Remembering Scott Schlefke and the West Bend tornado of April 4, 1981 | By James Maersch

April 4, 2020 – West Bend, WI –  While teaching at Green Tree School I would play baseball with the students during  noon recess.

Students would line up and be assigned “in or out” and we would begin.  I was the pitcher because I had the squishy softball.

The game was going nicely when who should step up to bat but little Scotty Schlefke.  After missing eight pitches in a row I called a time out and approached Scotty indicating I was going to tell him a secret.  All of the students knew about this and shouted, “The object of the game is to hit the ball.”

And Scotty did.  The ball  landed right at my feet.  I looked around to see where the ball went while everyone shouted, “It’s right in front of you!”  By this time Scotty was rounding first base.

While reaching down to pick up the ball, I “accidentally” kicked it and was looking around to find the ball..  Scotty was now rounding second base.

Finally “finding” the ball I picked it up to see Scotty rounding third base.  Running as fast as I could, I chased after Scotty and  just missed tagging him out at home plate.

Scotty had hit a home run.

That night we had a tornado.  The next morning they found little Scotty Schlefke in the wreckage of his home.

A tree was planted at Green Tree School in his name.

Saturday, April 4 will be 39 years since a tornado struck West Bend. It happened in the middle of the night on April 4, 1981. Members of the West Bend Fire Department remember the call.

“It was a long night… a very long night.”

“The train had just gone through and I thought… the trains coming through again,” said Mike Tennies.  “The fire department did a great job along with the police department.”

“I was at home and thought it was just a fire call and I didn’t know what we had until I got to the station and then it was all hands on deck,” said James Hodge.  “A lot of the equipment had flat tires. We were up there changing tires on equipment. It was a long cold night.”








Tornado April 4, 1981tornado

Click HERE to see the rest of the report from the American Meteorological Society.

Janet Meisenheimer was a nurse at St. Joseph’s Hospital in West Bend in 1981 when the tornado hit the north side of the community. “The code was Dr. Blue or Dr. White and that meant to be prepared for bad storms in the area,” she said. “A little bit after midnight there was a baby delivered … but on the outside the storm was hitting badly.”

Staff made plans to evacuate and “we lined up all the cribs of the babies just in case we had to go to a lower floor.”

Janet Meisenheimer also remembered how vital the nuns were to the hospital. They lived on site in a small dormitory and they always were on call. Meisenheimer remembered Sr. Loretta and how critical she was when it came to delivering babies.

Click HERE for a photo gallery from Badger Firefighters Association.

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