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Cross carved in tree will stay on land after house destroyed by tornado

EAST MOLINE --Donna Morford is about one month away from moving into her new home, but she is adamant about keeping an unusual reminder of last year's tornado in her front yard.

"It was a great big oak tree. That's all that's left of it. The day after the storm the Red Cross, a gentleman asked me if it would be okay to carve a cross in that tree. That is staying, yes," she said.

The tree that was sheared by the tornado has a cross carved with a chain saw in its center, a view from Morford's new front porch.

"It's a reminder," she said. "Of what's important."

It took Morford almost a year to have the heart to tear down the family farmhouse after the  tornado hit the 155-year-old homestead.

She finally relented.

Now, after staying at family and friend's homes for nearly a year-and-a-half, Morford will move into the new one-story house on the land once settled by her great-grandparents.

Not rebuilding  was not an option.

"This is home. I was born in the farmhouse, in the front room. My dad and his sisters were born out here. This is home," she said.

When the tornado hit, Morford's story went viral because her antique wedding gown was sucked out of the attic, and found days later, miles away across the river in LeClaire, Iowa.

It's been a long recovery, but Morford was thrilled that a little bit of the old homestead could be incorporated into the new.

The fireplace construction includes some old floorboard and door trim from the farmhouse.

"I envisioned that but I never though I'd find anyone to do that," she said, complimenting the work of Hazelwood Homes  out of Geneseo.

Building a home, and starting over wasn't easy. Especially at 78-years-old.

But Morford says she's grateful and excited, to move in to the brand new home with the old tree in the front yard.

"Just get up every morning and be grateful I can open my eyes and see another day," she said.