Love story to the end

May 22, 2013

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Like any other couple deeply in love, Robert Whitehead and his wife of 47 years couldn’t always be together.

He took a one-week leave from the Army to marry Glenda before being going overseas to fight in the war in the mid-1960s. Recently, Glenda had been spending time caring for her mother in a nursing home in Crowley and often couldn’t get back to their home in the Rancho Brazos subdivision until around midnight.

Their love story – at least in this world – ended abruptly when their mobile home was obliterated by the tornado last Wednesday evening that killed them and four others in nearby neighborhoods just southeast of the Granbury city limits, off Davis Road.

The next day, a woman named Lynn English found debris from the storm that had blown onto her property about a mile and a half from Sundown Trail where the Whiteheads lived.

English reportedly found a letter, dated Oct. 16, 1966, written to a woman named Glenda. It turned out to be the first sheet of a touching, multi-page letter Robert had written from Vietnam while missing his wife. They had only been married about 18 months.

Family members and others who learned of the letter also got a message from the fact it had been saved all those years – that Glenda never wanted to give up her husband’s precious letters expressing his love.

The letter begins, “My Darling, Sweet, Glenda. I love you. Baby, if I could only find the words to tell you how much I want you, need you, love you.”

Glenda’s brother Billy Kelly said that the Whiteheads were a couple that “fed” off each other, and both were givers.

“He just missed her so much,” Kelly said. “He loved the Army, but he loved his wife, too.”

Officials and some family members verified a report that even though the tornado propelled the Whiteheads through the air, they were found next to each other about 60 to 70 yards away, near a fence. Some of them believe that meant Robert, 69, and Glenda, 63, were holding tight to each other when the tornado struck making sure they were together, to the end.

“I’m sure they were (holding each other),” said Robert’s sister Ann Webb, of Weatherford. “They told us they were side-by-side and their bodies were touching.”

Glenda was the oldest sister of Jerry Kelly, who on Sunday was at the location where the mobile home had stood before it was blown away. Family members were trying to sort through what little remained. But in the middle of talking about the couple, Kelly paused, and made it clear that the other victims deserved just as much focus as his loved ones.

“This is two. There’s four more (dead residents) out there,” Kelly said with somber emphasis after a few seconds seemingly staring into the distance.

Kelly seemed to be running low on energy after dealing with the loss for almost three days. He said Robert and Glenda were still basically newlyweds when the found letter was written.

“They spent 48 hours together,” Kelly said of their honeymoon stint before Robert had to return to his Army post before later going overseas. “He was in Vietnam for about a year. He pretty much wrote her every day.”

Webb said she heard that Lynn English and her daughter cried when they read the letter that had dropped from the heavens onto their property. They notified a news media outlet, and the letter eventually was obtained by a family member. Later, other scattered pages and letters from Robert were found.

Webb recalled “their love for each other – their passion for each other.”

Ann’s husband, Leonard, said of the couple, “She wouldn’t have been anything without him, and he wouldn’t have been anything without her. They were truly a team. Both of them had to be together.”

Even as individuals, Leonard thought highly of them.

“I don’t know any two people that were better,” he said. “For a year, Glenda had been almost daily driving to Crowley to care for her mom.

“They had a lot of fun. Bob was pretty quiet. They loved each other. They were two halves of a whole.”

Glenda would have turned 64 today. She had retired about a year and a half ago after working at Kroger in Granbury for 16 years. The couple had lived in that home for at least 25 years, according to Ann.

Shelina Myers, one of Glenda’s nieces, said the Whiteheads were awesome. Even though they never had children, “They treated all of us nieces and nephews like their own children,” Myers said.

Robert had voluntarily joined the Army for a three-year stint, instead of being drafted and serving just two years. He got to come home to reunite with Glenda sooner than he planned. Robert was injured when a civilian motorized scooter plowed into him from behind, and told family members he didn’t think it was an accident.

“He wanted to serve his country. He was pretty bitter,” Kelly said. “He said, ‘They got me after all.’”

After returning home, Robert had earned a living as an electrician and a carpenter, but like many people he had continued to work some after retiring.

Fixing up old cars was his favorite hobby, Leonard said. Among the five vehicles parked at the home that were destroyed was a 1947 Plymouth in back.

“He was going to fix it up and drive it,” Leonard said. “He loved messing with cars. Over the years he had several hot rods. He had fixed up a ’48 Plymouth coupe that he hot-rodded out.”

The other four Rancho Brazos residents who died as a result of injuries suffered in the tornado were Jose Alvarez Tovar and Leo Stefanski, plus Marjorie Davis and her son-in-law Tommy Martin.

Jose Alvarez Tovar

Alvarez, 34, had five brothers and three sisters. Like several of his relatives, Tovar made his living as a rock and construction worker.

He was married to Maria del Carmen Hernandez and had two sons – 8-year-old Juan Jose Tovar and 5-year-old Eleodoro Giovanni Tovar.

Tovar’s funeral service was held Monday morning at St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church on Acton Highway. He was a member of the Catholic Church.

He was born Oct. 18, 1978, in San Miguel Allende, Mexico, and was buried in Mexico.

Leo Stefanski

Stefanski, 83, worked as a house painter and in body shop repair, according to a former employer, Ron Sinn of Granbury, who had known him for about 35 years. His residence was on Tumbleweed Lane, one of the hardest-hit areas in Rancho Brazos.

Stefanski was a military veteran who often spent time at the nearby American Legion Hall on Davis Road.

“He was well-liked down there,” said Sinn, who owned four rent houses on that block. “He got along with everybody. He was a nice guy.”

He had two daughters and one son, along with an unknown number of step-children, Sinn noted.

Sinn said that arrangements have been made for Stefanski’s body to be cremated, according to his written wishes.

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