In an informal candlelight ceremony scheduled on the new track behind Waterville Elementary School on Dalton Pike, the 56-year-old mother, wife, grandmother and much-beloved friend to many will be remembered by her family, as will those lost to all families, friends and loved ones during the merciless storms of a year ago.
To get under way at about 8:30 p.m. on Friday, April 27, the subdued moment of reflection will be open to the entire community, Davenport told the Cleveland Daily Banner in an interview that included Johnson, her stepfather.
“We’re doing this in memory of everyone,” Davenport, a Bradley County resident who works as a Home Health nurse for 5 Star Home Health, said. Johnson, whose home was destroyed by the EF-4 tornado that struck the Leadmine Valley Road area shortly after 8 p.m., is an auto body repairman employed at Cleveland Collision.
“My mother was a wonderful person ... and we want to do this for her, but we don’t want to be biased,” Davenport stressed. “She was not the only one this community lost.”
That’s why the family is making the event a community gathering for all who lost a friend or loved one in the outbreak of tornadoes, as well as others in the area who may want to show their belief in Bradley County’s recovery and in support of families who are still grieving over the personal losses of parents, sons, daughters, grandparents, nephews, nieces, uncles, aunts and friends.
“My mother would have been so proud,” Davenport said of the coming Friday night candlelight memorial. “But this is something people live with every day of their lives.”
Davenport said she, her two brothers (Donnie Pell of Chatsworth and Brent Pell of Cleveland) and their families, her stepfather and many friends still mourn the loss of their loved one, but stressed that their pain is being felt by the families of eight additional victims of the violent storms.
“This whole, entire community was affected in some way,” Davenport said. “So we just want everyone to know they are welcome to attend.”
The family understands the ceremony will be bittersweet.
“It will be emotional,” Davenport acknowledged. “In a way, I’m dreading it, but in another way I’m also looking forward to it.”
The family believes it will be another critical step in the healing process, a belief most likely shared by the surviving family members of each of the storms’ victims.
The deceased from April 27, 2011, whose names will be remembered during the lighting of the candles and the playing of “Amazing Grace” by trumpeter Jonathan Tyndall — a family member — include: Rhonda Smith Casteel of Gentry Lane; Eva Catlett of Blue Springs Road; Tommy Evans of Old Powerline Road; Chase Glasgow, a 3-month-old infant of Blue Springs and Hall Norwood roads; Tami Glasgow of Blue Springs and Hall Norwood roads; Evelyn Johnson of Leadmine Valley Road; Robert King of Old Alabama Road; Lisa Pack of Leadmine Valley Road; and Kandice Satterfield of Blue Springs Lane.
Those attending the ceremony will gather in a circle for the lighting of the candles. Words of inspiration will be shared, the names of all nine deceased will be read and the trumpeter’s soft rendition will comprise the brief eulogy.
Davenport and Johnson said Waterville Elementary School was chosen for the outdoor memorial because it is centered in some of the worst-hit areas where most families lost their loved ones.
Another reason is because it shows the family’s commitment to the community’s recovery. Davenport said she still sees uncleared wreckage from demolished homes and destroyed woodlands every day on her way to work and back home.
“I’m reminded of it (April 27, 2011) every day,” she offered. “It’s an everyday reminder of all that devastation.”
Johnson, who hasn’t rebuilt on the 5 acres of Leadmine Valley Road property, has instead bought a home in another area. The former home’s foundation, the front brick steps and the concrete pad to the garage are all that remain. The debris has been removed over the past year, but the memories remain.
He and Evelyn had just made their last payment on the house on April 4. Twenty-three days later the murderous tornado left its debris scattered across a wide swath, the same demon that took Evelyn’s life.
“It’s been a year ... I’m all right,” the soft-toned and mild-mannered Johnson offered. “I stay busy these days working.”
In a pensive tone with reddened eyes, he added, “I was proud of my wife.” Wayne and Evelyn had been married eight years.
Although it will be painful, the family wants to hold the candlelight ceremony for everyone — for their loved one, an endearing woman who adored the beautiful colors of flower gardening, and all nine who died on that day and night of tragedy.
Davenport admitted the pain still dwells in the hearts of the family, but they remain determined to rebound.
“In spite of all this, we know God is good,” she stressed. “We know that everything happens for a reason.”
(Editor’s Note: On Friday, April 27, and Saturday, April 28, a variety of community activities will be held in Cleveland and Bradley County in observance of the destructive tornadoes that one year ago destroyed 285 local homes, damaged hundreds of others, demolished or damaged 10 businesses and stole the loved ones of nine families. Over the next two weeks, the Cleveland Daily Banner will provide details about these events, and will plan full coverage of as many as possible. Groups and organizations planning community events surrounding the one-year observance are encouraged to contact Rick Norton, associate editor, at the Banner at 472-5041.)