Sunday, November 13, 2005


(Run originally 5/9/04 on our old site)

Rebecca Sue Van Patten Smith

I think that is Larry James' Birthday too.

We spent the time during the storm under our dining room table, then mother decided that that wasn't safe enough so we ran up the street (really the back yards) to my Aunt Gert's house; she had a basement and we stayed some there. When it was over, we started trying to get in touch with Mary Kay: she was visiting our Great Aunt & Uncle in Bald Knob. We went after her, and that was the first time I had ever seen people walking around in a daze, with blood on their clothes, looking for family and friends. We lived on Grand Avenue, and Hawkins Hospital was down the street. All night long, ambulances were coming in and going on to Rodgers Hospital. Since that time, I have to see what is happening, can't get in a basement. I was only 6 then, and my brother was 7. Some things just stay in your mind.

Maybe Mary Kay will tell you how she felt during that time.

Jo Ann Roth Cooper

I remember I was at a birthday party for Molly Ann Gilliland. We lived on the same block. The sky got a funny color, and we all went home. Before very long we learned about the tornado in Judsonia.

My father grew up in Judsonia, so he knew a lot of people there and still owned my grandparents' home.

That night, we were without electricity. I stayed at my uncle's house, Dr. Hugh Edwards, and kept his two children, Marica and Robert, Anne Rodgers, and my cousin that lived with us, Linda Allison, while my uncle worked at Rodgers Hospital.

His wife, my Aunt Geneva, and my mother and father, Bill and Alma Roth, went to the armory on Race Street, where they were bringing in the people that didn't need to be taken to the hospital. I believe they set up a morgue there, too.

My grandfather Roth was a carpenter, and had built his house; it was well-built. The tornado did not destroy the house, but took it off foundation and turned it about 25%, then left it sitting on foundation that way.

Wilma Morris Shinley

Strange: this is the tornado I was telling you about that destroyed my grandparent's old farmhouse near Doniphan. I was born in that house. We lived in Memphis at the time, and only my father came home to see about his family. I didn't see the destruction at the time, but there was still a lot of evidence of it when we moved back to Kensett a couple of years later.

Ann Shannon Snodgrass

My memories of that storm are those of a 12-year-old. I stood outside with my grandparents on a well-sheltered porch, and we watched the funnel clouds bumping in to one another with a noise like that of freight trains. I remember being terrified and not understanding what was happening.

My granddad said he thought the clouds were over Kensett, but then they moved to the north (I think) over Judsonia. We could see blackness smear across the horizon. I'm guessing that was debris, filling the air.

My Dad had established and maintained a public address system that put the First Methodist Church's Sunday morning service on the radio. He cannibalized that equipment and somehow set it up in the trunk of a car to run off a car's battery. Traffic and rescue workers were aided through this temporary PA system.

Harold, didn't you work with my Dad on this? Did a minister, Dr. Boucher, help? I'd really appreciate knowing more.

Marian Daniel Ingram

Boy, what memories you brought up with this subject!

As you all probably remember, I grew up in the Daniel Funeral Home, where my father, Elvis Daniel, was a funeral director. My whole life up to high school age was intertwined with the funeral business. It was really second nature to me because of being around it all the time. Our living quarters were the entire upstairs of the old funeral home on Market Street (across from A. P. Strothers). At that time, we had both ambulance and funeral service.

After the Judsonia tornado, all I can think of was the number of bodies being brought in, and so many of them unidentified. I helped by putting tags on them so names could be assigned them as soon as possible. I remember one story of a baby blown into a barbed wire fence and other very graphic reportings. The number of deceased in our funeral home totaled 24, as I remember, and they were all in the chapel.

I guess this was the saddest time I ever encountered during my years of growing up there.

We moved to Searcy from Cabot (after having lived in the Bailey Funeral Home there) when I was entering the 2nd grade, and so I had a lot of different and unusual experiences growing up. I helped Dad conduct a grave side funeral for a baby once by taking care of the flowers.

People sometimes think funeral homes are morbid, but I had such a different take on it because of the employees, Walter Turner and Eddie Dennis, especially, who were always teasing and joking with me and my brother, Robert. I guess they wanted to keep things "light" for our sakes. Walter even took Robert to St. Louis for a ball game once or twice, which was neat.

I feel that I did learn to deal with life better than a lot of people just by having had the experiences we had during those years. My thoughts of Dad are always about the compassion he felt for people and how he worked so hard to comfort people in their loss.

For years after my father's death, my mother, Arline, would usually find a storm shelter to go to when the weather got bad. She would be reminded that "When it's your time, it's your time," and she would respond, "Yes, but you know, the Good Lord gave us enough sense to at least find shelter!"


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