By Matt Helm
BELVIDERE ─ The Boone County Historical Society is looking to speak to eyewitnesses of the April 21, 1967 Belvidere tornado for an upcoming publication entitled “The Belvidere Tornado: 50 Years Later.”
“The tornado was one of the biggest historical events in Belvidere history,” Executive Director of the Boone County Historical Museum Anna Pivoras said. “We are looking for compelling, untold stories from survivors for possible inclusion in the book.”
The book is not a reprint of the 40th anniversary edition, but is a completely revised body of work.
“There’s a lot of redundancy in the original book and we are deciding what we should consolidate,” Boone County Historical Society member and author Mike Doyle said. “We are seeking fresh perspectives and primary sources.”
The original book was self-published and each page was created from scratch at Belvidere High School.
“We realized that we were starting to lose members of the community who experienced the tornado to old age so the need for a book was there,” Doyle said. “We had a short time to produce the book and had to edit it line by line. It was printed by a yearbook representative. The first 1,000 copies sold out fast, and the second order of 500 went too.”
The new book is funded by the Boone County Historical Museum and all proceeds will return to the museum. It will be published by The History Press of Charleston, S.C.
“This time we are using an actual publishing company,” Pivoras said. “The layout will be professionally designed and the content will be updated with new points of view, including information on tornados that have happened in the area since then.”
This is the fifth historical book Mike Doyle has been involved in the creation process.
Tornado 2“We are committed to print 500 copies of the new book right now, but hopefully that’s a small number,” Doyle said. “We are using a national publisher and there are a lot of people interested in natural disaster history. Somebody in Florida could buy the new edition online. The online presence is definitely a selling factor.”
The Belvidere tornado of 1967 hit the area when Belvidere High School was dismissed. There were 24 fatalities, 17 of which were children. More than 500 people were injured and more than 100 homes and 12 businesses were destroyed.
“In my interviews with survivors I remember the story of Jim Lane, a fire chief at the time who was at the high school to pick up his daughter,” Doyle said. “He got picked up and dropped by the vortex twice, once while holding on to the bumper of his car. Both he and his daughter survived.”
“The Belvidere Tornado: 50 Years Later” will be available for purchase by the April 21, 2017 anniversary.
“We need to get this process going and we have a lot of work ahead of us because the deadline is in September,” Pivoras said. “We are looking for stories that haven’t been told, along with photographs and documents that haven’t been seen. As the date approaches we are also definitely going to have a book launch.”
Eyewitnesses and survivors of the 1967, 2008, 2010 and 2015 tornados interested in being interviewed for “The Belvidere Tornado: 50 Years Later” should contact the Belvidere Historical Society at (815) 544-2580 or at

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