Howe and Richeart (Richards), OK Tornado Destruction, May 1961


Poteau, Okla. (AP) -- Storm clouds that blanketed eastern Oklahoma late Friday spat out a vicious tornado that tore through two tiny communities near here, killing at least 14.
Ten were reported dead at Howe and four at Richeart. The death toll could go higher as rescue workers dug into the debris.
The known injured stood at 40.
There was a report a light plane -- flying frantically to avoid the massive storm cloud -- crashed after a wing tore off.
The highway patrol said a woman who lived in the area reported she saw the plane go down west of Heavener near Summerfield.
It was a grim anniversary for this rolling, wooded area some 200 miles southeast of Oklahoma City. Just one year ago 12 were killed when a twister destroyed most of the downtown area of Wilburton.
Tornadoes had plagued Oklahoma for two days, but until Friday night there had just been one fatality from the scores of funnels sighted.
Two of the dead were babies. One father died with his 3-month-old son and a mother with her 14-month-old boy.
Tiny farms are scattered throughout the twister-pounded area. Reports of twisters came from other areas of eastern Oklahoma.
The little hamlet of Richeart was hit first. Then the tornado plowed through Howe.
Both towns are located in the hill country of southeastern Oklahoma near Lake Wister.
KENNETH WELLS of the fire department said four persons had been killed in Howe, another 40 hospitalized with injuries. WELLS said four others were killed in Richards, a community of 25 persons.
EDWARD MORRIS, manager of the telephone company at Red Oaks, said he sighted the twister as he drove near Richards.
"We could see it ripping up trees. It hit Richards first," said MORRIS, "and then practically destroyed Howe. Buildings were torn down as far as I could see."
HALL COPELAND of Poteau, who visited Howe shortly after the tornado, said, "It looked like the twister went right through the middle of town."
COPELAND said three churches were demolished, about 30 homes were destroyed and all of the business buildings were damaged or destroyed.
"There were several people walking around in the debris with head injuries," said COPELAND. "One woman was crying and hysterical."
The injured were hospitalized here.
A Red Oak telephone operator said she received an emergency telephone call from E. O. DEHART, a service station operator at Leflore who went to Richeart.
"I can't find anybody in Richards," the operator quoted DEHART as saying. "All the homes I went to were destroyed. Everybody seems to have disappeared."
A twister also slammed into the edge of Hugo about 100 miles southwest of here. The highway patrol reported several buildings at the northeast edge of the town were destroyed, but apparently there were no casualties.
The dead at Howe were tentatively identified as:
BURT BREASHEARS, 25, and his 3-month-old son.
MRS. W. P. WASSON, 75.
CORA LEE SPATZ, about 80.
Killed at Richeart were:
MRS. WILEY LLOYD, and her 14-month-old son.

The Abilene Reporter-News Texas 1961-05-06
(Transcriber's Note: In the article, the town is called both "Richeart" and "Richards".)


Great Aunt/Grandmother killed in this storm

My Great Aunt Cora, listed here as Cora Lee Spatz but I think it's Spaight, was killed instantly when the tornado hit her home. She was Ill and sitting in bed and my grandmother was sitting with her. My grandmother was carried some miles and died 3 days later. Im looking for family on my Aunt Cora's side her maiden name was Turner.
My contact is Hawks family 77 at msn dot com. Thank you.