The Long Haul: La Jolla couple drives supplies to Oklahoma for tornado victims

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Gordon and Maureen Dunfee and the Murphy Canyon Mamas pose in front of the truck the couple drove more than 1,300 miles to Oklahoma. It contained supplies to assist those recovering from a deadly tornado that struck Moore, Okla. on May 20. Courtesy

To Donate

Gate Church (household items and clothing):

7700 North Council Road, Oklahoma City, Okla., 73132

Salvation Army:

Make checks to Salvation Army Disaster Relief, P.O. Box 2536
 Oklahoma City, Okla. (designate 
Oklahoma Tornado Relief
 on all checks) or donate $10 to the effort by texting STORM to 80888.

By Pat Sherman

Like many across the country, longtime La Jolla residents Gordon and Maureen Dunfee watched with sadness and disbelief as news crews reported on the devastation in Moore, Okla.

On Monday, May 20, a 1.3-mile-wide tornado ripped through the rural community, killing 24 people and injuring nearly 400 others.

Four days later, the Dunfees were on the road, headed for Oklahoma in a 20-foot U-Haul truck loaded with food, water, medical supplies, clothing and other items for the victims.

“The reception was just incredible,” said attorney Gordon Dunfee, who made the more than 2,600-mile, round-trip trek with his wife.

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Some of the vast destruction in Moore, Okla. as photographed by Gordon and Maureen Dunfee. For two days the La Jolla couple helped tornado victims sort through the debris.

The couple arrived early Saturday morning, May 25, delivering more than 300 boxes of supplies to a relief effort centered at the Gate Church in South Oklahoma City (which borders Moore).

“There were probably 40 people there, maybe more, singing ‘America the Beautiful’ and waving flags,” Gordon said. “They were so excited and so thankful.”

Gordon gives the bulk of credit to a group of San Diego military wives (and their families) know as the Murphy Canyon Mamas, who began soliciting donations for the victims via Facebook shortly after the tornado struck. The Dunfees saw a televised report on the Mamas’ efforts and reached out to assist.

Under the leadership of former Oklahoman and Navy wife, Melanie Coffey-Voss, and Marine Corps wife, Diana Noschang, the Mamas and their volunteers filled the Dunfees' truck with clearly labeled supplies.

After spending their first night of the journey in Flagstaff, Ariz., the Dunfees drove straight through to Oklahoma.

After delivering their supplies, the Dunfees headed to Moore, accompanied by a young Navy woman named Gabby Jackson, whose grandparents’ home was destroyed. The couple spent the entire day and part of the next helping Jackson’s grandparents and their neighborhood sort through the debris, salvage belongings and clear pathways.

“It was just horrific to see the destruction and the power of nature,” Gordon said. “As far as you could see the community was leveled. It’s really just an absolute, stunning miracle that more people weren’t killed.”

Though Maureen Dunfee said she experienced several earthquakes growing up in California, nothing prepared her for what she saw in Moore.

“We drove through the streets of a neighborhood and all the houses were perfectly fine, and as you drove closer to where Gabby’s grandparents’ house was, there was absolutely nothing left — just smashed cars. What used to be houses were just piles of bricks and sticks.

“I was telling Gordon that it made me think of the story of the ‘Three Little Pigs,’ where the big bad wolf just huffed and puffed and blew everything down. It was just surreal.”

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La Jolla Beach Barber Tract residents Gordon and Maureen Dunfee stand beside more than 300 boxes of food, clothing and other supplies they drove to Oklahoma to aid the tornado victims. Courtesy

Still, the couple said the unexpected road trip turned out to be the most fulfilling weekend of their lives.

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