St. John Parish, family and friends
mourn loss, celebrate a miracle
By CHARLENE SCOTT
Special to the Register
ST. JOHN, KANSAS -- St. John the Apostle Parish in St. John mourns the death of a mother and son in violent winds of an EF2 tornado that yanked a large tree from its roots and flung it onto the family’s car May 24 in rural Stafford County.
Linda Gleason, 56, wife of Jim Gleason, and their son Jeffrey, 17, were killed and daughter Kristin, 21, injured when a cottonwood tree crushed the car after Linda drove into a driveway off U.S. 281.
“It was a terrible and tremendous loss for us,” said Sister Catherine Therese Paulie, St. John’s Parish Life Coordinator. “We lost our organist (Linda) and our cantor (Jeffrey). They were our music ministry.”
Kristin, who was pinned in the wreckage and unable to reach her cell phone, was hospitalized after she flagged down a passing trucker by waving her arm out the car window.
“It took rescuers an hour and five minutes to get her out,” Sister Paulie reported. “Jim calls her his ‘miracle child.’ She didn’t suffer any broken bones, and everybody believes she will re-gain the feeling in her leg where broken glass just missed an important nerve.”
The parish held a wake for mother and son attended by hundreds of their students, classmates, friends, and relatives whose lives were so influenced by the couple.
“The young people told their memories of them, and wrote messages on a memory board that will be put into a scrapbook,” Sister Paulie said.
“Jeffrey was manager of the [high school] sports teams: volleyball and track, and Linda was a 4-H Club teacher. One boy recalled that he made and cut several pans of brownies for her before they were the right size.”
A member of the diocesan choir, Jeffrey sang for the ordination of the Dodge City Diocese’s new bishop, the Most Rev. John Brungardt, on Feb. 2.
“He had a voice that just boomed,” recalled his paternal grandmother Darlene Gleason of Spearville, where her son Jim and Linda married in 1987 at St. John the Baptist Church.
“He was practicing to sing for the ordination of the new priest [Father Donald Bedore, ordained May 28], and was in all the school plays. He was such a lovable boy.”
She described her grandson’s mother, Linda, long-time treasurer of the St. John Altar Society, as “just a wonderful person. She was always doing things for other people. We all loved her. She was a good, good woman.”
Linda worked for the Stafford County Extension Office from 1985 to 1991, and initiated the annual Holiday House Tour in St. John. She served as the 4-H Club leader of Jolly Workers, where her son was current president. He also had been inducted into the National Honor Society.
Teresa Suttle of Our Lady of Guadalupe Cathedral in Dodge City said she requested prayer for the family “for their peace of mind” from the church’s 35-member prayer group. Her brother-in-law Pat Gleason is one of Jim Gleason’s six brothers.
Father Floyd McKinney celebrated the funeral Mass May 31 at St. John Church. Burial was at the Fairview Park Cemetery in St. John.