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June 5, 1980
Landmark O.K. Farm leveled

By Jerry Shottenkirk
Independent Sports Writer

When Ogataul takes to the track in the $20,000-added Good Neighbor Stakes at Ak-Sar-Ben race track in Omaha Friday, he'll have no idea of what a victory could do for a few Grand Islanders.

Ogataul's birthplace, O.K. Farm Inc., located on South Locust just north of Kmart, was obliterated by a twister, as was most of that area.

"If he wins, it'll really lift our spirits," said Joe Corey, who owned and lived at the southern Grand Island site. "And we could really use that now."

Of the 17 horses at O.K. Farm at the time of the tornado, 16 were saved. Only one broodmare -- 10-year old Fleet Syl -- was killed during the storm. The surviving stock was moved by van to Doug Harrinton's thoroughbred farm about five miles north of the city.

Very few items were salvaged from the rubble that was once the giant, yellow house Islanders have looked at and admired since it was built in 1908. Included in the loss were several antiques, knick-knacks and figurines that Emma, Joe's wife, had saved throughout her life.

"People used to enjoy this place," Emma said. "I can even remember when I thought about selling it once, but nobody wanted me to. They said 'You can't sell it, it's a landmark'."

Mrs. Corey lived in the house since 1940, the year she married Gus Fonner.

Most of the valuable antiques she has collected are displayed in the Gus Fonner Memorial Rotunda at Stuhr Museum. But of those she kept at home, few are left.

She lost nearly all of her valuables during the storm. There has been on dollar damage loss set for the farm, but it is expected to run into the hundreds of thousands.

The barn, one of the most prominent structures at the far, was the first to go. The bright yellow building sat south of the house and faced west on South Locust.

According to Emma, the structure was built in 1905.

The property was among the first to be developed in Grand Island. In 1862, Henry Koenig and Fred Wiebe constructed the "O.K. Store" -- the first business in the Grand Island area.

When the tornado sirens sounded Tuesday, Joe and Emma took to the basement of their large home and stayed in it for most of the evening. Just after the twister devastated the area, Joe went out east of the house, where the horses were either grazing or standing in the barns.

"During the storm, I just couldn't wait till it was over so I could check the horses," Joe said. "We were more concerned about the horses than anything else. We were praying that they weren't suffering."

Fleet Syl, who was near her young foal Shottenkirk, a three-month old colt, suffered a dismembered leg after she apparently was hit by a flying object. She remained helpless and bled to death. Her colt, which came out of the situation with only minor injuries, was still relying on his mother for food. His diet will have to be turned to crushed grain and oats. Most young horses are not weaned until they are seven or eight months of age.

According to Harrington, who is housing the horses, most of the stock sustained minor bruises and cuts he said were not terminal.

The biggest surprise for the Coreys was all the help they had cleaning up and salvaging Wednesday morning. "We are ever so grateful to our friends," Joe said. "They had bulldozers and front-end leaders out there real early. At one time, there were 30 people or more here helping out."

The Coreys also received an offer from local horseman/businessman Ron Jones to take in his horses for awhile.

To most folks who were familiar with O.K. Farm, what happened Tuesday was a terrible injustice. It was one of the first established sites in Grand Island -- and one of the first to go.