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Published: Tuesday, 6/15/2010

Relatives pull together for girl orphaned after tornado

BLADE STAFF
Seven-year-old Madison, lower left, is the sole survivor of the Walters family. Her mom and brother were killed when the tornado ripped open their Millbury home, and her father died of his injuries more than a week later. Seven-year-old Madison, lower left, is the sole survivor of the Walters family. Her mom and brother were killed when the tornado ripped open their Millbury home, and her father died of his injuries more than a week later.
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The extended family of a 7-year-old left orphaned and homeless by the June 5 tornadoes said Monday they are "pulling together" to protect the little girl.

Madison Walters' mother, Mary Walters, 36, and her 4-year-old brother, Hayden, were killed shortly after a powerful tornado struck the family home in Millbury, Ohio, ripping off the second story.

Her father, Ryan Walters, 37, who was critically injured, died Sunday at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center in Toledo.

Madison was released Sunday from the same hospital after days of treatment for broken bones. Her aunt, Amy Sigler, said the child is being cared for by family members.

"She is doing well and is surrounded by her loving family," Mrs. Sigler said.

Barbara Walters, Mr. Walters' mother, said she was not surprised at her son's passing, but the family had hoped for a better outcome. She said the couple left a will "with specific instructions" for Madison.

The family declined to give specifics about which family members she will live with, citing a desire for privacy.

Mr. Walters will be buried Friday with his wife and son in Lake Township cemetery, Barbara Walters said.

Mrs. Sigler described her brother-in-law, a long-distance runner, as an "exemplary" father and husband who dedicated many volunteer hours to help manage the computer systems at Mainstreet Church in Walbridge.

She said faith in God is helping the family cope with their grief.

"God's grace is amazing," she said. "We know we're going to see him again."

Mr. and Mrs. Walters apparently were asleep in an upstairs bedroom of their Main Street house when the tornado struck. Their children were asleep in the same part of the house, family members said.

The house appears to have been in the direct path of at least one tornado, and was flattened to the foundation.

Mrs. Sigler, who lives in nearby Northwood, said she tried to call her sister to warn her about the approaching storm. She had watched news reports of violent thunderstorms moving across northwest Ohio, and knew the family was asleep. "The phone just rang and rang," she said the day after the storm hit. "I knew as soon as it hit and she didn't call that something was wrong."

The storm was one of northwest Ohio's worst.

The others killed include Ted Kranz, 46, who died after part of his Case Road home fell on him after he left his basement to check on a generator; Wauseon resident Kathy Hammitt, 56, who was en route for home along State Rt. 795 after visiting her husband at a nearby hospital, and Bailey Bowman, a 20-year-old mother of a 2-year-old boy, who was killed as she tried to seek shelter at the Lake Township police building.

- CLAUDIA BOYD-BARRETT



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