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This and That-The Landeck Tornado 65 years ago PDF Print E-mail
Monday, March 11, 2013 10:28 AM


Many of us can remember where we were and what we were doing 65 years ago on St. Joseph’s Day - 19 March 1948

That was the day that terrible tornado swept through parts of Ohio, taking down the Landeck church and bringing death to two sixth-grade boys. They were Norbert Bonifas and Gerald Kill.


It was lunch time, near 12:30 p.m. and most of the kids were out on the playground around school. The church was right across the street and it was common for kids to go over to church. Sometimes they went over to pray the Stations of the Cross, especially since it was still Lent.


The boys were just leaving church as the deadly storm hit and the steeple came down on them. They were found on the upper landing of the front steps near the door by Nelson Grothaus, who was one of the first parishioners to arrive on the scent.

The Bonifas boy died instantly after having been pinned under one of the church bells. Gerald Kill was hit by a falling brick and died on his way to the hospital. His father was with him in the ambulance.

Sister Mary Paschal, the Sacristan, and two girls, Angela (Wrasman) Meyers and Velma (Hugel) Wehri, were in church cleaning the Sanctuary. When Sister Paschal realized danger was approaching, she ducked into a utility closet with the two girls in the west sacristy.

The school was also damaged during the storm but the kids had been called in from the playground when Sister Mary Bernadine noticed the severity of the approaching storm. She got the kids into the center hallway on the first floor and closed the doors leading to the classrooms. This probably saved many students from injury or death. The Sisters and the children spent these few minutes, which seemed like eternity, praying the Rosary. One of those students in the hall was a twin brother of the Bonifas boy, who was fatally injured.

The Kaverman family had just finished lunch. They lived over on State Road.

When the weather became threatening, Hups went to close the basement windows. Don Kaverman recalled rushing to Landeck with Hups and their dad after Hups came up from the cellar and said: “The Church steeple is gone!” Don said; We had to zig-zag through the main street because of all the debris. Devastation was all around. As we approached the church and school area, Sister Herbert asked Hups to go to Delphos for help, since the tornado had torn out the telephone service. Hups went to Dr. Illig’s office near the post office, and asked Rose Luersman, the nurse to call the ambulance.

At that time the ambulance service was provided by the two Delphos funeral homes – Kolkmeyer’s and Harter & Son.

Art Rode, Sr. arrived about the same time as the Kavermans. Father Knoepfle sent Art to Delphos to get the priests to come and help. Three Delphos priests, the Revs. Reineck, Ottenweller and Herr, came to Landeck to comfort the children and parents. Since the main altar of the church was intact, the Blessed Sacrament was removed and taken to St. John’s Catholic Church in Delphos by Father Reineck

Mel Westrich was the first Delphos Firefighter to arrive, just before the fire truck arrived. He helped carry the boys to the ambulance. Mel said during his 40 years on the Delphos Fire Department he has seen many terrible things but this was one of the worst.

Nearly all the windows in the school were broken, driving shards of glass into the surface of the wooden desks.

Don Kaverman noted that his younger Brother, Ralph, who was still in school, was safe in the hall with the other students.

Three young boys, Melvin Heitz, Joe Youngpeter and Tom Trentman waited out the storm in the boys’ outhouse, near the school. Sister had called the kids in early from lunch and they didn’t want to go back to school yet. They were in for an experience they will never forget. They saw the little wooden building raised up off its foundation and they were covered with sand from all the debris blown around. They even had sand in their ears, but they were unhurt.

At that time, the storm was considered the worst to ever hit this section of Ohio. The tornado was known to have touched down in Ohio City, where it was reported to have damaged 85 percent of the homes and businesses. It also wrecked six airplanes at the Van Wert County Airport. Damage was reported near Middle Point, Venedocia, Rockford and Nepture. Many barns and other buildings in the Landeck area and south of Delphos were destroyed or damaged. Many head of livestock were also killed or injured.

The Landeck boys were given a double funeral at the Delphos St. John’s Church and burials were made in the Landeck cemetery.

Norbert Bonifas was the son of Albert and Catherine Bonifas. He was also survived by the following brothers and sisters; Jerome, Arthur, Dorothy, “”Richard, Albert Jr. and John. A brother Aloysius, died in infancy.

Gerald Kill was the son of Linus J. and Irene Kill. He was survived by three sisters, Janice, Patricia and Mary Louise. A brother, Joseph died in infancy.

Soon after the funeral of the boys, many men from the parish, also from Delphos and the surrounding area came with trucks, wagons and tractors and within 10 days all the debris had been cleared away.

(Continued next week.)


Last Updated on Tuesday, March 12, 2013 4:47 PM

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