‘We were one;’ Man remembers wife found dead after 2019 Memorial Day tornadoes

HARRISON TOWNSHIP — It’s been five years since 15 tornadoes hit the Miami Valley on Memorial Day in 2019.

Just hours before one hit Harrison Township, Catherine Clayburn disappeared.

It took a week to find her body.

This Memorial Day her husband, Bob, is honoring her memory.

Bob said he met Catherine at church.

“We went to church in Hartford City,” Bob said. “It didn’t take long to become friends. Let’s put it that way”

The couple got married and had two daughters.

They moved to Ohio and settled in Harrison Township.

Catherine loved the neighborhood.

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“She walked on a regular basis ... she would route through the neighborhood,” Bob said.

But in late 2017 Catherine developed dementia.

“She was able to manage herself, but no communication,” Bob said.

On Memorial Day 2019, Bob and Cathy had plans to eat dinner at their daughter’s house.

Just after 5 p.m., Catherine disappeared.

“She went on her walk and I didn’t know,” Bob said.

He went out to look for her but couldn’t find her.

Bob, family, friends, and law enforcement searched for Catherine.

Then around 11 p.m., a tornado hit the Calyburn’s neighborhood.

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“We were unaware of that, we were just focused on her,” Bob said.

But days after the tornado Catherine was still missing.

“Drones, helicopters, boats on the river, they went all out for Cathy. That was quite an emotional thing,” Bob said.

A dog team was called to help search, they found her body a week after she disappeared.

The coroner ruled Catherine drowned.

Bob said they found Catherine’s body under tornado debris, in a dry creek bed, by a house, near the Stillwater River.

“Why she was there, how long she was there, whether she fell or whether the storm came and debris knocked her down ... I just don’t know,” he said.

Bob is still working to heal.

“Grief is a strange phenomenon and I’m not sure I ever properly grieved,” Bob said.

He said his family and faith keep him going.

“I know I’m going to see her again. That’s not a doubt in my mind,” Bob said.

When Catherine died the couple was just shy of their 50th anniversary.

“We were one. That’s all I can just say. We were just one,” Bob said.

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