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OK JOAN CROFT: Missing from Woodward, OK - 10 April 1947 - Age 4, kidnapped during a tornado

Discussion in 'Missing 1900 to 1979' started by Akoya, Mar 19, 2018.

  1. Akoya

    Akoya Bronze Member


    On April 9, 1947 a giant tornado ripped through the town of Woodward. It traveled on the ground for 221 miles at a speed of 46 miles per hour, smashing everything in its path. It has been described as one of the 10 most destructive tornadoes of all time, killing 185 people and injuring 720.

    Joan Gay's mother was killed by the giant storm, and her father, H.O. Croft, was critically injured. He was transferred to an Oklahoma City hospital. Joan Gay, with a splinter through her leg, and her sister, were found to have less life-threatening injuries than others seeking care, and were ushered to the hospital basement to wait as more critical injuries were treated.

    Her sister, four years older, reported that two men dressed in khaki work clothes came into the basement and carried Joan Gay away. Apparently due to the turmoil of the night, no one paid any attention to the little girl's protests. For a time it was thought perhaps the child was taken elsewhere for medical treatment. But as days passed following the disaster and damage was assessed and residents accounted for, Joan Gay did not surface on hospital lists or with any family members.

    The incident received nationwide attention, but Joan Gay never was found

    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 20, 2018
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  2. Akoya

    Akoya Bronze Member


    NamUs MP # 32412
    Joan Croft
    Woodward County, Oklahoma
    4 year old white female

    Case Report - NamUs MP # 32412

    Case Information
    Status Missing
    First name Joan
    Middle name Gay
    Last name Croft
    Nickname/Alias Joan Gay
    Date last seen April 10, 1947 00:00
    Date entered 02/05/2016
    Age last seen 4 to years old
    Age now 75 years old
    Race White
    Sex Female
    Height (inches) 41.0
    Weight (pounds) 42.0

    City Woodward
    State Oklahoma
    Zip code
    County Woodward
    Abducted from Woodard Hospital by two men wearing "khaki military type clothing with some type of company logo."

    Age 3 1/2


    Hair color Blond/Strawberry
    Head hair
    fair complexion, chunky in build

    Left eye color Blue
    Right eye color Blue
    Eye description
    light blue

    Scars and marks
    chicken pox scar on forearms
    three faint scars on her forehead
    left calf - splinter wound from tornado (not removed prior to abduction)


    Status: Dental information / charting is currently not available

    Status: Sample submitted - Tests complete

    Fingerprint Information
    Status: Fingerprint information is currently not available

    Investigating Agency
    First name Billy
    Last name Parker
    Phone (580) 256-2280
    Website http://www.cityofwoodward.com/264/Police-Department
    Case number 01819-16
    Date reported
    Jurisdiction Local
    Agency Woodward Police Department
    Address 1 1219 8th Street
    Address 2 1219 8th St, Woodward, OK 73801
    City Woodward
    State Oklahoma
    Zip code 73801
    Chief of Police Curt Terry curt.terry@cityofwoodward.com
    Title ASAC
    First name David
    Last name Sauls
    Case number
    Date reported
    Jurisdiction State
    Agency OSBI Northwest Regional Office
    Address 1 2411 Williams Avenue
    Address 2
    City Woodward
    State Oklahoma
    Zip code 73801

    Title Sgt.
    First name Bryan
    Last name Hart
    Phone 580-242-7000
    Case number
    Date reported
    Agency Enid Police Department
    Address 1 301 W. Owen Garriot Rd
    Address 2
    City Enid
    State Oklahoma

    Facial/case ID
    Public viewable
    taken Easter 1947
  3. Akoya

    Akoya Bronze Member

    Search still on for Woodward 5-year-old who vanished after tornado 69 years ago | KFOR.com

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  4. Akoya

    Akoya Bronze Member

    1947 Glazier–Higgins–Woodward tornadoes wwwusgennetorgusaokcountyellisgraphicst1jpg

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  5. Akoya

    Akoya Bronze Member

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  6. Akoya

    Akoya Bronze Member


    2557DFOK - Joan Gay Croft

    Name: Joan Gay Croft
    Case Classification: Endangered Missing
    Missing Since: April 10, 1947
    Location Last Seen: Woodward, Woodward County, Oklahoma

    Physical Description
    Date of Birth: October 28, 1942
    Age: 4 years old
    Race: White
    Gender: Female
    Height: 3'5"
    Weight: 42 lbs.
    Hair Color: Blond/Strawberry
    Eye Color: Blue
    Nickname/Alias: Joan Gay
    Distinguishing Marks/Features: chicken pox scar on forearms

    Dentals: Not Available
    Fingerprints: Not Available
    DNA: Available

    Clothing & Personal Items
    Clothing: Pajamas
    Jewelry: Unknown
    Additional Personal Items: Unknown

    Circumstances of Disappearance
    On April 9, 1947 a giant tornado ripped through the town of Woodward. It traveled on the ground for 221 miles at a speed of 46 miles per hour, smashing everything in its path. It has been described as one of the 10 most destructive tornadoes of all time, killing 185 people and injuring 720.

