The Good Friday tornado: 10 years later

Ten years ago our house was badly damaged by the Good Friday tornado. This photo was taken on April 30, 2011, after the tree was removed and tarps were in place.

Ten years ago, the Good Friday tornado smashed houses, uprooted trees, and disrupted our lives.

For our family, April 22, 2011, was like many other Friday evenings. Yoli and the kids were at home, and I was downtown at work. “Wheel of Fortune” was on the TV, and it’s likely that saved Yoli’s life — when the tornado alert was issued, she heard it, and ran with the kids to the basement. Minutes later, the kitchen where she had been cooking was crushed. The fierce storm toppled the oak tree in our backyard. Its massive trunk fell on our house, and its branches poked through the roof of our neighbor Connie’s house.

It was a crazy night. The fallen tree blocked both exits from the basement, so our neighbor Monica helped Yoli and the kids escape through a window. At the newspaper, we heard reports of the tornado, and I received a brief phone call from Yoli, but it was difficult to understand. My coworkers urged me to hand off my work to someone else and go home.

I couldn’t see the devastation that night. It was too dark. But everything was clear in the morning light. Our lives wouldn’t be the same.

The Good Friday tornado passed a block or two north of our home. Strong winds knocked our huge oak tree onto the house, destroying the sun room and kitchen, and damaging other parts of the house.

Over the next six months, we navigated a confusing maze of insurance adjusters, city inspectors, contractors, landlords and more. We moved to a rental house in Woodson Terrace, which the girls loved because it had two big flat-screen TVs, and it was very close to a park.

Throughout this time of waiting, we could see God’s mercy everywhere we looked — especially in the love and help we received from our family, friends, neighbors and coworkers.

In November, at last we could move back into our house. The tornado had made it possible for us to expand it from two bedrooms to three, which made quite a difference for our young family of six. Jadzia and Ludi got one bedroom, Josie and Joseph got another, and Yoli and I got the new one, complete with bathroom and walk-in closet.

All in all, there’s so much to be thankful for. The house became bigger and better. And though the work wasn’t perfect, it was mostly pretty good. This has been a good house and a nice street to spend the last 10 years, watching the kids grow up and having adventures.

One other milestone for the house — we paid off our mortgage last month.

We bought it in 2005, at the height of the housing bubble. But even though mortgage lenders told us “money is cheap!” and urged us to take out bigger loans, we wanted to live within our means. We considered only houses that we could afford to put 20% down on, which would allow us to avoid paying mortgage insurance.

Jadzia always was a bit nosy about our finances, which I thought was a good thing. She went through a phase where she would compare our family with the families of her friends. She wished our family had a big TV, and cable, and iPhones for every kid, but I believe she understood why we didn’t. Last spring during COVID lockdown, I told her that we would probably pay off the mortgage in spring of 2021, and that when we did, it would free up some money that we could put towards things like a better TV, or put in her college savings account.

So Jadzia was looking forward to this mortgage payoff. She didn’t live to see us reach the goal, but I know she’d be celebrating with us.

Anyway, to mark this 10-year tornado anniversary, I put together a collection of nine videos from our 2011 travails. You can see them at vimeo.com/showcase/8076349

Morels and more

A few of the morel mushrooms I bought at the farmers market.

This morning I saw morel mushrooms at the Ferguson Farmers Market. I had to buy them.

It goes back to an experience I had last year.

It was March. For the kids’ spring break, we asked Aunt Marcy and Uncle Ken if we could stay a few days at the clubhouse near Clearwater Lake, and they said yes.

The weather was cool and the lake was high, but that was fine by us. We just wanted a safe escape from the pandemic with no worries of running into other people.

Jadzia and the family at a recent trip to Clearwater Lake. Jadzia loved bratwurst more than almost anything. She also has her art notebook nearby.

I think I was photo-bombing Jadzia’s selfie here.

It turned out to be our final family vacation with Jadzia. In fact, St. Louis County issued a quarantine order that same weekend, and we mostly stayed home for the rest of the year.

Anyway, shortly after we arrived, I started raking leaves in the front yard. When I reached the section of the yard near the fire pit and some trees, I spotted several mushrooms. They looked an awful lot like photos I had seen of morel mushrooms. Excited to find them, I plucked them and set them aside.

Later I told Yoli about the mushrooms. She wanted to be certain they were real morels, sinec false morels can be toxic. My phone gets almost no internet service when we stay at the lake, so we couldn’t pull up any photos to check. Based on my memories, I felt confident they were real, but I couldn’t be certain. So we let them be, and I planned to bring them home with us.

Anyway, we enjoyed a fun several days, cooking outside, hiking, visiting the dam, trying to fish. When it was time to go home, my mind was consumed with packing, making sure the house was clean, and that we had put everything away. I forgot the morels.

When we arrived in Ferguson, I suddenly realized my mistake.

Even though I came home empty-handed, I consulted the internet just to see if my memories were right. Yep. Every photo I saw looked exactly like the mushrooms I had found. If only I had remembered to bring them home, we could have tried them.

Fast-forward to 2021. When I saw the morels at the market, I just had to buy them. Yes, they were way too expensive. But we had never tried them before, and everyone seemed to rave about them. So, I bought a pint container, and looked up some recipes for pan-frying them.

Yoli prepared them. First she washed them, then coated them in flour, and finally fried them in butter.

We ate them as a side with an alfredo pasta. Josie and Ludi each tried them and loved them. Joseph has no interest in mushrooms — or things made with butter, he said.

