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A volunteer removes fallen branches July 12 from the base of a tree at the rural Willmar residence of Ken and Joyce Randt. The home was completely destroyed by the EF-3 tornado that moved across the Willmar area. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

For the Randts, it's been a year of healing, but the family stays positive as one

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news Willmar, 56201
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

The plan was to have Ken and Joyce Randt moved into their new residence by Christmas. The one-floor home -- built by their son-in-law -- is mostly done. Furniture was delivered this week.

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But the Randts, whose two-story farm home, barn and shop were obliterated in the July 11 tornado, will celebrate Christmas with their four children and 11 grandchildren in a Rochester hospital.

Ken has been in the hospital for the last six weeks and had heart surgery two weeks ago.

Even though it's not what they planned, the family is rejoicing that they're able to celebrate the holidays together after a narrow escape last summer.

The Randts and five of their grandchildren were huddled in the fruit cellar when the fierce winds ripped their home to shreds.

"If they'd have been up one more floor, they wouldn't be here now," said Kelly Chester, one of the Randt's. Her daughter, Kaylee, was one of the children taking refuge in the cellar.

"Everybody is alive. We could be having a very sad Christmas," Chester said. "The important thing is we're all together. We're still excited about it. We'll have a good Christmas together."

Cleaning up debris and hauling away hundreds of downed trees was a huge task.

"You do what you have to and you get through what you have to get through," Chester said.

The work was made easier by "hundreds" of volunteers -- including friends, church members and even a few strangers.

The continual outpouring of concern and support for the family has been uplifting, Chester said.

"We're doing OK. It was a loss, but we're all doing OK. There's still the future and there's still a lot of hope."

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