Roughly 30 minutes before a tornado ripped apart her home on Friday night, Marsha Hall, 72, sent a separate text to each of her three children, telling them she loved them. It was the last time they would hear from her.
Hall and her sister, Carole Grisham, 80, took cover in their hallway as a tornado roared around them. Nearly 12 hours later, the two sisters were found dead among the rubble, several houses away from their own in Dawson Springs, Kentucky.
“Everybody thought the world of them,” said Jason Cummins, Hall’s son, with tears in his eyes. “They were the sweetest, nicest people who were always thinking about everyone else before themselves.”
The only thing that now stands on their property is a small pole with an American flag that their families found in the rubble on Monday and repositioned in honor of the elderly sisters. They had close to 25 seasonal flags, according to Hall’s son, which they loved to fly throughout the year, a constantly changing effort that reflected their colorful spirit.
The shock of their deaths rippled across town in the days following the storm. They were two of at least 13 who died here, with several more still missing.
“My children loved them,” said Breeana Glisson, who lived next door and who was thrown down the street along with her two kids during the storm. “We talked to them every day.”
Cummins, Hall’s son, was monitoring the storms Friday night from his home in Nashville and got on the phone to warn them Dawson Springs could take a direct hit. He said they ran to hide in a hallway, and then he lost all communications with them after receiving the final “I love you” text from his mom.
“I just texted them afterwards asking if they were all right,” he said. “I didn’t hear anything back. The text didn’t go through.”
So Cummins got on the road to make the 70-mile drive north to Dawson Springs. He arrived at 2:30 a.m., parked downtown in the dark because of the debris blocking the roads, and hiked up to the hilltop where their home was located. He couldn’t recognize a thing.
“I just got here, and I just hollered,” he said, his voice shaking as he recalled the horrific night. “I just hollered for them.”
After searching with no success, he returned at daylight and continued looking.
He found them — together — several houses away in the rubble later Saturday morning. They had already passed.
Neighbors and friends described them as pillars in the community and best friends who took care of each other. “Neither one of them could imagine life without the other,” Cummins said.
Marsha Hall is survived by three children and one grandchild. Carole Grisham is survived by two children, four grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.
They both grew up in Dawson Springs and worked at the local funeral home at different points in their lives, following in the footsteps of their mother, who did the same. They greeted people, put out flowers, and carried out other preparation duties for funerals.
They were also known for their love of animals, with one Doxen named “Smokey” and three stray cats who they adopted. Three of the four pets have been found, all deceased.
For years, Cummins would routinely text his mother and aunt every morning at 5:30 a.m. on the dot with a kind message: “Good morning. I love you.” If he was just minutes late on some days, he would get a call from his mother, asking if he was OK or if he has overslept.
“I just don’t get to do that anymore,” Cummins said, standing in the dark next to the flagpole and crying as his sister embraced him.
Cummins said the sisters will be memorialized together at the funeral home where they dedicated so much of their time and energy helping others mourn.
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