I couldn’t help but think of Jadzia. She had become an adventurous eater, and I am sure she would have tried the morels. I hope she would have loved them.

Breaded and fried morel mushrooms

A tree for Jadzia

We pose for a photo with Jossie, Rochelle, and Kai at Jadzia’s tree in January-Wabash Park.

We were surprised and pleased to learn that the Ferguson Swim Team had arranged to dedicate a tree in Jadzia’s memory at January-Wabash Park. Earlier this summer, they also made a team T-shirt to honor her.

This morning, the Parks and Recreation Department held a short dedication ceremony for three families’ trees at the Ferguson Community Center. Afterward we went with Jadzia’s friends Jossie and Kai to see the tree at January-Wabash. It’s positioned on the hill overlooking the water slide at the pool, not far from where Yoli and I liked to sit with Jadzia when we watched home swim meets. Keep reading to see a short video.

Continue reading “A tree for Jadzia”

Sunflower fields

Jadzia loved the “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” soundtrack. As we were preparing for her funeral, I learned that “Sunflower” was one of her favorite songs.

Like some of her siblings, she might have complained before going out to Columbia Bottoms to visit the sunflower fields. But once we got there, I’m sure she would have appreciated it.

I wish we had her in these photos.

Jadzia’s obituary

Jadzia Renaud

Jadzia Marie Renaud was welcomed into the kingdom of heaven on June 24, 2020, at the age of 14.

Jadzia was born Aug. 24, 2005, and attended the STEAM Academy at McCluer South-Berkeley High School, where she was a member of the mock trial team, book club and theater. She was a beautiful young woman remembered by teachers, friends and classmates as an inspiring leader, a person of honesty and integrity, wise beyond her years.

Jadzia was an artist, sketching illustrations daily in notebooks, sometimes sharing them with friends — but only very occasionally giving her parents a peek. She loved to sing and recently learned to whistle.

Jadzia was a scholar who loved the Ferguson-Florissant PROBE program. Twice, she was the district-wide spelling champion. In 2017 she reached the sixth round of the Post-Dispatch regional spelling bee finals.

She was a programmer, a tinkerer, and a founding member of the Viper Bots, a robotics team at Vogt Elementary. Her team was recognized on the floor of the Missouri House of Representatives in 2016.

She was all this and so much more.

Jadzia is survived by her parents, Joshua and Yolange Renaud (nee Zegarra Antelo); her loving siblings Ludivine, Josie and Joseph Renaud; her grandparents Joseph and Anita Renaud (nee George), and Hector Zegarra Barron and Lucila Antelo Flores; her great-grandmothers Janice Renaud (nee Becker) and Paddy Kuncas (formerly George, nee Lawrence); and numerous aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, teachers and neighbors in St. Louis, Texas, Bolivia, England and around the world who cared deeply about her.

Services: Visitation will be held Tuesday, June 30, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Grace Church, 2695 Creve Coeur Mill Road, Maryland Heights, MO 63043; followed by a service at 1 p.m. Interment will be private at Memorial Park Cemetery. The service will be live-streamed at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RFa0Qh0lzq8

When Jadzia was very small, she was diagnosed with Marfan Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder which affected her heart. She lived with this condition all her life, but never let it define her. The family asks that, in lieu of flowers, memorials be made to The Marfan Foundation online at marfan.org.

Grieving over Jadzia

I took Jadzia to see the Blues victory parade. She was pretty excited to get to be part of it,

This blog was created to tell the story of our family. And it is with great sadness that I must write a post I never dreamed I would have to write.

Jadzia, our beloved oldest daughter, died in her sleep last night.

Jadzia was 14 years old, and very much looking forward to her quinceañera in August, her sophomore year of high school this fall, and so many other dreams and plans.

We weren’t ready to lose our dear girl. We are grief-stricken and figuring things out.

To everyone who had some part in Jadzia’s life, we say thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Thank you for the love you showed her, for the care you gave her. We know you share our sorrow.

Corona chronicles: Violet lemonade

Ludi tells the story:

One of my favorite creations I’ve made so far this year was Violet Lemonade. I first saw it when one of my friends posted about it on social media. It looked really cool and we had all the materials to make it.

To start, I picked enough violets to fill a mason jar. Later I made a violet syrup. Once I mixed the syrup into a pitcher of lemon water, the color changed and it was a pretty purple.

It tasted very good, just like normal lemonade with a hint of… I don’t quite know how to describe it. I almost want to say it had a hint of watery ground pepper.

It was very good, very pretty, and very time-consuming but overall it was very fun to make.

Corona chronicles: LEGO egg spinner for Easter

Our EV3 version of the LEGO Easter egg decorating machine.

Like so many others, the Renaud Empire has been staying put at Renaud Manor.

With Easter approaching, I came across a link to directions to build a LEGO egg decorating machine

As soon as I saw it, I knew our half of the Viper Bots (Ludi, Josie and Joseph) would be interested in giving it a try.

Josie prepares to color an egg with the LEGO egg spinner.

A couple of key differences. First, the original instructions used a battery-driven WeDo motor. We have an EV3-based robot named ViperEvie, so we connected an EV3 medium motor to her. It was a little tricky anchoring the medium motor to the LEGO mat, but I figured out a way to do it. Second, we had trouble with eggs rotating and falling, despite trying many adjustments. The thing that worked best for us was adding rubber tires to the back wheels.

We made a video showing the results:

H/T to Lauren Kornegay-Dollar for sharing this link with us!