    Joan Gay's mother was killed by the giant storm, and her father, H.O. Croft, was critically injured. He was transferred to an Oklahoma City hospital. Joan Gay, with a splinter through her leg, and her sister, were found to have less life-threatening injuries than others seeking care, and were ushered to the hospital basement to wait as more critical injuries were treated.

    Her sister, four years older, reported that two men dressed in khaki work clothes came into the basement and carried Joan Gay away. Apparently due to the turmoil of the night, no one paid any attention to the little girl's protests. For a time it was thought perhaps the child was taken elsewhere for medical treatment. But as days passed following the disaster and damage was assessed and residents accounted for, Joan Gay did not surface on hospital lists or with any family members.

    The incident received nationwide attention, but Joan Gay never was found

    Investigating Agency(s)
    Agency Name: Woodward Police Department
    Agency Contact Person: Billy Parker
    Agency Phone Number: (580)256-2280
    Agency E-Mail: N/A
    Agency Case Number: 01819-16

    Agency Name: OSBI Northwest Regional Office
    Agency Contact Person: ASAC David Sauls
    Agency Phone Number: (580)256-1771
    Agency E-Mail: N/A
    Agency Case Number: N/A

    Agency Name: Enid Police Department
    Agency Contact Person: Sgt. Bryan Hart
    Agency Phone Number: (580)242-7000
    Agency E-Mail: N/A
    Agency Case Number: N/A

    NCIC Case Number: Unknown
    NamUs Case Number: 32412

    Information Source(s)
    Enid News
    The Daily Oklahoman
    News OK
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  7. Akoya

    Akoya Bronze Member

    Woodward County Oklahoma | Tornado of 1947 Woodward County Ok


    The town was chaotic as bloodied bodies laid in the streets and most of the town's structures destroyed.


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  8. Akoya

    Akoya Bronze Member


    A tornado hit Woodward, Oklahoma on April 9th, 1947. Many of the residents of the small town were unaware a tornado was heading their way


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  9. Akoya

    Akoya Bronze Member

    The F5 tornado that struck Woodard is still the deadliest in Oklahoma history, killing 185.

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  10. Akoya

    Akoya Bronze Member


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  11. Akoya

    Akoya Bronze Member

    The Daily Oklahoman article from June 1947

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  12. Akoya

    Akoya Bronze Member

    1947 Daily Oklahoman article

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  13. Akoya

    Akoya Bronze Member


    DNA Test May Solve 47-Year-Old Woodward Mystery Woman Believes She's Joan Gay Croft
    Oklahoman Published: June 12, 1994 12:00 AM CDT Updated: June 12, 1994 12:00 AM CDT

    WOODWARD (AP) - Jean Smith came quietly to Woodward - recently driving all the way from Phoenix, Ariz., alone - and said she felt relaxed and comfortable, as if she were at home.

    Jean Smith is convinced she is Joan Gay Croft, who disappeared from Woodward after the 1947 tornado. She has lived in and around Phoenix from the earliest time she can remember, when she was about 6. Only a DNA test stands between her intuition of who she is and positive proof that a 47-year mystery is solved.

    Four-year-old Joan Gay Croft was believed to have been abducted from the basement of the Woodward hospital where she had been taken, with her half-sister, from the wreckage of their home. Their mother, Cleta Croft, was killed in the tornado, and Olen Croft, Joan Gay's father, was seriously injured.

    Three years ago, Jean Smith, who had suffered from a heart condition since she was 11, decided she was going to try to find out who she really was.

    Throughout her life, she said, she also experienced "flashbacks," in which she had glimpses of strange scenes and faces of people she could put no name to - and when she questioned the people she thought were her parents, they told her she was imagining things.

