Oklahoman escapes collective tragedy in OK to deal with personal one

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- There are many connections between the rural ranch life in Oklahoma and Wisconsin's farming community. FOX6 News found one Oklahoman in Milwaukee on Tuesday, May 21st -- reflecting on the tornado that struck Moore, Oklahoma one day earlier.

Inside Milwaukee's Mitchell International Airport, where OKC is another airport on the list of departures, there was only passing concern for the tragedy unfolding nearly 900 miles away.

Outside, waiting for his ride, anchored in leather boots was Jon Gevelinger carrying his baggage.

"I grew up showing livestock," Gevelinger said.

Stoic and soft-spoken, this cowboy moved from Mineral Point, Wisconsin to Stillwater, Oklahoma years ago. He lives just north of where the tornado touched down.

"If you're watching the coverage on TV, it just doesn't do it justice. It truly is -- it'll look like a war zone   You can't even -- places where there's Home Depots and Walmarts (huge structures), movie theatres, you won't be able to tell any sign of that structure yet.  Like they said, the debris ball was 2.5 miles wide.  There won't be anything left.  It'll just be a crumpled up mess," Gevelinger said.

On the ground in Milwaukee, he was removed from the collective tragedy of the tornado, and home in Wisconsin to confront a personal one.

"My grandfather passed away on Monday. He was a long-time farmer in southwest Wisconsin. That's where my roots are. That's where my passion comes from for farming.  So he was a great man and lived a great life," Gevelinger said.

Even though the tornado has taken so much from his beloved Oklahoma, the tragedy has also given him something: the gift of perspective.

"When tragedies like this happen, it humbles you and what you think is important really needs to be important. We start complaining about things and it really grounds you and makes you think about what's important and what needs to be held closer to your heart than other things," Gevelinger said.

Gevelinger will lay his grandfather Joe to rest in Mineral Point on Thursday before heading back to Oklahoma.