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Woodford Times - Peoria, IL
  • Army vet injured in tornado dies

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      What: "A Classic Rock Christmas," a benefit concert for Washington tornado relief presented by former Washington Community High School teacher and coach Thom McGorey.

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      If you go
      What: "A Classic Rock Christmas," a benefit concert for Washington tornado relief presented by former Washington Community High School teacher and coach Thom McGorey.
      When: 7 p.m. Thursday.
      Where: Caterpillar Performing Arts Center at Five Points Washington, 360 N. Wilmor Road.
      Admission: Free; donations will be accepted.
  • WASHINGTON — The death of a third Washington resident has been linked to the Nov. 17 tornado.
    Charles Koonce, 84, who was injured in the tornado, died Thursday. Steve Neubauer, 51, died on the day of the storm and Rosamund Allison, 82, died Nov. 29.
    "This is another terrible reminder of what happened to our great city on Nov. 17 and that there's still a long battle to be fought," Washington Mayor Gary Manier said Sunday. "My heart goes out to Mr. Koonce's family."
    Koonce and his wife Cathern lived in Washington for all 58 years of their married life and at 1904 English Oak the past three years.
    Their home was destroyed by the EF-4 tornado. It was one of more than 1,000 Washington residences severely damaged or destroyed by the twister.
    Tina Murray, their daughter, who lives nearby at 1910 Cobblestone, was in her parents' home the morning of Nov. 17.
    "We saw the tornado coming. I put a blanket over my father (who was in a lift chair) and yelled, 'Hang on," she said Sunday.
    Winds blew daughter and father about 25 feet from the living room into the kitchen.
    Charles Koonce, who was in ill health before the tornado, suffered a broken leg and collarbone.
    His wife had cuts and embedded glass and had to be rescued from debris.
    Both were taken to UnityPoint Health-Proctor in Peoria in an SUV.
    Before the ride, Charles Koonce was placed on an interior door found in the rubble and carried across the street from his home to a garage that was still intact.
    He made the trip to the hospital on a mattress discovered in the debris.
    Cathern Koonce was released from Proctor after spending a day and is now living with David and Tina Murray.
    Charles Koonce remained hospitalized until Dec. 4, when he was transferred to ManorCare at Riverview nursing home in East Peoria, where he died.
    Tina Murray, a nurse, said she suffered cuts and bruises while protecting her father. Her home was damaged by the tornado, but has remained livable.
    Charles Koonce served in the U.S. Army from 1948 to 1951 as a photographer.
    His honorable discharge papers were found in Lemont, about 125 miles from Washington.
    His niece Amber Morgan of Creve Coeur saw the papers on the Found Items from the Washington Illinois and Diamond Illinois Facebook page and got them back in his hands.
    Charles and Cathern Koonce saw each other Jan. 1, a day before he died. Jan. 1 is Cathern Koonce's birthday. She received flowers and a signed birthday card from her husband.
    Funeral services for Charles Koonce will be at 11 a.m. Tuesday at Deiters Funeral Home and Crematory in Washington.
    Colton Murray, Charles and Cathern Koonce's grandson and David and Tina Murray's son, works at the funeral home and is headed to the Worsham College of Mortuary Science in Wheeling to study to be a mortician.
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    Steve Stein can be reached at 686-3114 or stevestein21@yahoo.com. Read his Stein Time blog on pjstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.
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