A beloved couple who were stalwarts of their county.
A former high school soccer player.
A woman who cooked the best collard greens and red velvet cake her family ever tasted.
The small details of the lives lost during southwest Georgia’s deadly tornadoes over the weekend only hint at the enormity of loss felt by thousands in that part of the state.
Just 48 hours after the storms left a swath of destruction, families and friends are taking time away from picking through rubble and are making plans to bury loved ones.
The tornadoes left at least 16 people dead. Bits of their lives, clothes, photographs, pots and pans, were strewn across a decimated trailer park in Dougherty County, into a road in Brooks County, and under an oak tree in Berrien County as the winds did their damage.
It will take weeks if not months until there is a full accounting of what was lost, but here we look at some of the lives of those who perished.
Severe weather in South Georgia: List of reported casualties, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Cook County: 7 casualties
All of Cook County’s seven casualties died at a mobile home park, Coroner Tim Purvis told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Cook County officials identified the victims Monday night:
- Alexis Livingston, 19: A Cook High School graduate, Livingston wanted to be a women's soccer coach. She had played goalie for the high school team and was the first in the Lady Hornets team to sign a national letter of intent to play at Johnson University in Florida. She left the school though to attend a college closer to home. She planned to assist the coach at her old high school, said coach Jennifer Gosse. A GoFundMe account set up to pay for Livingston’s funeral expenses described her as someone who “was loved by all who knew her.”
- Adreian Mays, 38: Mays sometimes stays with his sister, Lawansa Perry, in the mobile home park. He was there Sunday and together they scrambled to save the children with them, placing one child in a washing machine, according to family members. All of the children survived. He worked cleaning cars at a local dealership.
- Lawansa Perry, 41: Perry was the mother of three girls and a boy. She worked in home health care for seniors. She loved to cook and she was wonderful at making decorations.
- Mary Cantrell, 62: Cantrell was a woman who had made some bad life choices and struggled financially, but had found God in recent times. She had lived with her daughter for many years and they were always there for one another. They were both night owls and were baking a cake when the storm hit, said her daughter Kellie Cantrell. She was a huge Falcons fan and really wanted to see them in the Super Bowl.
- Jamie Cantrell-Walters, 33: Cantrell-Walters had been excited in recent weeks because she was getting her life together after a separation from her husband. Her mother was helping her.
- Amanda Rowe, 41: Rowe loved graphic design and was always creating little gifts for people. She had back problems and struggled financially. Rowe was afraid during the storm and texted her sister, pleading with her to call. Her sister didn’t see the text until it was too late.
- Joe Deskins, 36: A friend of Rowe's, Deskins was helping her through the storm. Born in Germany while his mother was in the Army, he had a developmental disability. He was on disability. He lived on his own but several people looked in on him regularly. He was very loyal and protective of those he cared for, said his mother Jeannie Deskins.
Dougherty County: 5 casualties
Three men and one woman in Dougherty County were killed by a suspected tornado that struck a mobile home park in east Albany Sunday afternoon. Two victims were identified Monday by Coroner Michael Fowler Sr. One woman died several days after the storm as a result of her injuries.
- Paul Freeman, 82: He lived in a house behind ravaged Big Pines Estates mobile home park and died when debris fell on the house. As the sun fell Monday on Newcomb Road, with the sound of whirling chainsaws and barking dogs filling the air, Lois Hernandez thought of her lost neighbor. She said she didn't know the 82-year-old man well, other than to wave, say hi and and admire his "immaculate" yard, which is set off by well-kept holly shrubs. But she said it was her fiancé who found Freeman. After the couple realized the pounding winds had stopped and they were alive, they set out to check on others. Her fiancé chose Freeman's home. "He said he was (apparently) trying to get to the basement and the chimney fell on him," Hernandez said, looking down the road at the gutted house.
- Oscar Reyna, 39: He died in his home in Big Pines Estates. “He was being tossed by the storm,” the coroner said. “The trailer blew apart.”
- Cathy Mosley, 59: The woman was thrown from her trailer as the tornado ripped through Big Pines Estates.
- James Mosley, 59: He was husband to Cathy Mosley and was trapped inside the mobile home.
- Patricia Ann Gohman, 77: Gohman “succumbed to head injuries” and died several days after the storm.
Berrien County: 2 casualties
Berrien County Coroner Robert S. Lovein Jr. said the damage is extensive and “terrible” where two people died early Sunday.
- Russell Nix, 82, and his wife Ann Nix 78: Because the storms came late, the Nixs were in their bedroom. Their home was of sturdy brick and for the most part weathered the storm. But an ancient shady oak tree in their yard split in the high winds and crashed through the roof of their bedroom, killing them, said Robert Lovein, Berrien County Coroner. Ann Nix had been a nurse and later had a career as an occupational coordinator at Berrien High School until she retired in 2000. Her husband, Russell, was a well-known farmer of tobacco, corn, peanuts and other south Georgia staples. Both were very active in their church, Nashville First Baptist, where they will be eulogized on Wednesday at 11 a.m. “Being in a small town, if you’re active you pretty much know everybody,” said Lovein. “Everybody knew them.” The couple has five sons.
Brooks County: 2 casualties
- Betty Lee Newsome, 82, and Jessie James Newsome, 67: The husband and wife still lay in bed when violent winds lifted their single-wide mobile home and tossed it 50 to 75 yards, Brooks County Sheriff Mike Dewey said. The home landed in the middle of Ga. 122, shredding the trailer and killing the couple. Betty Lee Newsome was a homemaker and a church-going woman, who had always turned heads with her beauty, said cousin Lillie Pearl Thompson, 75. “She was beautiful. Soft-spoken. Soft-hearted,” Thompson said. Granddaughter Erin Flowers, 30, didn’t grow up with her grandmother because of the estrangement between her parents. But they reconnected in the past few years, chatting on the phone and spending holidays together, times when Flowers would relish Betty Lee’s collards, red velvet cake and love. Jessie James Newsome, who married the wife about a decade ago, was a retired welder but kept busy still with projects and side work, Thompson said. The couple kept a small patch of farm land behind their home and were movie fans, as evidenced by the pile of DVD cases mixed in with their scattered belongings on the side of Ga. 122. Flowers looked through them idly as the sun fell Sunday. She couldn’t believe the mound that used to be her grandmother’s home. It was so severely crushed that it resembled a home only in the sense that articles of a home lay within: curtains, clothes, a refrigerator magnet with a Bible verse etched in glass, Christmas ornaments. Somewhere, Flowers hoped, her grandmother’s photo albums remained.
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