Rural Austin couple’s decision to move was hastened by tornado

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 1, 2002

AUSTIN &045; Bob and Marlene Belden’s lives have changed forever.

A year ago today, the tornado that tore a path from Glenville to Lansing also destroyed the Beldens’ home, scattering their memories to the wind.

&uot;Our home was totaled, and what could have been saved was finished off by the rain,&uot; said Marlene Belden.

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Just the week before nature’s hand struck the Belden’s home, Bob Belden told Marlene that maybe it was time for them to move into town. He said it would be easier for them to move while they were in their 60s than it would be in their 70s.

&uot;He walked outside and came back and said, ‘No, we have too much stuff,’&uot; Marlene remembered. &uot;When the tornado hit, God took half our stuff.&uot;

The decision was made for them.

On May 1, 2001, they had been at their niece’s graduation in Albert Lea and had gone to dinner at a restaurant. Their waitress told them that a tornado had hit the northwest part of Austin.

&uot;I said it was probably a good thing we had gone to the graduation and dinner after,&uot; Marlene added. &uot;Bob had been planning to stay home.&uot;

They followed the destruction to their 10-acre homestead of 27 years and it got worse as they got closer.

&uot;I looked at the front of our double-wide trailer and it looked fine. Then I noticed there was more light visible through the windows than normal,&uot; she said.

Half the roof and been torn off and the Beldens’ personal belongings had been sucked from their home. Christmas decorations adorned what trees remained and debris littered the homestead.

&uot;One very strange thing happened,&uot; Marlene said. &uot;I collect angels. Not one angel was missing. I had a huge stained glass angel in my window. It was swaying in the window but completely intact.

&uot;There were angels on the wall, surrounded by pictures. Every picture was gone and the angels remained. Not one was broken. Even the ones that were scattered on the floor weren’t broken.&uot;

Marlene had also had a collection of Christmas ornaments, some she collected since she was a child. They were gone.

Friends had a party for her 60th birthday last October and they all gave her ornaments.

Thanks to friends at the street department and food services workers at school, where Marlene works, they had help cleaning up what the tornado destroyed.

The Beldens now live in Austin.

&uot;It’s an adjustment, but we’re getting used to it. But we have a nice home in a nice neighborhood,&uot; she said.