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PPL remembers tornado with exhibit

The Portsmouth Public Library (PPL) is doing their part to help the community remember the tornado that ripped through Wheelersburg on its 50 anniversary.

According to PPL Director Paige Williams, the library and its staff thought it was important for the community to remember this event on its anniversary.

Williams says the idea for such an exhibit was hers.

“I don’t remember it, I was three but I did go through the tornado. My mother saw it (tornado) turn and it missed us by a few blocks,” Williams said. “I’ve always heard my parents talk about it.”

She said her father worked out of town at the time of the story and tried desperately to get to his family as quick as he could.

Williams said she’s been an advocate for the history of the community.

“The library needs to be the heart of the community and the history of the community. My goal since becoming director has been to increase what we have in our local history department and what we offer,” Williams said.

In recognizing the 50th anniversary of the tornado Williams said, “I think it was four or five years ago, Mr. (Don) Davis who is deceased now, he lived beside the Wheelersburg Library. He had been in the civil defense, which they do not have anymore. He was also a professional photographer. About six or seven years ago, he came to us and asked if we would like to put together a display of his photos marking an anniversary of the tornado. We had a small exhibit of just his photographs.”

For the 50th anniversary, Williams knew something bigger needed to be done to recognize the impact it had on the community.

Williams spoke to the Porter Township Trustees to inform them of the library’s intent. She also addressed the trustees about the possibility of a monument erected related to the tornado and the seven people who lost their lives as a result.

“Wheelersburg was pretty much destroyed and Wheelersburg had to rebuild its self,” Williams said.

She said the Porter Township Trustees liked the idea of a monument.

She said although the monument came from the library, the library can not use public funding and can’t raise money for anything.

“We (PPL) could not purchase it or help purchase it.The trustees can’t really do those things either. The money would have to come from somewhere else,” Williams said. “Pioneer Village really stepped up, since they are a tax-exempt organization and wanted to be involved.”

She said any donated monies for the memorial will go through Pioneer Village.

Donations for the memorial can be sent to 7916 Ohio River Road, Wheelersburg, Ohio 45694 with tornado memorial in the memo. Contact Connie Ison at 740-820-2873 or Lucas Jenkins at 740-876-3268 for more information.

Williams said the idea at the moment and the funds needed to purchase it has not been coming in as quickly as organizers had hoped.

As apart of the exhibit the staff of the PPL has been asking members of the community to bring photos or videos of the storm to bring them to the library for they could be digitized and preserved. The video’s or photographs will be returned to their owner.

The tornado exhibit will Wheelersburg Library is located at 10745 Old Gallia Pike Road in Wheelersburg.

According to promotional material for raising funds to purchase the memorial, a dedication ceremony will be held on the 50th anniversary of the tornado, April 23 at 4 p.m. at the Porter Township Community Park.

Williams said the dedication was planned to it will coincide with the actual event down to the exact minute of the storm.

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