Ed and Julie Blank lean on aunt and uncleWritten by Brandi Barhite | Community Ombudsman | email@example.com
Editor’s note: Toledo Free Press will follow the Blank family of Millbury for one year as they rebuild their lives after a June 5 tornado destroyed their Main Street home.
Ed and Julie Blank lost their parents years ago. So when the June 5 tornado destroyed their home, Julie’s aunt and uncle stood in as parental figures.
“It felt like our son and our daughter were going through this,” George Zitzelberger said. “Even before the tornado, we felt like they were our kids.”
Julie is especially close to her Aunt Nancy, who was her father’s younger sister. The two women consider each other confidants. The Zitzelbergers have a grown son and daughter, but since their daughter lives out of town, the time with Julie is especially nice.
When Julie ended up in the hospital after the tornado, Nancy and George were by her side. A few months later, when their house was framed, George toured it with Ed. And when the Blanks moved into the newly built home in December, George was one of the best helpers, Ed said. Julie had the garage full of boxes, so he helped unpack and put the items away. By 5 that night, everything was in its place.
“I am more experienced than the rest of them, not older,” George said, joking. “They wouldn’t let me carry anything, so I stayed with the girls.”
George and Nancy remember when they first heard about the tornado.
“We got a call in the middle of the night from Kathy, Julie’s sister, and I don’t know that either one of us were conscious of what was happening. I don’t think we realized until the morning and, we were devastated,” George said.
They said losing neighbors was hard for Ed and Julie. The closeness of the community has helped the couple, though. George was touched by the prayer circle that formed around Julie’s bed when she was in the hospital. The circle included three ministers.
“Different ministers from different faiths — that was sort of surprising to me. I can’t even find the words. I was moved by how the people came together.”
Both are proud of the progress their “kids” have made since the tornado.
“Ed took it in stride and Julie took it a lot harder,” George said. “After the fact, when things were straightened out with the insurance company and they knew they were going to rebuild, both did amazingly well.”
George and his wife have only visited a few times since the Blanks moved in because they want to give them time to settle. They fondly recall spending time at the Blanks’ old house.
“Julie and Ed were both great hosts. Ed was the ultimate cook. He did all the holiday cooking. I don’t know what Julie did, maybe she supervised,” George said, laughing.
Since the tornado, Nancy has tried to help Julie resurrect some of the pictures from their side of the family, but most were lost in the tornado. Nancy had given Julie some familial mementos through the years and those were lost, too.
“They have come a long way. They have done a good job of putting it behind them and I think their faith has been deepened by this. I know mine has. We are lucky to have them after all that has happened,” George said.