Huddled in the half-bathroom beneath the stairs in her Arnold Court building, Venicia Hokenson thought her time was up.
“I said, ‘Here I am Lord, take me.’ And then it was over,” she said, recounting her narrow escape from a Nov. 17 tornado. “I didn’t have time to be scared.”
She’d come downstairs just minutes before, down stairs she’s traveled thousands of times, both to exit the building and to see her friends in the beauty salons below.
Talk of the Town, Hair Trends by Edie and Deb’s Hair Design, all situated on the ground floor of a building on the north side of Arnold Court, provided a never-ending cast of characters for Hokenson to talk with. Hokenson is universally known to the ladies at the salons as “Grandma” or simply “Grams.”
The salons were closed that Sunday, but Hokenson, in her upstairs apartment, had been watching the progress of the vicious storms blowing in from the west. About three minutes before the tornado destroyed her apartment, she decided she’d better move.
“I got a call on my cellphone, and she said she was downstairs in the bathroom, and that some glass in my front door had been broken, but don’t worry, I’ll be OK,” recalled Hokenson’s good friend, Sandy Griffin, owner of Talk of the Town. “Of course I went straight over there, and the hallway had caved in and we had a skylight.”
Hokenson’s escape from the bathroom, under the stairs in the caved-in hallway, settled at least one thing. The 78-year-old, who’d lived in the same apartment since 1985, would be coming to live at Griffin’s house.
“I’m actually glad this happened,” Griffin said Friday. “It answered a lot of prayers for me. It got me out of the stress of owning a business and it finally convinced Venicia to come live with me. I’d been asking her for a while, but she said she was going to a nursing home.”