Church bells tolled in mourning Tuesday afternoon at St. Joseph Church as students from Calvert Catholic Schools filed in for a service to remember Madeline Hostler. The child died June 22, 1913, as a result of exposure during Tiffin's 1913 flood that claimed the life of her father, Ray Hostler. Madeline, only 5 months old, was buried with Ray.
While doing research about the disaster, Calvert High School students consulted with Lisa Swickard. The local author had learned about Madeline's death while writing her book, "Calamity and Courage," in which she collected oral accounts about the flood. When Swickard went to the cemetery to view the grave markers of flood victims, she was not able to find a headstone for Madeline.
The Calvert students decided to collect donations to purchase a small marker crafted by Welly's Monuments. During Tuesday's service, Rev. Joseph Szybka and Rev. Michael Roemmele blessed Madeline's grave stone. A small group of students took it to St. Joseph Cemetery after the service.
At the start of the ceremony, Seth Innis sang the "Litany for the Feast of All Souls" in German, as would have been done in 1913. Calvert High School student Margaret Bowers read the names of the flood victims from 1913 as other students filled a vase with white carnations. In addition to the 19 who died in Tiffin, Clara (Wendelin) Burkhardt and Paul Burkhardt perished in the flood while visiting in Columbus.
Szybka also blessed a wreath for the grave of John Canty Jr., in St. Mary Cemetery, and a larger one to adorn the Klingshirn monument in St. Joseph Cemetery.
The wreaths will not be placed until after the public memorial service at 3:30 p.m. Sunday in the former Washington Street United Methodist Church.
In a short homily, Szybka said Catholics honor the dead as they pass into eternal life, but they find it difficult to cope with deaths as tragic as those resulting from the flood. The Klingshirn children ranged in age from 2 to 19. Some were the same ages as the school children in attendance. Mrs. Klingshirn also died when the family home was swept away, leaving the father, George Klingshirn Sr., as the sole survivor.
Szybka reminded the congregation of more recent disasters, such as the tornado of 2002 and the house fire in Republic less than a year ago. Such events continue to take lives and sadden those who survive. He added it is important to remember deceased loved ones as he offered a final blessing.
"For all of those who perished suddenly and tragically in the flood of 1913. May a remembrance of them and all who died sudden and tragic deaths remind us that human life is fragile, vulnerable, precious," Szybka said.
To conclude the service, everyone joined in singing "Nearer My God to Thee."