Reflections: Remembering June 13, 1981 – the 35th anniversary of the Cardington tornado


By Evelyn Long - The Sentinel



Saturday morning, June 13, 1981, was just like any other Saturday morning in this village of 2,000. Heavy rain was coming down but people went about their business at the grocery stores, banks, and others, little realizing that would be the last time they would visit those establishments as they knew them.

Most of those businesses closed at noon.

About 3:15 p.m., Mark Parsons and his friend, Ricky Mick were standing at the railroad track on East Williams Street during the downpour and noticed three huge clouds come together and watched horrified as the clouds became one and tore a path through the town – debris flying everywhere as they stared in disbelief.

Parsons’ mother, her friend and three other Cardington couples were at Lake Erie but because of the rain, were playing cards inside with the radio on. Suddenly there was an announcement that a tornado had wiped out the small town of Cardington.

Pat McAvoy said they were in disbelief until they could get in their vehicles and return to their hometown.

Mary McAlister, now a Florida resident, was living on Riverview Drive and had her infant granddaughter with her “I heard the roar above the rain and took Liza and headed for the basement.”

Mayor Susie Peyton said she was at her home on West Main Street helping her son make crafts for Bible School when through the rain they heard the roar- in a few seconds, after peeking out the door, she realized what it was and they headed to the basement.

Her house was intact but chaos was taking place just one block south as the funnel cloud wreaked a path of destruction before veering back to Main Street. She attempted to cross the street to get to the apartments in which her mother-in-law lived but the National Guard, already on duty, only allowed her to go if they escorted her . Her husband, Gus, was working at Kinsell Foods, where he and all employees were hiding where ever they could find a spot.

Lea Maceyko, who had graduated just two weeks earlier from Cardington High School, was at her job at the Pizza Barn, working with her boss, Jim Higgins, preparing to open when the electric went off.

Hearing the train like roar, they knew immediately it was a tornado and Jim devised a make shift cover by flipping a pizza oven and they hovered beneath it. They rode out the storm which destroyed the business- causing Jim to shout, “We will be closed tomorrow.”

The Bank One Clock was stopped at 3:20 p.m.- the time the storm struck.

It permanently altered the village’s quaint profile, including the landmark hotel, which reminded many of a quiet western town. Hundreds of trees were demolished. Sadly, four people lost their lives. Help came from so many people and organizations including a Mennonite group from Kentucky.

I remember especially the help given by Mount Gilead’s police department, fire department, and other county villages. I covered many, many meetings as the town rebuilt with one of my stories even making the AP wire.

So many of those who helped with the rebuilding and restructuring of this village have passed on including Mayor Cecil Maxwell who worked tirelessly, not only with local but also with county and state officials. Television, radio and news writers were a common sight in Cardington for weeks.

The town continues to recover from the catastrophe thanks to so many people who are determined to make Cardington a vibrant village. I know I am thankful to all who have and are working towards this goal. Meanwhile, I find it comforting when visiting the county seat to see the two and three story buildings so similar to those that once lined Cardington streets.

June of 1916

A daughter was born to Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Burr east of Cardington (Note: This was Fae Burr who became a teacher of

English and Drama at Cardington High School) A bull dog owned by Charles Powers caught 57 rats Sunday.

June of 1956

Charles E Young Jr. was named cashier and executive vice president of the Citizens Bank, Cardington, succeeding E. M

Willits who had been a director and cashier of the bank since its founding in 1894.

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By Evelyn Long

The Sentinel

Reach us at mcsnews@civitasmedia.com

Reach us at mcsnews@civitasmedia.com