Cousins with Courage

May 26, 2011

An image of the courthouse in Neosho, MO, dated 1910.

Back in January in a post about finding my missing grandfather, I wrote about visiting my father’s hometown in Missouri:

“When I was in elementary school, Grandma Gray went to live with my father’s sister, Aunt Sue, to help her raise her two sons, my cousins Mark and Mike. We’d stay at Aunt Sue’s house when our family made the four hour trip to visit Dad’s hometown in Missouri.”

What I didn’t include in that post was the location. My Aunt Sue lived in Joplin, MO. My dad’s hometown of Neosho, MO, lies just 20 miles from Joplin, which was devastated by tornadoes this past weekend. My aunt and grandma are both gone now, and my cousins Mark and Mike no longer live in Joplin, but many members of my father’s extended family still live in the surrounding area.

Only my cousin Shannon was actually living in Joplin on Sunday. She and her little boys were at home near St. John’s Medical Center when the tornado hit. Thankfully they survived, but like many others in that town, the house is totally gone. Shannon’s grandmother, my Aunt Barbara, watched the tornado pass over her house in nearby Galena, KS.

My cousin Sammie rushed to Joplin from her home in Pittsburg, KS, to help with search and rescue. She’s haunted by the tragic things she saw in the immediate aftermath. Her husband is a physician in their town and has treated many victims at area hospitals. Even my cousins Mark and Mike are deeply affected. Although they no longer live in Joplin, they’ve had to watch from afar the devastation of their childhood home. I imagine they must feel as I did after the Oklahoma City bombing.

Then there is my cousin Chris Gray. Chris lives and works as an EMT in Neosho and has spent many hours these last few days helping the tornado victims. I had been out of touch with Chris for many years until I started doing genealogy and discovered his tree on He’s been researching the family for years, and I’ve been the beneficiary of much of his hard work. Most of the documentation and photos for my Allen and Haworth lines are courtesy of Chris. I’ve enjoyed getting re-acquainted with him, and I think he has enjoyed finally having some company on the genealogy journey. So to Chris, my partner in genealogy, and to all of my family there, I am thinking of you and praying for you. God be with you.


Family Tree Firsts is an ongoing blog series featuring newbie genealogist Nancy Shively of Skiatook, OK. Read all her posts at Family Tree University.

2 thoughts on “Cousins with Courage

  1. Thank you so much for all the kind words!! And I am happy to have a new blog to read too. :) We were back in Joplin today for just some brute labor of going through debris at our friend’s homes. We will go back tomorrow…the work to be done seems endless right now. Thanks for all the encouragement!

  2. Sammie, I can’t even imagine. Hang in there and take care of yourself. And please let us know how we can help.

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