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Revisiting the Tracy tornado

Tracy woman to release new edition of her book she wrote on the F5 twister that hit the town in 1968

November 19, 2011
By Cindy Votruba , Marshall Independent

She may not have been in town when a destructive tornado struck Tracy on that fateful day in June 1968, but Irene Bakker has now collected a few more stories about it.

Bakker has put together a second edition of the book she wrote on the Tracy tornado that killed nine people and injured 150 others on June 13, 1968. The book is set to be released in January.

"Tracy has changed so much since that time," Bakker said about doing an updated version of the book.

Article Photos

Tracy woman to release new edition of her book she wrote on the F5 twister that hit
the town in 1968

Bakker wasn't in Tracy at the time the devastating storm hit, but she heard many stories.

"I lived in Chandler (at the time), but Tracy was my hometown," Bakker said. Several of her relatives also lived in Tracy.

She said it was interesting that she came back to her hometown and was living there at the time the Chandler tornado hit in 1992.

"They're calling me the 'tornado dodger,'" Bakker said.

When she wrote the first edition more than 40 years ago, Bakker talked with families who had family members die in the tornado or their place sustained damage. Bakker recalled having Sadie VanDusen as one of her sources, saying that VanDusen had buildings come down on her property after the tornado struck.

"I talked to quite a few people," Bakker said. "There were stories about the people who died, where they were found."

Bakker also had spoken with Dr. Norman Lee and his nurse Esther Halverson for the original book as they told her about the people who were brought into the hospital after the tornado. The tornado had destroyed 111 homes and majorly damaged 76. Five businesses were destroyed as well as the elementary school.

In the last few decades, Bakker had given away or sold most of the copies of the first book and only has one left in her possession.

Bakker was all ready to add onto her first book just some time later, but she heeded the advice of Jim Keul, whose father was the managing editor at the Tracy Headlight-Herald.

Keul had said it would be a good idea to wait about 25 years before doing a second edition, Bakker said.

"They (the Headlight-Herald) gave me a lot of information and pictures," Bakker said.

It's now been more than 40 years, so Bakker said it was about time for an update.

"I thought I'd better do it while I'm still here," said Bakker, who is 80. In the meantime, she had written and self-published three other books.

Bakker started her second edition with the original story she wrote and "just added onto that," she said. There are 81 photos altogether, including the new ones. Bakker also took a few photos herself for the new edition.

Bakker requested more stories and information through an ad she put in the Headlight-Herald. One of her new stories came from Mary Craig, who now lives in Colorado Springs, Colo., whose mother was a teacher at the elementary school at the time the tornado struck.

Bakker also received a big envelope from an anonymous donor, which had "an awful lot of information," she said.

"I was really glad to get that," Bakker said.

Bakker said she took about a couple of years to complete the new edition.

 
 

 

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