DEKALB COUNTY, Ala. – Perry Michaels knew he was simply borrowing his parents, but he didn’t know the due date would some so soon.
“We know we are going to lose them at one time,” said Perry, “but you never expect it to be so sudden and such devastation we had. I knew they were getting older, but I still thought I had plenty of time. If I could tell anybody anything, live for the day, enjoy your family every day.”
Martha and William, better known as Buddy, Michaels were two months shy of their anniversary when they died.
“If they made it to June, they would have been married 50 years,” Perry said.
Over the years, Buddy worked as a carpenter, while also serving as a pastor.
“He lived a very simple life,” said Perry. “Working, support your family, support your church, live your life for the Lord.”
Meanwhile, his mother, Martha, lived up to her role of caregiver.
“She was a homemaker,” he said. “She was always there for us. She put her children, my dad above her wants. She wanted us to have better than what she had.”
The couple raised four children together in Higdon, near the Jackson-DeKalb county line.
“They truly, truly lived for one another,” he said.
Buddy had called his land along County Road 814 home for most of his life and that area saw its fair share of storms over the years.
“I know of four different tornadoes that went through that property,” said Perry.
On April 27, 2011, a tornado originating just northeast of Section intensified to an EF-4 as it crossed from Jackson County into DeKalb County, killing 12 people.
“It picked their home up and took it across the road and dropped it down from the direction the storm was coming from,” he said. “My brother and another man were in the home with them. They both survived with slight injuries.”
Buddy and Martha, however, did not make it. They were that tornado’s last victims.
“You wonder if they suffered,” said Perry. “Even today you worry what they went through, what they felt, but I know my mother, she truly did not want to live in this life without Daddy.”
After nearly 50 years together, the beloved couple left this earth together.
Martha Michaels was 72 years old.
Buddy Michaels, 70 years old.
“When it first happened, you wake up in the morning that’s the first thing you think of and it’s all day long,” said Perry. “You lay down at night that’s on your mind. Ten years later, I still think of them.”
The two are buried side-by-side at Oak Lawn Memorial Park in Bryant. The family had a special Bible verse engraved on their headstones.
“It says in the scripture ‘the Lord has His way in the whirlwind and the storms.’ So, He has a plan for everything and that was part of His plan,” said Perry.
The pain of losing them has subsided some, but the appreciation for them only grows.
“I was very blessed to have known them and have the role models that I did. Very thankful for the life that they lived in front of us and the way they helped shape us and help us get started on our path,” he said.
Perry and his siblings only recovered a handful of their parents’ possessions after the storm, like several of their father’s bibles, but the most treasured gifts remain.
“We have very few items that were theirs,” he said, “but the true mementos are what they give us growing up.”