    "I never felt like I belonged to the people who raised me," Smith said. "I knew I was just different from them. I didn't look like any of them; my children don't resemble any of them. And I couldn't remember anything about myself from before the time I was about 6 years old. " Smith said she had a Boise, Idaho, birth certificate that gave her date of birth as Dec. 15, 1941, and she was identified by that birth certificate for 47 years. Joan Gay Croft was born Oct. 28, 1942, and throughout her school years, several teachers suspected Jean was younger than the other students in their classes and that she suffered from problems her parents refused to discuss.

    During her growing-up years, Smith had what was later diagnosed by her physician as psychogenic amnesia. The dictionary definition of psychogenic is: "The development of physical disorders as a result of mental conflicts rather than from organic causes. " Smith was referred to a retired psychiatrist who specialized in post-traumatic stress syndrome. After he began treating Smith, he recommended hypnosis therapy to try to unlock her memory.

    Under hypnosis, Smith remembered terrifying scenes of blood and people screaming.

    As the hypnosis continued, Smith became convinced she had not been raised by her real mother and father.

    She went to the Phoenix police with the birth certificate she considered false and pictures supposedly taken of her when she was a baby. It was determined that the footprints on the birth certificate were not her footprints and that the child in the baby pictures was not her.

    In late September last year, Smith's daughter-in-law saw NBC-TV's "Unsolved Mysteries" program - and the Joan Gay Croft segment that could very well have been the scenario her mother-in-law had seen in her hypnosis-induced memories.

    When the segment ran again in December, Smith watched it and her reaction was astonishment and jubilation.

    "It was just incredible," said Smith. "It was as if the writer had been in my head, showing everything just the way I would have remembered. " She contacted the "Unsolved Mysteries" production company, and they put her in touch with Marvella Parks of Woodward, Joan Gay Croft's cousin, and Parks' mother, Ruth Bohn, of Seiling, who was Cleta Croft's aunt.

    Smith also made contact with Nellie Burwell, Olen Croft's sister, who lives in Kansas. After the tornado in 1947, Nellie and her husband Ira were told both Crofts had died in the disaster, and they were on their way to Woodward to get Joan Gay.

    They already had decided to adopt the 4-year-old, they said, and were plunged into more grief when they discovered their niece had disappeared.

    The Burwells and their son traveled to Phoenix after talking with Smith by telephone, and it was Nellie who declared that Jean Smith was indeed their long-lost Joan Gay.

    She compared pictures of Jean with pictures of Cleta Croft at approximately the same age and was convinced of Jean's identity.

    "She said she didn't need any further proof," said Smith, "but I told her I couldn't be satisfied until I've had the DNA test, to have the evidence to take before a judge who can give me back my real name. " The DNA test will be performed as soon as money has been raised to pay for it. It will be done in a Phoenix genetics laboratory and will involve blood samples from Smith and from two of Olen Croft's younger children.

    Croft recovered from the injuries he suffered in the tornado.

    When the search for Joan Gay proved fruitless, he left Woodward, eventually remarried and had another daughter and son. Smith said she is grateful to the younger Croft family for their willingness to cooperate. Croft died at the age of 81 in 1986.

    Marvella Parks, who said she has heard from "300 to 400" women who think they might be Joan Gay, asked for the first mark of identification just minutes after Jean Smith came to her house.

    "I couldn't wait any longer," Parks said. "I had to know, so I asked her to show me her leg, and, yes, there were the scars from the splinter that went through it. " On the back of Smith's other leg, said Parks, are small white traces of wounds inflicted by slivers of glass - the same traces her husband Lon bears on his back. Lon Parks also was among those rescued in the wreckage of the storm.

    Jean Smith thinks she has found her family and come home.

    For many people who were living in Woodward in 1947 - and for many more who have grown up with the story of Joan Gay Croft - perhaps Jean Smith has not only learned the truth about her roots.

    Perhaps she has also provided closure for a sense of loss that has haunted the town for 47 years. BIOG: NAME:

    Archive ID: 578037
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  14. Akoya

    Akoya Bronze Member


    Where is mystery woman connected to 1947 Woodward tornado?

    BY ROBERT E. LEE Published: April 16, 2012 12:00 AM CDT Updated: April 16, 2012 5:09 PM CDT

    Did a 69-year-old Oklahoma City woman born Joan Gay Croft watch the TV reports on Saturday night's Woodward tornado and recall that city's previous devastating tornado of April 9, 1947?

    It's possible since a 4-year-old Joan Gay Croft survived that 1947 twister that killed 185 Woodward residents and demolished a vast majority of the city.

