Mother of 16-year-old storm victim loses 2nd child in a year

vhoneycutt@herald-leader.com; bestep@herald-leader.comMarch 6, 2012 

Patricia Shepherd said that on March 2, 2011, she buried her 16-year-old daughter Sara Shepherd, who had died a few days earlier in a car wreck at Paintsville.

Exactly a year later — March 2, 2012 — Shepherd's 16-year-old son Sean Shepherd died from injuries sustained when a tornado hit a friend's mobile home at Middle Fork at Johnson County.

"That's the only two children I had," Patricia Shepherd said. "It's unbearable."

Shepherd is among family members and friends who have begun gathering at funeral homes to remember the 22 victims of Friday's killer storms.

Sean Shepherd attended Prestonsburg High School. He enjoyed volunteering to help children learn gymnastics, his mother recalled. He also loved to stay with his friend Greg Perry, 20, who died with him at Perry's home. "They were close, like brothers," Patricia Shepherd said.

In Northern Kentucky, Laura Atha remembered the last moments for Greg Brooks, the boyfriend with whom she shared her life for 14 years. Atha said she called Brooks on his cell phone when he was driving in Kenton County on Friday. He was a truck driver and contractor who was coming home from a job site.

"I had warned him that he needed to take cover, to get out of the truck because he was headed right into the bad part of the storm. I was watching it at work. We had it up on our computers," Atha said.

Ten minutes later, she said, Brooks called her.

"The secretary answered the phone. All she could hear was the high winds blowing, and she heard him yelling.

"By the time I got to the phone, all I could hear was the high wind. I knew something bad had happened," said Atha.

Brooks died along U.S. 25, Kenton Deputy Coroner Ron Cook said. Wind threw the truck off the road and into a field.

In Laurel County, Debbie Allen, 49, had worked in accounting at the hospital in London (once called Marymount, now Saint Joseph London) for about 15 years, said her mother, Cassie Gray of Manchester.

Allen loved to decorate her home and yard and was always willing to help people, her mother said. People who lived near Allen and her husband, Sherman Dewayne Allen, on Little Arthur Ridge said they were good neighbors.

Sherman Dewayne Allen, also 49, had been a truck driver for Laurel Grocery since 2003, delivering groceries to retailers throughout the region, said Rick McDaniel, transportation director for the company.

Allen was friendly and liked to joke, McDaniel said: "He made the office better when he was in here."

Menifee County Sheriff Rodney Coffey said Vershal Brown ran a wrecker service. He was well past retirement age, but worked every day, Coffey said.

Brown was always ready to help people, Coffey said.

"He was a remarkable man," Coffey said. "Day or night, if you called him and he could help you, he would be there."

Another who died in the Menifee storm, Beverly Bowman, was married to Ronnie Bowman, and they had owned a grocery store but had sold it, Coffey said.

"Outstanding people in the community," Coffey said.

In Laurel County, Doris Harris said her sister Ethel Pruitt had worked many years for the phone company in London, then worked for awhile at the Old Marymount Hospital in London before retiring to care for her husband, who was ill.

Pruitt was a goodhearted person who loved animals. She had four dogs and some cats. Rescuers found one of her dogs sitting next to the debris where they found Pruitt's body after the tornado destroyed her mobile home.

"Like he was watching over her," Harris said.

Reach Valarie Honeycutt Spears at (859) 231-3409. Twitter: @vhspears

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