Iconic Chester landmark destroyed in tornado

Illinois

CHESTER, Ill. – The tornado that pummeled Chester, Illinois did major damage to a home where 95-year-old Ralph Kipp has lived his entire life. Kipp took shelter in his first-floor bedroom when the tornado hit.

“He is wheelchair-bound so he wasn’t able to get to a basement or anything like that and fortunately he was on the first floor and not the second floor,” said Kipp’s son, Lyle.

Renter and restaurant owner next door, Barbara Bierman was worried about Mr. Kipp when the tornado sirens started sounding.

“I ran over here. He was in bed. And I talked to him a little bit and he said he thought he was protected in that corner of the house,” said Barbara Bierman of Barb’s Bounty Restaurant, Jams, and Jellies.

Bierman was still at work in the kitchen her gut instinct told her to stay at the restaurant.

“So in the meantime, my husband called and said you better get home and I said I just feel like I need to stay here and make sure he’s going to be okay,” said Bierman. 

After the tornado tore through the town she ran to check on her neighbor. 

“Looked over here and in a flash of lightning saw that the treetops were gone. And then I was a little worried,” said Bierman.

She said he was fine and that someone had already called him to see how he was doing. She said neither of them had any idea how bad the damage was at the time.

Bommarito Automotive Group Skyfox shows the extensive damage to the property.  The main house was built in 1860 and the former dairy barn flattened by the tornado was built in the 1920s and has been an icon here in Chester.  

“Everybody in Chester you know knew the barn. That was one of the first things if you drive through you’re like there’s a barn in the middle of town. It was an icon and it just was part of Chester,” said Bierman. 

Ralph Kipp’s son who lives in Naperville got a call a little after 10 last night. He drove through the night to come to help his father.

“So I knew he was fine. I had heard that the barn had been flattened. It was harder as you noted yourself to see the damage to the house. So I guess in terms of prepared or not prepared for what I saw the house was the most startling,” said Lyle Kipp.

They are all just grateful there were no injuries.

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