    The twister had hit the Croft home, killing Joan Gay's mother, Cleta, a telephone operator. Her father, Olin, was critically injured and was taken to an Oklahoma City hospital to begin weeks of recovery. Joan Gay and her 8-year-old sister, Geri, were taken to the small Woodward Hospital where a pencil-size wooden splinter was removed from Joan Gay's leg. The two were assigned to cots in the hospital's basement, which was being used as a sleeping area.

    The night after the storm, as Geri reported later, two men dressed in khaki work clothes came into the basement and carried Joan Gay away, never to be seen again

    As news editor of the Woodward County Journal, 1957-67, I wrote April 9 anniversary stories about Joan Gay's disappearance. Sometimes the stories would be distributed by The Associated Press and were printed in newspapers nationwide. Often, women would contact Joan Gay's relatives, claiming to be Joan Gay. But none turned out to be the real Joan Gay.

    A May 22, 1993, episode of TV's “Unsolved Mysteries” about Joan Gay generated lots of response … but still no Joan Gay.

    After moving to Enid and then to Oklahoma City to join The Oklahoman staff, I occasionally would redo the story.

    On April 12, 1999, I received this email:

    “Mr. Lee

    “I know that you have written many articles about the 1947 Woodward tornado and about the missing Joan Gaye Croft.

    “How would you like to write an article about what really happened to Joan Gay and where she has been this past 54 years?

    “She has been and is living in OKC off and on since 1956 under a different name with the full knowledge of her father, Orlin Croft! She even graduated from a OKC high school under her different name.

    “If you want more information, please contact Joan Gay at (email address)

    “Ms Joan Gaye Croft”

    The computer gurus at The Oklahoman told me that 1999 technology could not trace the email address.

    I responded to the email and on May 2 received this:

    “Mr. Lee,

    “I know this time of year there are many people who crawl out of the woodwork claiming to be the ‘lost' girl, but I was never physically lost. My immediate family(s) knew where I was. I just didn't know who I was.

    “Until just lately, I never faced the fact that Cleta Croft, my mother, died upon me. I buried this information deep within my long term memory and refused to accept.

    “If you want to know the rest email me at (email address). We will arrange to meet in person to discuss the details. I propose we meet at Penn Square for the first meeting. I would like to meet in public, but not publicly and without photos. Please let me know a time and date convenient for you. I am on the internet on most M W F between 9 and 10:30 a.m.

    “As to compensation, I would prefer none!

    “Yours, Joan Gaye Croft”

    I quickly responded, saying, “Sure, I'd like to know more about Joan Gay.”

    Trying to reassure the email writer, I added this: “Incidentally, my wife also survived the Woodward tornado.”

    The email writer never responded to that message. The email address stopped accepting messages. I retired, and during tornado season often think of Joan Gay Croft.
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  15. Akoya

    Akoya Bronze Member


    After 61 years, Joan Croft still a mystery
    From the 1947 and 2012 Woodward tornadoes series

    • Phil Brown Commentary
    • Mar 25, 2008

    If Joan Gay Croft is alive today, she is 65 years old. She probably has a family of her own, maybe children and grandchildren too. But, if she is alive, why has she never tried to contact her father and her sister? She probably has been known by a name other than Joan Gay since the night two men dressed in khaki clothing carried her screaming from her cot in the basement of the hospital at Woodward.

    Joan Gay is one of the remaining mysteries that defied solution in the aftermath of the giant tornado that ripped through the town of Woodward 61 years ago this coming April 9.

    The big twister, spawned in the early evening in the Texas Panhandle, dropped from the skies the other side of Arnett and quickly grew to a giant storm with a funnel two miles wide, and generated winds of 200 miles per hour.

    It traveled on the ground for 221 miles at a speed of 46 miles per hour, smashing, without warning, everything in its path. It has been described as one of the 10 most destructive tornadoes of all time, killing 185 people and injuring 720.

    Joan Gay’s mother was killed by the giant storm, and her father, H.O. Croft, was critically injured. He was transferred to an Oklahoma City hospital. Four-year-old Joan Gay and her sister, Jerry, were taken to the hospital, where they were treated for their injuries and bedded down for the night on cots in the basement of the hospital.

    An aunt said she checked on the girls during the night, but when she returned to check on them the next morning Joan Gay was gone. Jerry, who was on a nearby cot, said two men dressed in khakis came to the hospital during the night and carried Joan Gay away, despite her protests, and screaming she did not want to leave her sister.

    Apparently due to the turmoil of the night, no one paid any attention to the little girl’s protests

    The incident received nationwide attention, but Joan Gay never was found. Her father and sister, Jerry, eventually moved away.

