Groundbreaking began 50 years ago this month on the Pittsfield Community Church, destroyed by the Palm Sunday tornado of 1965.
Church-goers rejoiced Sunday, celebrating the anniversary and remembering the night that spawned 47 twisters across the Midwest, including the one that tore a path across Lorain and Cuyahoga counties.
Nine men, women, and children from Pittsfield were among the 234 people killed by the tornado, according to a News-Tribune retrospective from 1990.
The Rev. Jonathan Cheatham said church members have talked about the tornado each Sunday this year and documents and photos from the church’s history and the storm are on display in the building.
According to a 1965 story in the News-Tribune, 14 houses, two churches, three businesses, East Cemetery, most of the trees, and several barns, sheds, and small buildings were flattened or seriously damaged by the tornado.
“You can’t even imagine it, if you don’t see it,” was the repeated statement to the News-Tribune in 1965.
Resident Dennis Stump said he only heard a lot of noise the night of the tornado and then the next morning when he went to his Gulf Oil gas station in LaGrange he couldn’t pump gas: “I didn’t have any electric,” he said.
Stump used his truck to haul supplies to residents who lost everything in the storm.
The Congregational and Methodist churches were both destroyed by the tornado but one item survived the deadly storm — the bell from the Methodist Church. “The bell is the only thing we have left,” said Cheatham.
Stump said he had not been to church in a while due to health reasons but made sure to attend Sunday to celebrate the 50th anniversary.
Cheatham said out of the tragic event God was able to create something good as the community banded together to build one church.
“It’s been a great year just reflecting and listening to people talk,” he said.
Valerie Urbanik can be reached at 440-775-1611 or on Twitter @ValUrbanik.
A man walks through the wreckage of the April 1965 tornado in Pittsfield Township.
Valerie Urbanik | Oberlin News-Tribune Pittsfield Community Church was constructed in 1965-66, joining the Congregational and Methodist churches under one roof after both buildings were destroyed by a tornado 50 years ago.