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Town Rebuilt A Year Later After Tornado Hit

June 7, 1985

BARNEVELD, Wis. (AP) _ After the storm, on the ruins of the farm implement store, they painted, ″We’re not giving up. We’re going on.″

Now, one year after a monster tornado struck this little southern Wisconsin village, a sprawling new building dominates the commercial park. New homes line streets where, until a year ago Saturday, stood houses more than a century old and shaded by stately oaks.

Barneveld, population 500, was virtually flattened by the twister at 12:50 a.m. on that Friday morning. Village officials said as many as 80 percent of the buildings were destroyed or nearly so.

The village buried its nine dead, including tiny Matthew Aschliman who never lived to see his third birthday, healed its wounds and came back.

Masons are putting a stone facade on what will be Ron’s Country Store; a pile of pre-cut logs will soon be home to the 1,000 Island Bar; and at the Lutheran Church, where only the bell tower stood after the storm, a new sanctuary is rising on the foundation of the old.

Landscaping is almost completed at the new Mauger house.

Kathy Mauger was nine months pregnant and overdue when the tornado struck. She and Tom and their daughter Shannon, then 3, were tossed into the yard, their roof still over their heads.

Kathy had a broken ankle, but her unborn baby was all right, and two days later Danielle was born. The village heard the news at the Red Cross center, set up in the Town of Brigham garage.

″Her nickname is Stormy,″ Mauger says. ″A lot of people call her that. She’s a go-getter.″

The last of the temporary housing is gone, and only two buildable foundations remain in town. On one stood the house where Bruce and Jill Simon and their 8-year-old daughter, Cassandra, died. But there are also 14 new homes, built with the ″sweat equity″ of outsiders who wanted to cast their fate with Barneveld’s future.

Betsy Thronson, who lives three miles from town, ran the soup kitchen in the disaster center. Now she’s trying to get a loan to open Betsy’s Kitchen permanently.

″I got to know the people of Barneveld. They’ve become part of my life and I really miss it,″ she says.

Barneveld did not rebuild alone. Federal help - most of it in loans, not grants - may eventually top $5.7 million. Private contributions totaled $825,000. Gifts of time and energy came from Mennonite and Amish volunteers from all over the United States and Canada and from Barneveld’s more immediate neighbors.

Mauger received checks in the mail from strangers, and now he wants to help the victims of recent killer tornadoes in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Canada.

″I’d like to make my contribution because I’m sure some of those people helped us,″ he says.

″It’s the prayers of other people all over that kept us going. There’s no way our own strength could have,″ said the Rev. Robert Twiton of Barneveld Lutheran Church.

″It’s a new town in the sense of a new appreciation for life and a new sense of how we need one another,″ says Twiton.

″We have to reach out and touch each other a little more than we used to,″ village Clerk Pat Messinger says.

″Bygones were bygones as soon as the storm hit,″ says Mauger. ″If you had a beef with anybody, it’s forgotten now.″

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