Family, friends mourn loss of Armstrong woman

Published 5:51 pm Friday, June 18, 2010

ARMSTRONG — She was a happy woman who had a caring heart.

That’s how family and friends on Friday described the 67-year-old Armstrong woman who died Thursday night from injuries she sustained after a tornado tore through her trailer, lunged her and her husband into the air, and dropped them into a grassy ditch across the street from their house.

Family of Katherine A. Woodside, of 69509 220th St., said their loved one was conscious and talking when emergency crews arrived at the site of the couple’s home. However, she died a short time later in an ambulance on the way to Naeve Hospital in Albert Lea.

Email newsletter signup

Her leg was severed.

Katherine Woodside’s husband, Ron Woodside, remains in serious but stable condition at St. Marys Hospital in Rochester, as of Friday afternoon.

He has broken all of his ribs on his left side and most of his ribs on his right side, said Jolene Mortensen, girlfriend of Katherine Woodside’s son Cory Schoronzy. Ron Woodside also has one or two broken arms and one or two broken legs, along with lacerations and initial internal bleeding, she noted. He has a broken facial bone beneath his eyes.

His internal organs, however, were not injured.

Despite all the broken bones, Mortensen said doctors think Ron Woodside will be OK. He has been sedated since being transferred from Naeve Hospital in Albert Lea to St. Marys Hospital in Rochester. She anticipated doctors would keep him under sedation through the weekend.

Both Ron and Kathy Woodside had worked in the Albert Lea Tribune’s press room since February 2008.

“She was the salt of the earth,” Mortensen said. “If you could pick a mom — that’s her.”

Katherine Woodside enjoyed flower gardening and hunting, and she “absolutely loved her kids and grandkids. It didn’t matter whether they were hers or his,” Mortensen added.

She estimated Katherine and Ron Woodside had been married for 18 or 19 years.

Katherine has two children and Ron has four. They have many grandchildren.

Mortensen described Katherine Woodside as a happy person who loved to tease.

“She was just sweet and caring,” Mortensen said.

She was also a devout member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, her son said.

Schoronzy said he and Mortensen were at their home in Glenville, watching the tornadoes unfold on television when the tornado hit his mother and stepfather’s home.

Schoronzy, his brother and others made several attempts by phone to get the couple out of their trailer into somewhere safe, but the couple refused to leave.

“They thought they were safe,” he said.

“I’m sure they’ve weathered storms before, but this wasn’t a normal storm,” Mortensen added. “There was rain and wind — it was hell.”

Schoronzy said he kept calling the house but the phone kept ringing.

He said he thought the storm had passed and that maybe his mom and stepfather had just gotten fed up with all of the calls and weren’t answering, so he laid down to go to sleep.

He was asleep for less than 20 minutes before he got a loud knock on the door and by 8:30 p.m. he and his girlfriend were at Naeve Hospital.

Schoronzy said his stepfather was unresponsive at first.

A neighbor told Mortensen that Katherine and Ron Woodside had planned to take cover under a bed. After the tornado struck, they ended up in the ditch.

Their trailer was destroyed, pieces of the frame flung several hundred yards away.

The actual house part of the trailer has yet to be found.

The storage buildings behind and to the side of the house were also destroyed, while random tools and boards now scatter the yard. In parts of the yard the smell of liquid propane still lingers in the air, from a nearby tank.

Mortensen said family members have found a couple of Katherine Woodside’s scrapbooks, one of Ron Woodside’s yearbooks and a few other knickknacks from the house.

“Ron and Kathy were like everyone’s grandparents as well as co-workers,” said Tribune Publisher Scott Schmeltzer. “I never saw Kathy without a good word to say and a smile on her face. She will be missed.”

Other Tribune employees who worked with the Woodsides described Katherine Woodside as “always upbeat and happy.”

“She would come in and always uplift others,” said one employee, Ben Dolsen.

Dolsen said the couple was “attached at the hip.”

“They would do everything together,” he said.

They would work side by side during the day at the Tribune placing advertisement inserts into the Tribune.

Other employees stated Katherine Woodside frequently talked about her family and nephew Ben Woodside. She was a caring woman, said Chris Braund, Tammy Ashton and Josh Blaser.

According to the path marks left by the storm, the tornado started out in southwest Freeborn County and moved northwest. It hit the Woodside’s residence, then apparently jumped Interstate 90 before dropping down again north.

Thirteen others were injured in Freeborn County from the severe weather.