9 Remembered; Honored

Tracy native Scott Thoma (kneeling) presented Tracy Tornado Scholarships to nine Tracy Area High School seniors — each in the name of a Tracy resident lost in the 1968 tornado. Recipients were, front, from left: Hanna Johnson (in memory of Ella Haney), Kailee Moyars (Otelia Werner), Dylan Swan (Paul Swanson) and Anthony Axford (Walter Swanson). Back, from left: Cayden Buysse (Nancy Vlahos), Mitchel Benson (Mildred Harnden), Griffin Radke (Ellen Morgan), Kalley Hoek (Barbara Holbrook) and Fritz Landherr (Fred Pilatus). Photo / Per Peterson

5 decades after a tornado killed 9 Tracy residents, TAHS seniors receive scholarships in their names

Scott Thoma has always had a strong personal connection with his hometown of Tracy. The 1968 tornado that killed nine of the town’s residents strengthened it even more.

Less than a year after commemorating the 50th anniversary of the killer storm, a proud Thoma awarded nine seniors from Tracy Area High School with $500 each in Tracy Tornado Memorial Scholarships.

Thoma, who presented the scholarships to the students at last Wednesday’s TAHS Senior Recognition Night, was just a young lad when the tornado hit, but the memories haven’t faded.

“When I was a young boy growing up in Tracy, two of our neighbors across the street from us, John and Otelia Werner, and Fred and Minnie Pilatus, would always give the kids in the neighborhood baked goodies such as homemade cookies, bars and candies, when we would be outside playing at the elementary school playground or in their neighborhood. That is something that is rarely done anymore. When the tornado struck, I witnessed workers discovering the bodies of Fred Pilatus and Otelia Werner, two of those killed in the tornado, and the grief shown by each of their spouses that day has been indelibly etched in my mind.”

See this week’s Headlight Herald for more on this article.