GRAND ISLAND — The Hall County Historical Society is joining a local effort to purchase a historical marker for Grand Island’s Tornado Hill in Ryder Park.

The marker commemorates the night of June 3, 1980, when seven tornadoes struck the Grand Island area in three hours.

“We are going to take over as the fiscal (agent), so people can make donations to the Historical Society for the project,” project manager Michelle Setlik said. “And we will help with getting the marker purchased from the state and help get the marker placed.”

Stephanie Crosby of Grand Island launched the project in 2019.

The marker will cost $6,000. Crosby has raised nearly $5,000.

Crosby said she supports the county’s historical society leading the efforts.

“I’m excited about it because they have a lot more experience and they’ve done some amazing markers with some added artwork to it, which is exciting,” she said.

Crosby’s fundraising efforts were limited by the pandemic through the spring. By the end of May, she had been able to raise $1,000.

Because the Hall County Historical Society is a nonprofit, donations will be tax-deductible.

The 1980 event is unique in history.

“Nothing like this has ever happened in the history of weather, anywhere else in the world,” Crosby said in June. “The events of that night show people were warning each other because the sirens couldn’t be heard everywhere. People came together afterwards to clean up before the National Guard could come in.”

The state’s historical agency, History Nebraska, based in Lincoln, is in charge of approving and purchasing the state’s historical markers.

“We evaluate the historical topic, the text, the location and make sure all those things work together to tell a significant story in Nebraska’s history, that we’re doing it in the appropriate spot,” David Calease, National Register of Historic Places coordinator, said in June. “It’s not something we generally come up with ourselves. This is definitely a bottom-up process.”

History Nebraska orders the custom-made markers through its contract with Sewah Studios, a foundry based in Marietta, Ohio.

Sewah has worked with Nebraska’s historical society since the inception of its marker program in the 1960s.

At 5-by-6 feet, with 180 words, the large, erected bronze historical marker will resemble other markers seen around the state.

“It should look really nice when it’s all done,” Setlik said. “It should be a really nice addition to that park and that area, and a way for people to remember what happened that night.”

Setlik applauded Crosby’s efforts.

“This was her idea,” she said. “She has carried it to this point and done a great job, and we’re really excited to help her get it over the finish line.”

Crosby said she is excited to see the project finally realized.

“It was just my dream to get it started,” she said, “and now it’s started, and it will be done before the end of the year, so that’s super exciting.”

Donations to the project can be sent to: Hall County Historical Society, 603 N. Plum St., Grand Island, NE 68801.

Checks can also be sent to Stephanie Crosby at Livingston-Sondermann Funeral Home, 601 N. Webb Road, Grand Island, NE 68803.

For more information, visit hallnehistory.com.


40 years ago: The night of the Twisters, a photo gallery