CHETEK, Wis. (WCCO) — No one may need more support in the aftermath of the Chetek tornado than the family of Eric Gavin.
The 45-year-old father died in the tornado. He was a long-time factory worker at the Jennie-O turkey farm, which also suffered major damage during the storm.
Eric was at home getting ready for work. His family said he was talking to his father on the phone when the wind picked up and then the line went silent.
Jewel Gavin waded through her father’s life in a way she never imagined she had have to — by sifting through the rubble.
When she learned of the widespread damage in Prairie Lake Estates, where Eric lived, she went to the shelter Tuesday night to greet him and the other residents.
“I waited at Mosaic with everybody, I was waiting for him to get off the bus and he just, he never came,” Jewel said.
She later learned her dad, the man she has always admired, did not survive the tornado.
“Sheriff came and talked to me and told me and that was hard, that was one of the hardest things in my life,” Jewel said. “I was a daddy’s girl, definitely, I’m the only child.”
She says her father loved the outdoors: hunting, fishing, motorcycles and four-wheelers.
She has felt the embrace of the community, Gov. Scott Walker and Foster Friess, who grew up in nearby Rice Lake. He gifted Jewel $10,000. He knows he cannot take away her pain, but he would like to ease her worry.
“That’s what people are meant to do, to realize how precious life is,” Foster said. “And she can grow from it and that her life will be enriched as soon as she gets through the grief.”
Jewel cannot see that far ahead just yet, but she said each gesture of kindness helps heal her heart.
“It was nice to know there was support there for me and … [the] community is coming together,” Jewel said.