Survivors who took shelter in Grubsteakers on April 9 speak abou - – Rockford’s News Leader

Survivors who took shelter in Grubsteakers on April 9 speak about that day


Ray and Betty Kramer have been through a lot in their nearly 50 years of marriage.

During that time, Ray has learned when Betty talks, he listens. He calls her the queen, and takes heed to her words. That life lesson nearly saved his life on April 9, 2015, according to Ray.

"I glanced out as I pulled up as I'm pulling up the stop sign... and saw the tornado behind the barn swirling and coming this way,” Ray said.

“At that time, the queen said, 'There's a restaurant, let's stop and get a sandwich.'"

"She didn't have to say it twice. I obeyed the queen."

Ray had seen the EF-4 tornado that later destroyed parts of Fairdale and Rochelle. Grubsteakers Restaurant, where Ray and Betty went to eat, was right in its path.

Other patrons of the restaurant on that night remember the atmosphere before the tornado struck.

"You just heard the creaking and the pounding, the pounding and the creaking, above us," said Maryann Lalowski.

"It was a really weird sky. We had never seen anything like that," said Pat Arndt.

12 people were hiding in the cellar outside Grubsteakers when the tornado hit the building. After the tornado, rescuers pulled the 12 survivors out one by one. 

5 Grubsteakers survivors meet and talk about the tornado

(From left to right: Ray and Betty Kramer, MaryAnn Lalowski and Pat and Rae Arnet)

One year later, five of the survivors are back together; Pat and Rae Arnet, regulars at Grubsteakers, MaryAnn Lalowski, who stopped in April 9 when her cell phone alerted her of a tornado alert, and the Kramers.

They were once strangers who now share a common bond and a life changing moment. However, they'll soon create new memories. Grubsteakers is rebuilding. Opening day is still a few weeks away but these survivors are already making plans to come back.

"We are approaching our 50th anniversary. We are going to reserve it for our 50th anniversary celebration," Ray Kramer said.

"It's going to be so much fun," Betty Kramer said.

They're creating a new life event in a place the Kramers say now feels like home. The new Grubsteakers is expected to open this spring.

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