Lost Bible Found in Tornado Debris 40 Years Later

By ADAM TAMBURIN, The Tennessean | September 23, 2014

Deb Savely’s lost childhood Bible was discovered in a box from Vol State after 40 years.

In 1961, John Savely made a rare shopping trip to buy a Bible for his only daughter’s seventh birthday.

He died 10 years later, and that Bible became a cherished heirloom for the young woman. Often, she’d flip to the first page to read the inscription in his handwriting.

“Presented to Deborah Savely by Mother and Daddy. June 1961.”

Deb Savely carried the Bible with her everywhere. When she enrolled at Volunteer State Community College in Gallatin, she read from it every day, until it slipped out of her backpack in 1974.

She searched for the holy book for decades.

“It was like a piece of my heart just broke off,” she said. “A part of me was gone.”

That missing piece was restored last month, when retired Vol State staffer Betty Gibson found the Bible while she was rummaging through her basement. Somehow, it wound up in a box of debris Gibson collected after an EF-3 tornado swept through the college campus in 2006, peeling away rooftops and scattering belongings like sawdust.

When Gibson saw the inscription, she recognized its significance.

“I have one just like it,” she said. “It just had to mean something to somebody.”

So Gibson called Vol State, spurring a search for Savely that captivated several staff members there. One of those staffers, Amber Regan, spent hours tracking Savely down through a marathon of Web searches and sleuthing.

When Regan finally reached Savely at her Edward Jones office in Lebanon, a breathless conversation gave way to stunned silence, and then tears.

“It was the last phone call in the world that I had expected to get,” Savely said. “This is a dream that I don’t want to wake up from.”

Savely made her way to Vol State recently, along with her 87-year-old mother, to claim the long lost Bible. Gibson and Regan were there too, and there were “a lot of tears, a lot of hugs and a lot of friendships that will never be broken now,” Savely said.

Regan and Gibson were both reticent to claim credit.

“It’s a blessing. I was blessed to have been a part of it,” Regan said. “It’s not like any other item. A Bible’s special.”

The moment became a spiritual reunion for Savely and her mother.

“My daddy’s infused in that Bible,” she said. “Whenever I lay my hand on the page I can feel that big old hand of his come over mine.”

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