids can go to school together and see each other every day because these are memories they are going to have for the rest of their lives. They are classmates.
“I rest comfortably every day with this process with the goal that with this media attention we could get as much help at the high school, so they could have some normalcy. I want to say that the media did a great job of letting the residents of all the communities in this area know that, ‘Hey, this school and this area was destroyed and we are in need. We need help and we need things. We needed votes for the polls.’ We got half a million dollars from Kohls, and Lowes helped us out, and Home Depot helped us out, and a lot of people helped us out, and without the media all that help would have been impossible,” Ed continued.
Another family that has rebuilt their home is John and Pat Jett on Shawnee Street in Moline. After staying in a Perrysburg hotel three months, they moved back into the renovated home last September,
“They gutted the bedroom, the whole kitchen, and the living room down to the rafters,” Pat said. “It was the same. Nothing really changed. We had to get new carpeting, because it was soaking wet; and new tile, because everything was wet. They took all the cupboards out but we had the same cupboards put back in. They dried everything out. I lost the back roof off the back kitchen and then the rain came in, and that’s what really does you in when the heavy rain comes.”
After the tornado, they secured the home to prevent looters, then later found unexpected “squatters”. Among debris in the house, they found five bright blue Robin eggs in a tidy nest built snack in the middle of a flower pot.
Under the Jett’s care, the eggs hatched and the birds grew until the young Robins could fly away. But, they and their offspring remain John and Pat’s companions.
“They came back this year, too,” Pat said. “She laid her eggs from last year, and they flew away already, so they moved back in, too.”
The Jetts have found other unexpected stuff, too, since they returned.
“Everything was packed in boxes, so it was like moving back into the house from seven years ago. I’m still looking for a couple things and I’m finding things. They took all the clothes out of my house because all the insulation came down on all the clothes, and they cleaned it, so I’m still discovering things I forgot I had,” Pat said.
John and Pat’s son Daniel and his wife Marlene and two grandchildren, Dakota and Samantha Jett, also had severe damage at their home on Cherokee Street in Moline. They were able to stay in the house while the repairs were done.
During the storm, a two-by-four went through the front window and a paddleboat somehow ended up coming from behind the house and to the side of John’s truck.
“We’re just glad that we didn’t get hit like they did down South. We can’t complain. We’re thankful,” Pat said.
Granddaughter Samantha, now 10-years-old, was with her grandparents the night of the storm.
“She is still leery about it,” Pat said. “When she sees it is going to storm, she doesn’t want to stay with Grandma those nights. She’ll look at the weather and she’ll call me and she’ll say, ‘Grandma you have to come over,’ and I’ll say, ‘Honey, it’s just a little storm,’ and she’ll say, ‘See the five-hour loop.’ Well, how does a kid know that? They know now.’”
Most likely not rebuilding is the Welling family, which lost two homes on a farm along State Route 795 near Toledo Executive Airport (formerly Metcalf Airport), because they are surrounded by commercial and industrial property.
|WWII soldier Irwin Welling
||Irwin & Alberna "Bernie" Welling
Sharon Bitter, daughter of Irwin and Alberna “Bernie” Welling, lives less than a mile from the home of her parents and aunt and uncle. After the tornado hit, Sharon drove over to see if everyone was alright.
When she arrived, she found both homes destroyed, except the fireplace and chimney remained at her parent’s home. All four elderly family members were alive, but Sharon’s parents were heavily bruised and covered in blood.
Sharon says she will never forget going through debris the next day and finding a page containing the 23rd Psalm from the family Bible on the ground, plus a relic of an angel that remained intact.
Irwin died July 29 as a result of an infection from his injuries, becoming the seventh victim. Her aunt and uncle survive, and mother, “Bernie” is recovering from hip surgery at Genoa Care Center. Pastor Dan Beaudoin of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Stony Ridge says Bernie attended church the past three Sundays.
Sharon is grateful her father remained alive long enough to spend time with family. A World War II veteran, he had been a German prisoner at Stalag Luft IV in Northern Poland. Press contributing writer Jeffrey D. Norwalk, an extended family member, in 2007 wrote a feature about his military tribulations, which Sharon has kept.
Today, Sharon looks over from herhome to where the homes stood and sees the chimney still standing, and it “haunts” her. It is also the place she and her sister, Sandy Miller, grew up.