    No parents or relatives were ever found for three girls age, 8 months, 4 years and 12 years who were killed by the twister. A Woodward funeral director speculated the girls were the children of destitute, transient parents caught up in the storm, who could not afford the cost of three funerals, and who simply left the bodies for the county to pay for the burials.

    An exhaustive search of families and schools in the county did not turn up any relatives. No children were reported missing that had not been found. Photos of the blonde 12-year-old were shown to teachers in every school in the county but no one recognized her, and all of their students were accounted for.

    It is not known if the girls were sisters or related in some other way. In this day, DNA tests on all of the storm victims might have revealed their relatives died in the tornado as well.

    The three girls were buried in Woodward’s Elmgrove Cemetery. Their identities are still a mystery.

    If a similar situation existed today as the result of a storm of the magnitude of the April 9, 1947, Woodward tornado, it would have been the lead story on all of the television morning shows nationwide, and the attention surrounding Joan Gay Croft’s abduction from the hospital would probably have resulted in finding her, as well as the arrest of her abductors.

    As for the three dead little girls, I can’t help but wonder if a storm the size of this tornado could have carried human bodies for some distance before dropping them. I wonder if authorities ever traced back along the track of the twister to find their parents or relatives.

    News didn’t travel as fast in 1947 as it does today. Television didn’t come to this part of the country until the 1950s, and of course the internet was unheard of. Newspapers and radio were the only sources, and the equipment of the day didn’t allow much, if any, on the scene, almost instantaneous news coverage.

    It would be interesting to know what happened to Joan Gay Croft, and where she is now, and what happened to the parents of the three unidentified girls.
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  16. Akoya

    Akoya Bronze Member


    The "Unsolved Mysteries" episode about the disappearance of 4-year old Joan Gay Croft first aired in 1993. In December of 1994, a woman in Arizona, Joan Smith, saw the episode re-aired and felt she was the missing girl based on "hypnosis to recapture the forgotten first six years of her life." A 1999 news article in "The Daily Oklahoman" (re-posted here) indicates a DNA test proved negative and that at least two other women had come forward claiming to be Croft.

    In 2012, former editor of "The Oklahoman", Robert E. Lee, printed an article at NewsOK (found here), in which he describes that several more women have claimed to be be Croft over the years, and reprints two e-mails he received from someone claiming that Croft was never missing after all and that her father knew of her whereabouts the whole time(!!). One of the e-mails appears to come from Croft, but the person never e-mailed again and the e-mail address stopped working shortly thereafter.

    The bottom line is, she is still officially listed as "Missing". No one knows for sure what became of her after she was abducted from the hospital's basement shelter, and while its possible she still lives, no verifiable evidence of that exists.

    I hadn't heard of this case, so I looked it up.

    What you didn't mention is that Joan's father was one of the wealthiest men in Woodward, Oklahoma at the time....which means kidnapping for ransom is a much more likely possibility than selling her to a childless couple, and the kidnappers simply took advantage of the confusion following the tornado. And something could have gone wrong: They overdosed her on drugs trying to keep her quiet, she developed blood poisoning from her injury (she did have a pencil-sized splinter driven through her knee) that wasn't treated, whichever.

    Insisting that she was surely given to a loving, childless couple when there's no proof of this isn't going to get you far on this website--people here tend to insist on proof of allegations, it will be on you to prove that this was 'common practice'. I can't imagine too many people would be willing to admit, "Oh, yes, I totally paid $5000 for people to kidnap that cute little blond girl I saw two towns over back in 1935 so I could have her for my own."

    People were mean and vicious back in 1947, and did mean and vicious things to kids back then. Insisting that Joan lived out her life happy and loved by strangers dismisses this very real fact, and is a slap in the face to her family who wondered for the rest of their lives what became of her.
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  17. Akoya

    Akoya Bronze Member


    Search still on for Woodward 5-year-old who vanished after tornado 69 years ago
    POSTED 10:00 PM, MAY 5, 2016, BY KEVIN OGLE, UPDATED AT 07:47AM, MAY 6, 2016

    OKLAHOMA - The deadliest tornado to ever hit our state was 69 years ago, in April of 1947.

    That's when a monster from the sky roared through Woodward, Oklahoma - 185 dead, more than 1,000 injured, hundreds of homes and businesses destroyed and one bizarre mystery to this day that has even the most seasoned investigators baffled.

    It’s the vanishing of 5-year-old Joan Gay Croft of Woodward.

    Her cousin, Marvella Parks, was 14 that night and remembers how terrifying the killer twister was when it descended on the unsuspecting town.

    "I was really, really scared," Marvella said. "I was crying. I was screaming."

