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A survivor tells her story...

By Jerry (Mrs. Johnny) Kypfer

It was Saturday afternoon, Oct. 17, 1998. My husband, Johnny, and I were enjoying a visit with my cousins Charlie and Nancy Vaughn from Topeka, Kansas. The phone rang. It was Kenneth Schauer from the Belmont Volunteer Fire Department telling us that the Guadalupe River was expected to crest at flood stage sometime Sunday. He suggested we might get a U-Haul trailer reserved for the next day, and the fire department would help us move our things out.

My husband called to reserve the U-Haul for Sunday. We weren’t worried; after all, we had been through the flood in 1972 and had plenty of time to get out then.

At 5:30 Sunday morning, Charlie was up and everything still was OK. By 6 a.m., Nancy stepped out of bed, and into water!

She quickly woke us up. We couldn’t believe our eyes: water was gushing in under the back door. There was no time to gather any clothes. I was in a wheelchair at the time and on oxygen 24 hours a day.

My husband and Nancy went to open the back door, but the water pressure held it shut. They couldn’t budge it, so we went into the living room and tried to open a glass sliding door. It, too, wouldn’t budge. As we headed for the spare bedroom, we passed my beautiful electric organ.

Water already was up to the keyboard. When we finally got into the spare bedroom, they couldn’t get that glass sliding door open either. We were trapped!

Charlie had gone to move their rent car earlier, while Johnny and Nancy continued to work at the door. They finally were able to get it off its track. As it opened, we grabbed our daschund puppy, Pepper Jo who had taken refuge on a bed, and stepped outside into the angry, swirling waters. I honestly don’t know how they managed to get me to the car. Being in my wheelchair, the water swirled around my neck. Somehow we made it.

I have never seen water rise so fast. It was so swift. We weren’t even able to save any of my oxygen equipment, so my husband took me directly to the hospital.

Fortunately, Charlie had called Best Western when we got the first alert that flooding was probable. (We had reserved rooms so that we could be out of the way while the fire department helped evacuate our belongings.)

Meanwhile, at the hospital where I was, Nancy called our daughter, Marcella and her husband, Ernest Hartmann in Floresville. She also called our son Johnny Lee and his wife Coleen in San Angelo to tell them what was happening.

They all came to help, but the house was completely under water. They couldn’t go in until Tuesday. Water was across U.S. 90-A between Gonzales and Belmont. I still can’t believe how people rallied around to help. Our family stayed all week cleaning up. There was nothing to salvage except some dishes.

A group of students came from Georgetown to help. The Red Cross, Salvation Army, and FEMA all were there. Red Cross paid for our motel room for 10 days until we found a one-room trailer at Ottine. These people really didn’t know us very well. There was A.J. and Patsy Behrendt, the postmistress Shirley (I don’t even know her last name), and others who gave us pots and pans and other essentials. Dudley Staton provided transportation to the doctors. And, at our side through all this was our pastor, Lundy Hooten and our friends at Belmont United Methodist Church.

Our friends Dr. Hisey and his nurse, Vera, helped us so much. My husband, Johnny, died at Gonzales Warm Springs on April 27, of cancer. I now live in Floresville where he is buried, and where I can be closer to family members.

It’s been a year but I can still feel that swirling water around me and remember our desperate struggle to get out. I miss our pictures, tapes, cookbooks, and all the other personal belongings. My thanks to everyone who helped us get through this.


Click on the following links below to read the corresponding stories
Elaine Kolodziej Sheryl Camber Florence and Robert Higgins
Fabian and Lorraine Lyssy Tambria L. H. Read Margie Keutz
Jerry (Mrs. Johnny) Kypfer Marty Kufus Vicki Poore
Amanda Lewanski Marianne Hall-Little