Tornado debris causes baptism certificate to end up in Jones County

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - While hundreds of homes were destroyed by Sunday's tornado, and many residents found debris items in their yards, in the small community of Ovett, Rita West discovered what might be described as a family heirloom.

"I was getting my run in for the afternoon, finished up my run and I was picking up some debris that was in my yard," said Rita. "I found a piece of paper, I walked over and I picked it up and turned it over and it was a baptism certificate."

Although the tornado hit 15 - 30 miles away from Rita's home, there is a possibility that such debris could have travel that distance.

"We were fortunate here in that the tornado didn't come in our area, but it evidentially it rose up above us and went over this area," said Rita. "We had lots of debris in the area, and finding this certificate I thought was just something very unusual."

While some may have discarded of this, Rita took it upon herself to try and find its rightful owner.

"I know finding this would be something important to a family member," said Rita. "I've got several things from my grandparents, from my mother and father as well. I know if my grandparents had passed, or if they were still alive and I had the opportunity to get this, I would want to keep this so that it could be handed down to my children."

The baptism certificate is dated Sunday, March 1920 from Batesville, Arkansas, and it appears to be for Nelva Jean Johnson.

If you are Nelva Jean Johnson, or know who the baptism certificate belongs to, email

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