    Joan Gay had a pencil sized piece of wood driven through her leg.

    Her mother was killed.

    “The side of the house fell on her, killed her instantly," Marvella said.

    Joan Gay’s father was critically injured and rushed to a hospital in a nearby town.

    Joan Gay was treated for her leg wound, then she and her sister were housed in a Woodward hospital basement, sleeping on cots.

    And, that's where this mystery begins.

    The night after the tornado, according to reports, two people suddenly walked down the stairs into that basement.

    “Two men came by, dressed in khaki shirts and khaki pants,” Marvella said. “They picked Joan Gay up and carried her out of the basement.”

    Eyewitnesses claim Joan Gay cried out that she didn't want to leave her sister, but one of the men told her not to worry - they were coming back for her sister.

    Hospital staff even stopped them, but the men said they were taking Joan Gay to a different hospital where other family members were waiting.

    They were allowed to leave with the little girl.

    The family has not since Joan Gay since that day 69 years ago.

    Over the decades, Marvella and other family members have come up with their own theories about what happened to little Joan Gay that night.

    "We always thought maybe somebody took her, that had lost their daughter somewhere over the years at some time,” Marvella said. “And, they took her to take the place of the one they had lost.”

    But, the family has never stopped looking.

    Joan Gay's disappearance was featured on the popular series Unsolved Mysteries.

    After the show aired, many women called thinking they could be Joan Gay.

    “They’re looking for their families,” Marvella said. “They know they are not who they were brought up to be."

    Unfortunately, none turned out to be Joan Gay.

    Now, the state is working with Marvella, putting a sample of her DNA into the massive state database, and the computer connections to other states systems - hoping they will get a hit and finally link Joan Gay, if she’s alive and what she may be calling herself now.

    Investigators hope they can bring her back to the family she vanished from seven decades ago.
  18. Akoya

    Akoya Bronze Member


    Woodward Mystery Believed Solved
    • Apr 15, 1994
    WOODWARD (AP) - Jean Smith doesn't want to be called that

    anymore. She believes her real name is Joan Gay Croft, who

    disappeared from the Woodward hospital nearly 50 years ago.

    Then 4 years old, Croft was being treated for injuries suffered

    in a tornado that devastated Woodward in April 1947. Witnesses

    said she was taken by two men. She was never reported seen


    The television program "Unsolved Mysteries" re-enacted

    the kidnapping last fall, and Smith saw it at her home in


    Smith had no memory of her first six years of life and started

    seeing a psychoanalyst three years ago to find out why.

    She said that under hypnosis, she remembered scenes of people

    dead and dying, moaning and lots of blood. She now believes

    that was the scene after the Woodward tornado in which more

    than 100 people were killed.

    She has since called relatives of Croft, saying she may

    be the missing girl.

    Marvella Parks of Woodward, the missing girl's cousin, said

    pictures have been exchanged and blood types compared. Now

    family members believe Smith is Croft.

    "This is like a bolt of electricity. I've been on cloud

    nine this week," Parks told the Woodward News.

    There are other reasons to believe Smith is Croft. She has

    a scar on her leg where a large splinter went through Croft's

    leg during the tornado.

    "Joan Gay (Croft) had a lisp and this woman, when she is

    excited, also has one," Parks said. I know it all can't

    be a coincidence.

    "I think we have found Joan Gay. It's like a dream come

    true," she said.

    Smith said she was raised by a couple who are still living.
  19. Akoya

    Akoya Bronze Member


    Four mysteries remain from ‘47 tornado
    • By Robin Hohweiler Staff Writer
    • Apr 9, 2016


    The grave marker for an unidentified infant girl killed during the Woodward tornado on April 9, 1947. The girl's grave in Elmwood Cemetery remained unmarked until I.O.O.F. Lodge No. 148 donated the marker. There were two other girls ranging in age from 3 to 12 years who were never identified and their bodies never claimed. Those graves are near that of the infant girl and remained unmarked until the late 1980s when a local resident donated markers for their graves. (Photo: Robin Hohweiler)

    Saturday, April 9 marks the 69th year since the devastating Woodward tornado of 1947 that left more than 100 dead and more than 1,000 injured over a storm-ripped path that exceeded 100 miles.

    In Woodward alone, more than 100 city blocks were destroyed, mostly on the north and west sides of the city.

    In horrific storms there are always tragic stories of lives lost or properties destroyed. The most heart-wrenching are these accounts involve those of young children.

