Tuesday, April 13, 1999

Treasures recovered in debris

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Carolyn Wallace at her home on Valleystream Drive.
(Yoni Pozner photo)
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        Shortly before noon Monday, Carolyn “Tinky” Wallace drove up the driveway toward what remained of her home on Valleystream Drive in Montgomery and was greeted by a woman she'd never seen before.

        “Are you Mrs. Wallace?” asked the woman, who was wearing canvas work gloves.

        “Yes,” she said.

        “I think this belongs to you,” said the woman, Brenda LeSchander, a clean-up volunteer from nearby in Montgomery.

        Then she handed her a diamond-and-emerald ring, a gift Mrs. Wallace's parents had given her 50 years ago when she graduated from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. The ring had been embedded in the yard of a neighbor when a tornado ripped through this neighborhood near Sycamore High School.

Brenda LeSchander rakes debris in Mrs. Wallace's backyard.
(Liz Dufour photo)
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        “Thank you, thank you,” Mrs. Wallace said as she hugged Mrs. LeSchander. “I thought it was lost. But as happy as I am to have this back, it's still stuff.”

        Then she reached up and patted her adult son John Wallace on the arm. “This is what really matters,” she said.

        There were a few diamonds found in the rough Monday in Montgomery Woods, but it was a day to face the losses. Each of the six houses that touch on Valleystream Drive face dates with the bulldozer.

        Ed and Tinky Wallace's house at 11033 Valleystream will be leveled. So will the house next door, at 11041, belonging to Gene and Pat Makowski. And, shortly after 11 Monday morning, Larry and Jan White at 11040 Valleystream learned their four-bedroom split-level house can't be saved.

        Until then, they weren't sure what would happen. Three of the four bedrooms and the roof over the sleeping area had been destroyed, but the living area of the house — living, family and dining rooms and the kitchen — was still under cover.

        “It usually costs less to start over than to try to repair something like this,” Wayne Dunn, Montgomery's chief building official, told the Whites as they talked with their insurance adjusters near the garage.

        Four representatives of their insurance company, USAA of San Antonio, Texas, met with the Whites and their adult son, Jeff White, and toured the house.

        “He's got a covered loss,” said adjuster Gail Sanchez, whose company primarily insures military and retired military. Mr. White is a Navy veteran.

Jan White talks to insurance agent Gain Sanchez.
(Yoni Pozner photo)
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        No detail was too small. Ms. Sanchez and Mr. White walked to an area beside the house, where the family had built a small in-ground swimming pool. Dozens of tall white pine trees were felled by the storm.

        “It's five or six hundred dollars to replace the outdoor furniture,” Mr. White said.

        Later, Ms. Sanchez was inside, in the living room, with Mrs. White, who explained where each piece of furniture had gone. The white walls and vaulted ceiling were covered with soggy pink insulation.

        The woman walked to the sleeping area, now open to the afternoon sun.

        They looked across the street, where the Makowskis were talking to their pastor, the Rev. Tom Axe of Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Symmes Township.

        Father Axe shook hands with Mr. Makowski, 62, and hugged and kissed Mrs. Makowski and their daughter, Susan, 37. Susan was disabled in an auto accident almost 20 years ago and lives with her parents.

[makowski  house]
Sycamore High volunteer Michelle Webb carries away debris around the Makowski house.
(Yoni Pozner photo)
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        “We figured something out last night,” Mrs. Makowski, 58, said in her front yard, which was busy with volunteers raking and sorting through rubble. “We figured Stephen was the one who came and lifted Susan out of here Friday morning.”

        Stephen Makowski died three years ago this week from liver disease. The room in which Susan Makowski slept vanished during the tornado, and she landed — cold and wet but uninjured — on a piece of drywall in the yard.

        “I know it was Stephen,” Susan said. “I know it.”

        Next door, Tinky Wallace was still smiling about the angels who came into her life Monday.

        Across the street, at Valleystream and Lakewater, members of Montgomery Assembly of God Church were handing out supplies — gloves, food, soft drinks, rakes — to volunteers. Women who had baked cookies carried them to volunteers.

Mrs. Wallace holds her first communion rosary found by a volunteer.
(Yoni Pozner photo)
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        Mrs. Wallace smiled again. Someone had found her husband's passport. Another volunteer found the rosary she was given by her parents when she made her first communion as a second-grader more than 60 years ago. The valuables were placed in a drawer near the front door.

        “All these people doing good,” she said. “So many people.”

        Out in the Makowskis' back yard, Mrs. LeSchander, 42, continued her search for valuables. She lives near Harper's Point, which was severely damaged. Her house, about four-tenths of a mile from there, was untouched.

        “When she (Mrs. Wallace) hugged me, I had butterflies in my stomach,” she said. “I am elated that I was able to make somebody's day.”


- Treasures recovered in debris
Tristate tallies financial losses
Tornado renews debate about communications system
Some see '99 as a peak year for tornadoes
Weather radios not easy to find
Hundreds of insurance claims filed
Businesses not reopening as swiftly as hoped
Long shopping list for family that lost house, clothes
Road & school closings; curfews
Two victims remembered; 2 buried today
Forest teaches lessons anew
Government tries to get back to normal
Synagogue lends hand to church
Mail delivery interrupted
Sycamore moves some games to opponents' fields
Tax deadline extended for victims
Warren County sets up hot line