She lost most of her possessions. One of the most piquant photos was a photo of Tomkins’ grandparents on their wedding day in 1942, which Tomkins had proudly displayed in his living room.
“It was one of my most prized possessions,” she said. “I lived with my grandmother and grandfather for a long time. I have a lot of good memories.
But nearly 16 years after the photo disappeared with the wind, she got it back, in what seemed like a huge stroke of luck.
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Tomkins was scrolling through Facebook on Jan. 22 when she came across a post from the city of Parkersburg.
“Does anyone recognize this couple?” One of many unclaimed tornado items over the years,” the post – which included a time-worn photo of a young couple – read. “We cleaned out the town hall cupboards and found this! Let’s see if we can locate the couple’s family in this photo!
Tomkins stopped in disbelief.
“I was like, ‘Wait a minute, I know them!’” she said.
Fifteen minutes after the photo was posted, Tomkins commented: “These are my grandma and grandpa. »
She was stunned by the discovery, first reported by Iowa’s News Now.
“I was so shocked when the photo showed up,” she said, adding that she immediately called Parkersburg City Hall to let them know the photo was hers. She also called her mother, Marcia Mull, whose parents are in the photo. Mull was equally stunned.
“I couldn’t believe it,” said Mull, 76, who lived in Quarry, Iowa, when the tornado struck. She moved with her husband to an assisted living facility in Parkersburg about a year ago, across the street from City Hall. She immediately went to ask for the photo.
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“He’s in very good condition, considering everything he’s been through,” Mull said. “I’ve never found another wedding photo of them before.”
Parkersburg City Administrator Chris Luhring was the one who posted the long-lost photo. He found it in a box of old tornado items that had gone unclaimed.
“I just couldn’t shake it,” said Luhring, whose aunt died in the tornado.
“Not only do you lose people, but you also lose priceless objects,” he said. “I felt like I had a treasure.”
After the tornado, the city created a lost and found center, he said, and people brought in items they found scattered in the rubble.
“We had thousands and thousands of items that had been collected, and people were bringing them in from hundreds of miles away,” Luhring said.
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This is how the wedding photo came into the city’s possession. Although Tomkins visited the lost and found several times, she said, she never spotted the image of her grandparents, Maxine and Raymond Randall, who both grew up in Quarry.
“They met, fell in love and got married,” said Mull, who is the oldest of her three siblings.
Her parents had a no-frills wedding, she said, adding that her mother wore a black dress because it was the only one she had. Their ceremony took place at a local church and there were only two people in attendance.
Mull’s father was drafted into the United States Army during World War II, shortly after the marriage, and was stationed in Normandy. He returned to Iowa in 1945 and worked at an appliance company for 33 years.
“We had a happy childhood,” Mull said, noting that her parents had a loving marriage. His father died in 1984 and his mother in 2007. They were adored by their 11 grandchildren, including Tomkins.
Neither she nor her mother expected to see the photo again.
“We’re very grateful to have it back,” Mull said, adding that they plan to restore it. They will also have several copies made.
Luhring was happy to be able to put the photo back where it belonged.
“I have a million stories about the tornado that aren’t good,” he said. “It’s good to have this one.”
Mull and her daughter couldn’t agree more.
“Don’t give up hope of finding treasure,” Mull said. “It might take 15 or 20 years, but at some point it might happen to you too.”