Faces were recognized and given names, stories were told of loved ones lost and found, and the day that changed Woodward forever was remembered during the Woodward Tornado anniversary program at the Plains Indians and Pioneers Museum Wednesday.
Vernon Maddux, a former Curtis resident, is a self-described student of the powerful storm that leveled parts of Woodward 56 years to the day on Wednesday, April 9, 1947.
“I am a student of this storm,” Maddux said. “Nothing is finalized (his research), and it probably never will be.”
More than 100 people died in Woodward in the tornado that leveled nearly half the town
Maddux started researching the storm after witnessing a tornado level the family barns as a child.
“Dad had a farm at Curtis,” Maddux said. “The old folks used to talk about the tornadoes, and I’ve had a long spell of tornado history.”
Research led Maddux to map the trail of the killer tornado and gather the names of the people who lost their lives to the “Wednesday Monster,” as he affectionately named it. Retrieving names from newspaper listings, cemeteries, hospitals, and survivor interviews has given the investigator and writer a large majority of the names of the tornado victims, but Maddux admitted that the list wasn’t error-free or completely correct.
“I’m really here to pick your brains,” Maddux said. “Louise thought I was here to make a presentation, but that’s why I’m really here.”
Survivors offered to correct the discrepancies Maddux described in his multimedia presentation. Names, buildings destroyed and locations of landmarks to identify pictures were fixed with the help of participants in the program.
Maddux pointed out several ironic things that happened during the course of the storm. Included in these ironies was the town where the tornado first touched down, White Deer, Texas, there was a Woodward company with 30 employees working on the elevator. The first person killed in Woodward was Mary Eliza “Dolly” Kezer, an 89 year old woman, living on property near Experiment Lake. Playing at the Woodward theater that night was “Rage in Heaven” and at the Terry theater was “Devil on Wheels.”
Written by: By Kylene Orebaugh/Staff Writer