The Moore American

May 23, 2013

Volunteers clean Moore Cemetery in advance of burials

By Dale Denwalt
The Norman Transcript

MOORE — Rosella Poff’s gravestone was laid in Moore Cemetery just nine months ago.

Then in the span of a few seconds Monday, a monster tornado pulled her memorial from the red earth and cast it, in pieces, away from her final resting place.

Rosella’s widower, Dean, tried to visit the cemetery earlier this week to check on her grave, but storm damage and emergency workers blocked the roads along 4th Street.

Dean finally reached her grave Wednesday morning. What he found amazed him.

Responding to a call for volunteers, about a thousand people had walked to the small cemetery early Wednesday. They had shovels and buckets and plastic bags to clean up the grounds where those who died in the tornado could be buried.

Dean walked up to her gravesite and found the stone was missing. Volunteers nearby helped him look for it.

“We looked around and found all the parts. They carried it back, sat it up on there,” Dean said.

The volunteers then carried buckets of water and washed the mud and debris off it.

Giving their time to clean a holy place for the coming dead reminded Dean Poff of the good in humanity.

“It just means to me there are a lot more good people than there is bad ones. That’s what it means to me,” he said.

As Dean Poff was leaving the cemetery, he came across a friend, Tammy Walker. The two embraced, and Walker told stories about when she served the elderly couple as a waitress.

“I’ve lived here for 26 years. I’ve got dozens of friends who were affected by this. Their parents, their loved ones, their homes,” Walker said through tears. “This kind of support is the best thing in the world.”

Walker came to the cemetery in the hours before authorities opened up several neighborhoods so that residents could return. Her daughter lived behind the Moore Warren Theater, and the home was damaged as the tornado skirted by. Inside the home were eight children, some of which had just came home from Plaza Towers Elementary where several children died. They escaped the tornado safely.

Walker had already planned to go into her daughter’s neighborhood to help clean up, but decided to start the day helping clear the cemetery.

“It’s a united feeling. It hits us all. My home, your home,” she said. “This is our world; our everyday community. We’re a good, strong community and it’s hard to see so many people hurt.”

Walker said she owned a business along 4th Street and knew the area very well.

“I looked at this area every day for years,” she said. “Now it’s just forever changed.”

As the two old friends chatted, Poff said he wished there was some way to repay the volunteers’ kindness. Without hesitation, Walker answered.

“You know how you’re paying them for it? Just appreciate it.

That’s all you can do, hon,” she said. “You know where they’re getting paid is in the heart for doing it, OK? That’s why we’re all here. For each other.”