Marking tragedy and triumph in New Hartford - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Marking tragedy and triumph in New Hartford

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NEW HARTFORD (KWWL) -

It's been three years since a devastating tornado tore a huge path through Parkersburg, New Hartford and all the way to Hazleton. Saturday morning, New Hartford celebrated its recovery efforts at their century-old cemetery, where the post-storm experience is now in stone.

"The Oak Hill Cemetery as we knew it ceased to exist on May 25th, 2008," reads a new plaque, centered on a boulder in the northeast corner of the cemetery.

"There are a lot of good memories here, and not so good memories," said Beverly Maas, who is a member of the Oak HIll Cemetery Foundation. "I have much family buried here. My husband, my sister, my mom and dad, my grandparents and great grandparents."

The gloomy weather seemed appropriate, as families recall the aftermath of a tornado three years ago.

"I sat down there at the curb in a friends driveway and just looked in this direction... and it was just devastating," said Maas.

In Maas' eyes, the Oak Hill Cemetery is a reminder of what was lost in New Hartford, and a symbol of how far the town has come. In the days that followed the EF5 tornado, volunteers helped repair dozens of broken and downed headstones, and the foundation is working to restore the grounds.

The efforts are inscribed in the plaque, reading "what you see here today is a result of a determined community and dedicated citizens."

"It changed all the communities that it impacted forever," said New Hartford native, Representative Pat Grassley. "In 25 years -- a lot of the people who were in some of these communities may not be here to tell the story of what went on that day. So we wanted to make sure that was there -- that's going to be here long after we're all gone."

The plaque pays tribute to the town's triumph, and its tragedy, with the words "let us not forget two of our neighbors who lost their lives that day, Norman Beuthien and Lisa Bleaker."

Beuthien's parents, daughter, and granddaughter all traveled to New Hartford for the plaque dedication, noting how much it meant to them that their son is included in New Hartford's memories.

"He was a great son, loving and caring son. And we really miss him," said his mother, Mary Jane Spriggs.

"He loved it here and it was the best for him," said his daughter, Tomi Fuchs. "And it's good to see the community coming together to get back to where they were before."

The cemetery is not exactly how it was -- it really will never be the same. But it is evolving into a place of which New Hartford can be proud.

"It's just so wonderful to have it restored," said Maas. "They say wonderful things can come out of disasters. And this is one thing, I believe."

The Oak Hill Cemetery Foundation formed shortly after the 2008 tornado. Donations helped the foundation create and install the plaque

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