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Editor's Notebook
July 8, 2020

6/18/2012 2:22:00 PM
Holton tornado nightmare
Former NV man still recovering in hospital 31/2 months after twister
Family members and friends gatherduring the aftermath of the Holton tornado on March 2 where six mobile homes were leveled, including one where Ted and Brenda Tolbert were both seriously injured.
Family members and friends gatherduring the aftermath of the Holton tornado on March 2 where six mobile homes were leveled, including one where Ted and Brenda Tolbert were both seriously injured.
For the last 31/2 months, Ted Tolbert has been in the hospital recovering from injuries suffered when his mobile collapsed around him, his wife and the family dog.

Ted and Brenda Tolbert both were nearly killed when an EF-3 tornado pounded Holton on March 2. The twister leveled their mobile home and five others in a row on Versailles Street. Their next door neighbor, Ronnie Pickett, died as did another neighbor, Armando Hernandez.

"It has been a nightmare," said Michelle "Shell" Belanger, the Tolberts' daughter. "I didn't know if my parents were going to make it at all. At one point neither of my parents could even speak to me. Mom got out of the hospital on Mother's Day (May 13). We still don't know when we'll get Dad back. We all miss him not being here."

Ted Tolbert, 71, remains in the Drake Center, a Cincinnati hospital. Along with his numerous other injuries, he has battled respiratory problems and is currently on a ventilator.

"Every time they try to take him off the ventilator, he winds back on it," Belanger said. "It just breaks my heart. He is very depressed, but who wouldn't be?"

Ted and Brenda Tolbert hunkered down in the hallway of their mobile home with their dog, Frankie, when they heard a warning on TV to take cover. The tornado flattened their mobile home, leaving them buried in debris.

"Dad said the trailer split like a piece of paper before it collapsed," Belanger said.

Rescue workers and neighbors dug out the Tolberts. The couple was whisked to Margaret Mary Community Hospital in Batesville, then to the Drake Center. Frankie the miniature poodle was not hurt and, in fact, did not have a scratch on him.

At first, Brenda's injuries seemed to be the worse. She had a broken neck, fractured ribs, a collapsed lung and head and spinal injuries. She was unconscious when pulled from the ruble.

Brenda went through several surgeries to replace a rotator cuff, insert three rods in the back of her neck and have her spine aligned. She is now living in a duplex in Versailles next to her daughter's family home.

"I'm so proud of my Mom," Belanger said. "She's still doing rehab and is doing so well at it."

Ted also had a broken neck, fractured ribs and head and spinal injuries. He was conscious through the whole ordeal.

"They had to restrain Dad when he first went into the hospital because he'd wake up and try to pull out all the tubes, IVs and every thing else attached to him," Belanger said. "He thought he was still in his trailer, pulling stuff off of him."

The Tolberts moved from North Vernon to Holton about four years ago so they could be closer to their daughter and their grandson, Joey, 8. The Tolberts had previously lived in Holton, where their daughter was raised, residing in a 100-year-old house that incurred minimal damage in the tornado.

"Joey looks and acts so much like my Dad," Belanger said. "He loves his Papaw. We go to the hospital and he reads Dad his cards and tries to get him to eat."

Ted, a 1959 graduate of North Vernon High School and a former longtime employee of Arvin Industries here, is well known in the North Vernon area. He was a common sight riding down the sidewalks on his motorized scooter with his dog, Frankie, riding with him.

"We've taken Frankie with us to the hospital a couple of times, but Frankie has cataracts and can't see, so I don't think he knew where he was," Belanger said. "So many people have asked about Frankie, too."

Linda Emily of Seymour, Ted's sister, and her husband, Gene, have also been frequent visitors.

"Ted loves to talk, but he can't when he's on a ventilator," Gene said. "It has been very tough for him."

For Belanger, who worked at the former Muscatatuck State Developmental Center for 17 years until it closed - her mother had worked there as well - it has been tough, too.

The day after the tornado, she went to Holton to try to salvage what was left at her parents' home.

"The entire residence was just gone," she said. "I had to find out how to go about paying their bills and other things."

Belanger had to get temporary emergency guardianship of her parents. She said attorney Larry Eaton of Versailles was a big help there.

"I will forever be grateful to him and to so many other people - family, friends, co-workers and complete strangers for all their prayers, love and support," Belanger said. "My parents have a long way to go. They have a whole life to rebuild. But I am certain beyond a doubt that God kept them alive for a reason.

"I keep going over things in my head he has told me over the years, like, 'Tough times never last, But tough people do.' He has incredible faith. He always use to say, 'What you believe in your heart and confess with your mouth shall come to pass.' So, I have only been confessing positive. My Dad is a good man, one of the most honest, decent people I know. I love him with all my heart. I know through the power of prayer we can all help pull him through this," she added

Belanger said Cincinnati TV reporter Deborah Dixon helped her start a campaign for people to send cards to her parents.

"That has been a big help, especially for Dad," Belanger said.

Cards and letters can be sent to Ted Tolbert at Room S337, Drake Center, 151 W. Galbraith Road, Cincinnati OH 45216.

For Brenda Tolbert, send cards to her at 111 Michael St., Versailles IN 47042.

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