    Such was the case following the '47 Woodward tornado. When word began to spread that the bodies of four young girls, ages 6 months to 12 years, found in the rubble of the storm's aftermath had yet to be identified, the news traveled fast spawning decades of conjecture as to the girls' identities.

    Soon, one of the little girls was identified as 18-month-old Treana Dale Holster and claimed by relatives.

    Still, three girls remained unclaimed:

    • A blond haired girl approximately 12 years old.

    • A reddish-blond haired girl approximately 3 years old.

    • An infant girl, approximately 6 months old.

    Eventually, all three were buried in unmarked graves by the Red Cross at Elmwood Cemetery. At some point, in the 1950s, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F.) Lodge 148 in Woodward put a marker on the resting place of the 6-month-old girl.

    The other two girls remained in unmarked graves about 100 feet due east of the infant until local resident Wayne Lawson donated two markers in 1987. For years, people have speculated as to the identity of the three girls and how it is that no one was ever able to identify them or even offer so much as a clue as to which family they belonged.

    There was an effort to at least identify the 12 year old. School teachers from across the region were brought to the morgue to view the remains, according to news reports of the day.

    None recognized the girl, said to be pretty with long blond hair. Finally, a list of the names of every girl enrolled in Woodward schools near the same age was compiled. Volunteers fanned out across the city to locate and "eyeball" each girl. All of the girls were accounted for.

    Local lore as to the identities of the girls included that they were members of a very poor family recently moved to Woodward or perhaps passing through when the storm hit. Unable to pay for burials, locals assumed the remaining family either moved on or simply stayed anonymous.

    Many agree that it is plausible that the three girls were from one family since it seems more likely that girls from two or even three different families would have had someone come forward to claim the bodies.

    After the I.O.O.F. placed a marker on the infant girl's grave, someone began putting flowers on it every Memorial Day. This led some to speculate that the flowers were being left by someone who knew the girl.

    The person who was placing the flowers spoke to the Woodward News, but prefers to remain anonymous.

    "I was in high school when I started putting flowers on that grave. My infant sister's grave is very near there and I just thought it was the right thing to do. Over time, after the other two markers were added, other people began decorating the graves as well."

    The fourth mystery from that terrible night in 1947 has also been tied to the mystery of the three unidentified girls.

    Joan Gay Croft was a 4-year-old girl whose home was destroyed by the tornado. Her mother died in the storm. Her father was severely injured and moved to an Oklahoma City hospital. She and her sister were taken to the basement of the Woodward Hospital and placed on a cot.

    Joan Gay had a minor injury, according to news reports and local's who remember the incident. A long sliver of wood that had embedded in the calf of her leg.

    Sometime during the night two men wearing khaki clothing came into the basement, according to witnesses. They picked up Joan Gay and carried her off.

    Joan Gay disappeared that night, without a trace. Her father, after he was released from the hospital, began a never-ending search for his missing daughter. Eventually, he and his remaining daughter left Woodward.

    There was local speculation that the men in khaki were somehow associated with the deceased girls who remained unidentified and took Joan Gay to replace one of the three girls.

    Over the years, several women across the country came forward to say that they believed they were Joan Gay Croft. Nearly all have been disproved, some through DNA.

    With nearly 70 years gone past, it seems very unlikely that any of the four mysteries from that fateful, tragic night will ever be solved.
    Mel70 likes this.
  20. Akoya

    Akoya Bronze Member


    Saturday, September 19, 2009
    The mystery of Joan Gay Croft- the last victim of the Woodward tornado of 1947[/paste:font]

    In the nightmarish aftermath of the terrible tornado that swept through Woodward, another mystery evolved. This one, like the mystery of the identities of the three little dead children that couldn't be identified, remains unsolved to this day.

    Mystery has never been solved

    By J.B. Blosser Bittner
    The Daily Oklahoman
    Posted April 14, 1998

    WOODWARD, Okla. (AP) -- Each spring, Marvella Parks places flowers on the graves of three unidentified young victims of a tornado that killed more than 100 people in 1947.

    But there's another tornado victim forever on her mind. More than a half-century after the roaring twister ripped through Woodward on April 9, destroying half the town, folks still ponder the fate of a 4-year-old blond girl whisked away from the local hospital amid the night's bloody chaos.

    The child was Joan Gay Croft, Ms. Parks' cousin, and Ms. Parks has never given up the search. Since Joan Gay's story was broadcast in 1993 and is routinely rebroadcast in a television episode of ''Unsolved Mysteries,'' Ms. Parks has fielded calls and letters from hundreds of women across the country who believe they could be the missing girl.

