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Juana Toennis visits Memorial



London Explosion survivor Juana Fay Toennis came from Houston to visit the Memorial and Museum on Nov. 23. Toennis posed by the corner with names of her sixth grade classmates lost in the tragedy. J. M. Jones/Press photo

By J. M. Jones

  NEW LONDON – New London Explosion survivor Juana Fay Toennis visited the London Museum and Tea Room Nov. 23. Escorted by her two daughters and son-in-law, Toennis also dined at the museum, looked over old New London School yearbooks and visited the London Memorial.

  Toennis (pronounced “Tennis”) was Juana Beidleman and in sixth grade on March 18, 1937. Her class was in the auditorium, located in the south wing of the main building, when the explosion happened. The north end of the auditorium collapsed and flattened, but most of the south half remained standing. Beidleman suffered only cuts and scratches.

  She enrolled in the rebuilt London School in 1938, graduated in 1942 and married Walter Henry Toennis. They moved to Houston where Juana Toennis worked for Gulf Oil Company Shipyard and Foley’s (now Macy’s) Department Store. Walter Toennis died in 1961.

The hand-sewn, woolen dress Juana Fay Toennis (maiden name Beidleman) wore on March 18, 1937 in London School. Toennis donated the dress to the London Museum.

  Before she and her family left New London in last month’s visit, Toennis donated her hand-made yellow, black and brown woolen school dress to the museum. The same dress she wore the day of the explosion.

    Juana Toennis died Jan. 16, 2011.

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The Overton Press is published weekly by East Texas Community Newspapers.