NILES, Ohio (WKBN) – The tornado of May 31, 1985, destroyed the Niles Park Plaza at the top of the strip on Route 422. Several of the nine people who died in Niles that day were killed at the plaza.
Last week, WKBN 27 First News’ Stan Boney went looking for the Niles memorial but couldn’t find it. When he returned this Monday, not only did he find the original, but also plans for a new one.
In May of 2005, Boney did a story that showed what the memorial looked like after the Niles Park Plaza was rebuilt — a plaque placed at the bottom of a flagpole.
But just last week, while doing another story on survivors of the Niles tornado, he discovered that the flagpole and the plaque were gone.
But then, while walking around the plaza on Monday, he found the original plaque, which was actually engraved in stone, lying 15 feet from where the flagpole once stood.
Ralph Delserone, the owner of Raphael’s School of Beauty in the plaza, bought the plaza two years ago and decided to remove the old memorial.
“Yeah, I really didn’t like the positioning of it and with the flow in the plaza and where people would really see it,” he said.
Delserone created a new plaque that states everything the original one did but added that the people died in a tornado.
“We started to renovate and redevelop the plaza. We also noticed that the plaque for the old memorial was in poor condition and we decided that we were going to rededicate the memorial and the space,” he said.
The new memorial will now go near the sign of Raphael’s Commons, what the plaza will now be called.
“It’s going to go next to our pylon sign over there, which will be protected by the curb and it’ll have decorative stone and some lighting,” he said.
Delserone also wants to add something else.
“We have the plaque and then we’re also going to add the names of the people who died during the tornado,” he said.
Delserone doesn’t know what he’s going to do with the original plaque but knows it certainly will not be thrown away.
The plan is to have the new memorial dedicated on Friday, May 31, of this year, on the 34th anniversary of the Niles tornado, which happens to be on the same day of the week the tornado hit back in 1985.