Gainesville Daily Register

May 11, 2013

County's 'Tornado Baby' turns 85

Special to the Register

Callisburg — There are likely few left who remember Ray Mozingo’s claim to fame. For a time, 85 years ago, the Callisburg resident was known as “the Tornado Baby.”

Mozingo was just five days old when a tornado decimated his parents’ three-room Cooke County home. Ray, his parents and a family friend who lived with the Mozingos were reportedly pulled from their house and dropped a distance from the site.

Ray and the others were later found by neighbors amid debris.

Mozingo’s daughter Mary (Mozingo) Reeves said the story is a seldom mentioned part of her family’s lore.

“This story is so dear to our family's heart, but it isn't talked about very often,” Reeves said in an email message. “I remember hearing the story when I was six or seven years old. It is a remarkable story when one thinks about all of the circumstances.”

Edgar Mozingo and his wife Mamie Mozingo lived north of Gainesville in a three-room house on the Floy Murrell farm, Reeves said.

Five days after Ray was born in May, 1928, a tornado hit their home. Edgar was trapped by the door frame. Mamie Mozingo and her infant son were resting in bed, as was the custom of new mothers at that time, Reeves said. Farm worker Ed Evans was also in the kitchen when the twister hit.

All the home’s occupants were apparently torn from the building by the force of the tornado.

Reeves said neighbors believed the vicious storm picked up the group and later dropped them on their property.  

The adults were found fairly quickly but the infant Ray was still missing.

“Baby Ray was nowhere to be found and dark was descending upon the scene of destruction,” Reeves said. “When Mamie saw Edgar and he asked where the baby was she repeated over and over, ‘I tried to hold on to the baby.’”

Neighbors with lanterns fanned out to look for the baby. After about an hour someone heard Ray crying.

“He was under a portion of the demolished home’s roof about a 1⁄2 mile from his home,” Reeves said. “ His only injury was a bruise on his head, apparently from a hailstone.”

Ray’s survival was hailed a miracle and he become known as the “Tornado Baby.” His story was told in newspapers of the time including the Gainesville Daily Register.

Sadly, his mother was not as lucky.

“Although Edgar and Ed had many painful injuries, none appeared to be as serious as Mamie’s who had suffered many cuts and bruises, and also severe internal injuries,” Reeves said. “Neighbors worked all night to clear the road of fallen trees and other debris. The doctor couldn’t get through until early morning after a path was made for his automobile.  Little could be done for Mamie and she died soon after the doctor arrived.  

In one terrible afternoon, Edgar Mozingo lost his wife, home, livestock and his growing crops all at once.

“Fortunately, he had an infant son to bring joy to his life,” Reeves said.

Edgar and Ray lived with Edgar’s parents for a while. Ray’s grandmother nursed him for several months, she said.

Edgar eventually remarried. He and his wife Sally Magers Mozingo moved to their own home.

 Ray went to the Bethlehem school and later, he attended the Walnut Bend school.

Despite the tragedy, Ray Mozingo has lived a good life, his daughter said.

He married Lillian Fox and the couple moved to Dallas.

“They had good jobs, bought a home, had a family, and were involved in the Methodist church and the community,” Reeves said.

The couple had two children, Mary Reeves who lives in San Antonio and Joe who lives in Merit. They also have two grandsons, Jason Reeves of London and Keith Reeves of Austin.  

“They have also been blessed with two great-granddaughters, Avery Lillian and Julia Ruth Reeves of Austin and two great-grandsons, James Robert and Jonathan Ray Reeves of London,” Reeves said.

The couple eventually decided to move to a farm outside Callisburg when Lillian Mozingo developed Alzheimer’s disease.

Lillian Mozingo had inherited some land from her family and the couple decided to take their Richardson home with them.

“The house was cut into three parts and was moved to the farm and reconstructed in 1989,” Reeves said. “They developed a garden and planted fruit trees and enjoyed getting reacquainted with friends and to visit with family.  Ray cared for Lillian at home for many years until she passed in 1996 — 50 yards from where she was born.”

The next year, Ray Mozingo married Margaret Reed and she sold her farm and moved to the Fox-Mozingo farm.  

The couple have been active in the Callisburg Methodist Church, visiting those who are sick in the hospital, rehabilation center and nursing homes.  

“They have truly experienced a blessed blended family and are both loved by their families,” Reeves said, adding that Friday was her father’s 85th birthday.

The family is planning a birthday celebration for today.