    One possibility in Arizona seemed so promising television producers paid for a DNA test for her and for Joan Gay's younger half-brother. Joan Gay's sister the last relative known to have seen Joan Gay had declined to be part of the test, Ms. Parks said. A half-brother in Texas was the closest blood relative since Joan Gay's father, Olin Croft, died in 1983. The test was negative and the search continued.

    A woman in South Carolina was sure she was the one. An Oklahoma City woman hired an attorney to help her find out if she was Joan Gay. A woman in Missouri thought maybe it was her. An Oklahoma City nurse is said to be gathering photographs to send to Ms. Parks as evidence proving she might be the one.

    Calls have come from California and elsewhere as women with troubled childhood memories and scarred legs came forward.

    The most promising lead yet, Ms. Parks believes, is a call from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police that led her to a blond, blue-eyed woman in Canada. The woman, whose last name Ms. Parks has asked not be made public, was raised with the first and middle names JoAnn Gay.

    Was this woman the preschooler spirited away that night 51 years ago? Is Joan Gay even still alive? Ms. Parks doesn't know.

    What she knows is that Joan Gay was alive, with a splinter through her leg, at the Woodward hospital hours after the tornado struck.

    Muddy and bloodied bodies of the dead and critically injured filled the small-town hospital to overflowing and spilled out onto the lawn. The luckier ones rushed to help the less fortunate. Power was knocked out, gas-fed fires ignited throughout town.

    In neighborhoods where rescuers were shut out by debris in streets, injured men, women and children were loaded into boxcars to make the trek to shelter by railroad. It was a night that, in his log book, the local fire chief compared to hell.

    It was the night that Joan Gay Croft lost her mother, a victim of the storm. It became the night that Woodward lost Joan Gay Croft.

    Found to have less life-threatening injuries than others seeking care, Joan Gay and her sister were ushered to the hospital basement to wait as more critical injuries were treated.

    Her sister, four years older, reported that two men dressed in khaki work clothes came into the basement and carried Joan Gay away.

    For a time it was thought perhaps the child was taken elsewhere for medical treatment. Area hospitals were filling up and tornado victims were being routed to Wichita, Kan., and Oklahoma City for emergency care.

    But as days passed following the disaster and damage was assessed and residents accounted for, Joan Gay did not surface on hospital lists or with any family members. Joan Gay Croft was gone. Her absence joined the identities of three little girls as the town's perpetual mystery.

    Ms. Parks regularly visits the graves of those three girls, none determined to be Joan Gay.

    This year she dotted the plots with colorful plastic Easter eggs as well as bright silk flowers. Ms. Parks has never forgotten her cousin, and she is determined that these three nameless youngsters will not be forgotten, either.

    ''It's such a mystery who are these little girls? Where did they come from? Where are their families?'' Ms. Parks said. ''They can't be forgotten.''

    Neither, said Ms. Parks, will Joan Gay Croft. Her gut feeling is that Joan Gay could be the woman in Canada. In her heart, Ms. Parks knows she has to keep a healthy skepticism until proof can be found.

    There are many intriguing parts of the Canadian woman's story, she said, including descriptions of photographs and personal belongings said to bear the names of Joan Gay's parents, Olin and Cleta Croft. But the woman said she no longer has access to the memorabilia, said to be the property of an aunt. She is seeking legal help to claim what she considers evidence of her past.

    Among the items, she contends, is a charcoal drawing signed ''O. Croft.''

    ''He liked to work with his hands,'' Olin Croft's widow wrote Ms. Parks in 1993. ''He also liked to draw.''

    Ms. Parks said she had never shared that information with any callers professing to be Joan Gay. There are other side issues and coincidences, enough to spark the curiosity of a junior sleuth. The Canadian woman's northern family had relatives named Goble that was Joan Gay's mother's maiden name. They had neighbors named Croft, the woman contends.

    Family history tells of a tornado that swept away the family home. But several holes in that story make it suspect, at least in connection with the deadly twister in Oklahoma.

    The Canadian woman's theory is that the family who raised her lost their home in the tornado, looted Joan Gay's home and kidnapped her with the help of a hospital worker. However, she has no proof the family was ever in Oklahoma.

    Still, Ms. Parks takes the calls, listens to the stories and believes somewhere her little cousin with blond curls and blue eyes is a 55-year-old woman looking for her past.

    ''I still think she's out there,'' Ms. Parks said. A tear filled her eye as black spring storm clouds rolled in the distance and she bent to place pink flowers on an unknown child's grave.

    ''If this was meant to be, it's going to happen.''

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