Back in 1980, I was a claims adjuster for a major insurance company. My job took me all over the southeast. Thusly, I was on the road quite often. Of course, being on the road so much, I eventually had problems. One such problem occurred on my way to a home in a little place called McComb, Mississippi. A man had a claim on a roof that had been replaced by contractors we had recommended. The roof replacement was shoddy work and I had to have a good talk with the homeowner and contractor. We came to an agreement and I took off into town to eat lunch. As I left, I noticed the transmission on the 1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass (company car) was acting up. It seemed to struggle to get out of second gear. I somehow managed to drive the five miles or so into town to get it looked at by the first auto shop I came across.
Long story short, second gear was almost totally stripped and had to be replaced. The auto shop owner said I was looking at about a three or four hour wait. I have had too many experiences with auto repair shops. When they say, three or four hours, they really mean five or six hours. I was thinking I may have to spend the night in McComb, MS. As I walked out of the shop to get some lunch at the nearby cafe, I noticed a cemetery about two blocks from the cafe. I also noticed one of the oddest things I’ve ever seen in a cemetery. There was a gold shaped pear at one of the grave sites. With nothing better to do, I decided I would walk over there after eating lunch.
So, after a lunch of fried chicken, green beans, squash, corn bread and ice tea (this is the deep south, remember), I walked over to the cemetery. I came to the gold shaped pear and noticed the headstone. Inscribed on the headstone was this; “William Mosner and Brenda Mosner, Uncle and Niece, Killed by Twister March 16, 1932.” I noticed by the birth dates, that William was 27 when he died and Brenda was only 5 years old. I felt sad by just reading that even though it had been almost fifty years since their deaths. I looked around nearby to see if there had been any other deaths on that date. I couldn’t find any more. So, I decided to go check on my car to see if I was going to need to stay in town that night. As I came into the shop, I noticed this sad looking elderly man behind the counter with the shop owner. The shop owner said they were going to have the car ready in about an hour and then I could be on my way. I decided to ask him about the gold shaped pear near the headstone I mentioned. He then looked over to the sad looking elderly man I saw as I came into the shop. He motioned with his head to move with him away from the elderly gentleman. He told me that was a twister that folks still talked about in town still to that day, almost 50 years later. It killed those two people and one more. But, caused untold damage to the entire town.
He then stated that the elderly man over to end of the counter was Jeremy Mosner, the father of Brenda and brother of William that I saw on the headstone. The shop owner stated Jeremy was gone that day to pick up some vegetables and meat at the general store in town. It had been a cold blustery day that morning of March 16, 1932. The clouds foretold of bad weather on the way. But, no one figured it to be no more than your typical storm for that time of year. It turned out to be much, much worse than anyone anticipated. The “twister,” as the shop owner called it, came out of the northeast without warning. There were no sirens back then. So, there was just enough time to get into the cellar or storm shelter. William was working on his truck to drive up to Jackson, Mississippi to pick up his wife and boy who were visiting grandparents. He was watching his little niece, Brenda, while Jeremy went into town. Jeremy’s wife was in the house “cleaning up.” William probably saw the twister first. He grabbed Brenda and headed for the shelter. He, apparently, put Brenda in the shelter and then went into the house to get his sister-in-law. Before he could get into the house, the twister leveled the house. No one knows exactly what happened. This is what everyone surmised that happened based on the evidence. Brenda had left the shelter, most likely, to look for her mother.
When police arrived they found William’s mangled body beneath board planks. Little five-year old Brenda was found beneath some rubble only ten feet or so from the storm shelter. No trace of the mother was ever found, despite searches of over a 50 mile wide area from McComb. Jeremy escaped unscratched. Well, unscratched physically. He never got over losing his entire family. William was Jeremy’s only brother, his only sibling. Brenda was Jeremy’s only child. Jeremy never remarried. The shop owner said he lets him come into the shop and stay as long as he wants. As for the gold shaped pear; the only thing little Brenda ever wanted when Jeremy would take her into town was a pear. It was her favorite “candy” in all the world.
I was suppose to go on to New Orleans that next day for another job assignment in 1980. But, I called headquarters and told them I wouldn’t be able to make it. I just didn’t have my heart into going to another job right then. Instead, I lingered in McComb for another day listening to the locals discuss that twister of so long ago. Before I left, I decided to pay my respects to that little girl and her uncle who died on that fateful day in 1932. I knew I needed to leave. But, not before I left a pear at the grave site of little Brenda. Then I went home to Atlanta. There was a six year old girl, my daughter, that I needed to hug and tell her I loved her. I’m sure Jeremy wished he had that one last opportunity to tell his daughter the same.