The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Tornado victims: What we know about some of the lives lost in Kentucky

Betty Washington searches for items in a storage facility that was damaged by a tornado as she shows a picture of her cousin Robert Daniel (in striped shirt) on Dec. 13 in Mayfield, Ky. (Joshua Lott/The Washington Post)
Placeholder while article actions load

The string of tornadoes that tore through parts of the Midwest and the South last week left behind destruction and debris — and families across nine states still searching for their loved ones. In Kentucky alone, one of the hardest-hit areas of the tornado outbreak, at least 74 people are dead, Gov. Andy Beshear (D) has said. The number may still climb.

Here’s what we know about some of the people who lost their lives.

An elderly couple still deeply in love, their bodies found together

They were still deeply in love, having renewed their marriage vows just a few years earlier, in a ceremony that re-created their wedding day. They died by each other’s sides, and the bodies of Billy and Judy Miller were found in the debris of their home, wrecked by the tornado that struck Bremen, Ky. The septuagenarian couple’s granddaughter Haley Burton told The Washington Post “there was no other love like theirs.”

Billy, a veteran who ran the family farm, and Judy, a homemaker, documented 56 years of marriage in photographs that following the storm were found by strangers and shared on social media — taking the final chapter of their love story to the world. Read more.

County jail worker who protected inmates in his last moments

Robert Daniel, a 47-year-old deputy jailer at the Graves County Jail, was one of the eight people killed at the Mayfield Consumer Products candle factory, which was flattened by a tornado in Kentucky. The father of seven had called his younger brother the day before the tragedy to tell him he was excited to start a supervising role that would put seven detainees in a work-release program under his charge. Daniel, a doting grandfather, was described by his family as no-nonsense but big-hearted — the perfect combination for his new job.

Graves County Jailer George Workman said Daniel’s last act was one of heroism. “The last thing he did was making sure [the inmates] were taken care of, even at his own peril,” Workman told The Post, his voice faltering. Read more.

Four family members part of a tightknit Amish community

Jacob and Emma Gingerich, both 31, lived in a mobile home in Mayfield, Ky., and were relative newcomers, moving to the city in 2020 with their five children. Part of the local Amish community, the family of seven adhered to ideals of simplicity and were well loved by their neighbors. Searchers found the bodies of the couple and two of their children, 7-year-old Marilyn and 4-year-old Daniel, over the weekend. The three remaining children are alive.

The loss of four members of a single family has shattered the area’s Amish community, part of a conservative sect that believes in remaining separate from the modern world. By Monday, relatives and mourners had gathered to grieve in the rural area south of Mayfield, filing past the bodies and singing hymns, in keeping with custom. Read more.

A 5-month-old baby, one of the youngest victims

Chase Oglesby was part of this world for only five months. His great-grandfather Robert “Bobby” Pierce, 72, said the tornado picked up his grandson’s trailer and tossed it into a tree. Chase’s parents, Andrew Oglesby and his wife, Charity, were flung out of the trailer; both survived but were critically injured.

The infant is one of the youngest victims so far of the devastating tornadoes. Beshear, the governor, said at least six of the dead in Kentucky were children. Read more.