‘He was a good dad’: Local radio personality remembers father who died during 2016 floods

1000-year-flood anniversary

BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — Keith Thompson was a devoted son to his parents, Edward and Gerda. He was raised in Rainelle. His father was a veteran and dedicated more than 40 years to Kroger. They were close.

“Dad was a pretty easy going individual, but we talked often, and I visited often,” Keith explained.

Keith’s parents lived on 14th Street in Rainelle, close to Sewell Creek. They were no strangers to flooding, but Keith was still worried as relentless rain pounded the region on June 23, 2016.

“I called my parents and I talked to my mother and said what is the situation and she said the water came up, but it’s going back down,” Keith said.

But the rain did not let up, and the water continued to rise.

“I called again, and they said the water had come back up and they had moved some things,” Keith recalled.

That was the last time Keith would talk to his parents that night. Neighbors tried to get to their house, but the water was just too high. Keith was finally able to get ahold of his friend and firefighter who assured as soon as there was a raft available, he would rescue Keith’s parents.

“I didn’t know if mom and dad were still in the house, I didn’t know if they tried to get out of the house and had been washed down the way, I didn’t know anything,” Keith explained.

So Keith watched the radar and waited. Then in early morning hours, his phone rang.

“Ten minutes to 2 a.m., my phone rang, and it was George and he said hey man, I got your mom, I got her on a boat and she’s on her way to a hospital. And I said ok, now what about dad. And he said I don’t know any other way to tell you Keith, but he didn’t make it,” Keith said.

Keith did not have a lot of time to process what happened. He got his mom from the hospital and they immediately began to clean-up the damage.

“I think one of the hardest things for my mother, besides the fact that she lost her husband of 60-plus years, was watching her life get thrown out in the front yard,” Keith said.

With the help of dozens of volunteers, Keith rebuilt his parents’ house. His mother was able to live in it for about a month before she passed away, just four months after his father died.

“You’re going to miss them. I was very lucky, I had both of my parents for 55 years. That’s a long, long time to live on this earth and have both of your parents. And I miss them every day,” Keith said.

Five years later, and it is still tough.

“Some of it seems like it’s yesterday, and there are times it seems like it’s 15-20 years ago. I don’t think there’s a day that goes by that I don’t think about that,” Keith recalled.

The flood waters took so much from so many people that June, but nothing could ever take the love Keith has for his father and the memories they share.

“He was just a good man; he was a good dad. And you can’t ask for more than that,” Keith said.

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