One April day in 1945 spawned a lifetime of stories for one Oklahoma family, and chapters in 3 different books

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BETHANY, OKLAHOMA -- Janis Cramer was always a story collector.

Even as a kid she remembers hanging around after a Sunday meal to hear her parents and grandparents talk.

She recalls, "I would get between my grandpa and my dad. My head fit right on the table."

It's no surprise she became a creative writing teacher and an author in her own right.

But from all those stories one date always swirled around, April 12, 1945.

"Oh yes. Absolutely," says Cramer. "Everyone in the family has his or her own version."

The big national story that day was news of President Franklin Roosevelt's death.

The big story in Oklahoma that day came from the sky.

A whole series of storms spawned tornadoes from Antlers to Muskogee.

Janis' grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles lived in three houses on the farm east of town.

Two of those houses were obliterated by the twister.

The other was moved off its foundation.

One of their neighbors lost her life, and the Thomas family had enough stories to last a lifetime.

"My mom had gone to pick up some cleaning," says Janis. "The only thing she had left were the three dresses she'd picked up at the cleaners and the three V-mails she had in her purse. Everything else was gone."

Janis' father and uncle, both escapees from German POW camps heard the news of the twister while on their way home.

They both came into town on April 13, 1945.

"I had all these different versions of the same story," she says.

Cramer missed all the excitement.

She was born in 1947, but she made a point of recording the stories to which she listened so intently.

Janis helped her father write his wartime memories in the early 90's.

She wrote her own memoir in 2014 and convinced her Uncle Bill to write his own history.

Three books, one family, Cramer's relatives and their stories are swirled together by a powerful Oklahoma wind.

Thanks to Janis they're finally settled on a page with words that will last forever.

Janis Thomas Cramer's book is called "Growing Up Thomas: 50's, 60's, and 70's Oklahoma.

Her father Oscar Thomas book is called, "Adventures of a Thunderbird: 45th Infantry Division 1939 - 1945.

Bill Lehman's book is titled, "An Okie From Muskogee Recalls Growing Up In the Dirty 30's"

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