Jennifer Davis-Irwin remembers her father as someone who loved working on motorcycles, loved cooking bacon, eggs and cheeseburgers in the morning — “two bad things for you” — and loved being around family.
But she also remembers him as a hero.
Around 11 p.m. last Monday night, an EF-2 tornado, with winds up to 135 mph, landed north of the West Tennessee city of Camden. Jennifer Davis-Irwin said when the tornado came for her father’s mobile home, he acted to save his sleeping girlfriend.
“He ran towards her from the back of the trailer and jumped on top of her so she wouldn’t get hurt and saved her life,” Davis-Irwin said.
She said that’s what Patrica Kendall told her in the hospital recovering from gashes and cuts. The county emergency management agency director said Kendall and 67-year-old Carl Frazee were thrown out in a field from their trailer.
Their home was one of seven in the county that were completely destroyed. Emergency responders had to cut through fallen trees to reach them. Frazee was responsive when he was found, but he didn’t survive.
“He meant a lot to me, that’s for sure,” Davis-Irwin said. “He was the most giving person. He would do anything for you.”
Davis-Irwin said she had gotten closer with her father in the past four years, ever since her sister died in a car accident. She would often pick up her father to drive him places because he didn’t have a driver’s license. She would have his back, she said, and he would have hers.
Kendall and Frazee lived together in Benton County for decades after meeting in California, building up their mobile home over the years.
“They fixed up that trailer to be so beautiful and put in so much time and effort. And we all helped,” David-Irwin said. “And now it’s just blown to pieces.”
Davis-Irwin said Kendall and Frazee didn’t have insurance on their home, a structure that now lays in pieces near Bethel Church Road. But she said the community is rallying to help her and others affected start to recover.
Apex Bank in Camden is setting up a donation fund. Local businesses and the Camden Police Department are accepting items, including clothing. And the First United Methodist Church in Camden has invited volunteers and those impacted to a weekly church dinner that volunteer cook leads every Thursday.
“He always fixes so much food. Whenever we’re feeding 50 people, you can probably feed 200,” said Laura Lamb, a member of the church. “We were already serving, and we always have an abundance.”
Benton County Sheriff Kenny Christopher said people from outside counties are also helping clean up the area.
“We’ve just received an outpouring of clothing, food, anything you can imagine,” said Kenny Christopher, Benton County Sheriff. “I think we got everything as good as it can be, with the amount of damage we had.”
Meanwhile, the National Weather Service is finalizing preliminary survey results from the tornado.
Samantha Wright, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Memphis, said the tornado in Benton County was very likely the same storm cell that killed 24 other people in Davidson, Wilson and Putnam counties.
“Just started over in Carroll County and kind of got bigger and better, went to Benton County and just continued,” Wright said.
A service was held Sunday for Frazee in Camden. Davis-Irwin said she’s following his dad’s wishes by having some of his ashes spread near one of his favorite creeks.
Though her dad had another idea for a service when he was alive.
“He wanted me to have him a big party and everybody get drunk. I said ‘I can’t do that daddy,’” she said with a laugh. “That’s what type of person he was.”