'Heartening' to see New Minden residents pull together after tornado

News-DemocratJune 13, 2014 

Seven months after a tornado ripped through the New Minden area on Nov. 17, the most obvious remaining damage still is covered by the huge white tarp on the roof of St. John's Lutheran Church on Illinois 127.

A house or two still is undergoing repair but much of the renovation is done.

The storm killed brother and sister Joseph and Frances Hoy on their farm west of town. But most people were able to count their blessings, even though they had property damage.

A few yards to the south and the twister would have torn straight through the town and done even more damage.

"I think about 17 families were out of their homes," said the Rev. Timothy Mueller, pastor of St. John's. "The majority are back in but a couple of people decided to do something else."

Annie Altenbaumer, who has worked at Kemp's Korner convenience store at the intersection of Illinois 127 and Illinois 177 since 2006, was hit hard but has bounced back.

"I lost my job, my car, my home, all in one afternoon," she said.

She was at her home on Walnut Hill Road a short distance from the convenience store during the tornado. She said her sister lives southwest of town and called her about the approaching tornado. So did the people at the convenience store before it hit them.

She rode the storm out in her basement.

"We moved back into the house on Easter, she said. "I still don't have my shed up yet."

Melissa Kemp, who owns Kemp's Korner with her husband, Matt, said they reopened March 6.

"It worked out OK," she said. "Much was salvageable. If we had to get hit, this was the best we could hope for."

The store took damage to all its windows, its ceiling, shelving and the outdoor canopy. But the liquor bottles inside weren't touched.

"Luckily all our records survived," Kemp said. "It didn't touch the filing cabinet."

Amy Havenberger, whose family has R&R Dairy outside of town, said they had a lot of buildings blown down.

"But the milking parlor didn't get hit and that was the main thing we needed to keep," she said.

The storm spared the southern part of town, where Jerry Jozwiak has the Jozwiak Antique Mall. It is scary to think what the storm could have done to the store packed with collectible items, many of them glass.

"I had a patch of shingles blown off," Jozwiak said. "They replaced them and they blew off again."

He said his nearby house also needed roof repairs.

"We closed the store for a couple of days to help people pick up stuff," he said. "It was heartening to see the community really come together to help each other."

Mueller said St. John's Lutheran Church has had a garage and a storage shed rebuilt and repairs done to a rental house the church owns and to the parsonage.

"The cemetery had about 200 tombstones that were knocked down," he said. "Those have been restored. About a mile of fence around a pasture the church owns has been replaced."

But the repairs to the 1862 stone church building are a little more complicated.

"Our contractor is not going to open up the roof for repair until everything is ready to go," Mueller said. "First, we need a window of good weather."

Replacing the steeple involves getting the church bell examined for damage and then designing a new steeple space that will accommodate it.

Work on an organ to replace the old one, which was destroyed in the storm, also is underway.

The church continues to hold its services in the basement of the old school building which is just east of the church.

Have a column idea? Call Wally at 618-239-2506 or 800-642-3878; or email: wspiers@bnd.com.

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