He wasn’t an insurance company, he’s your agent, and there’s a difference. He was always there when we needed him,” he said. “I couldn’t ask for a better agency, they’ve helped me out since with my kids and even with my grandkids.

Bob Giesseman

Being There Through the Storm

Written by Mac Connor

The date is April 3, 1974. It’s about an hour after local schools have let out around 4:30 pm, and a tornado touches down nine miles southwest of Xenia, Ohio. It tears out a path 32 miles long through Xenia and Wilberforce, continuing into Clark County. The tornado damages over half of the buildings in the area destroying over 300 homes, nine churches, seven schools and even tipping over a train, injuring over 1,300 and killing 32 in the process.

The tornado was part of a regional super outbreak in which 148 tornadoes touched down in a total of 13 states. It still ranks as one of the largest natural disasters in American history. Bob Giesseman lived in Xenia at the time with his wife and kids, and the day began like any other.

“That morning I got up and went to work, and I was in Dayton. I normally didn’t eat breakfast, and I didn’t eat breakfast that morning,” Giesseman said. “That was 1974, April I believe, and I was actually at a golf course when the tornado hit. I followed an ambulance all the way back from Vandalia, Ohio to Beavercreek, and they weren’t letting people through.”

He knew that he had to get through that line in order to get back to his home and make sure his wife and kids were okay, and he wasn’t going to let anyone or anything get in the way of checking in on his family.

“Well, I had been an insurance adjuster so I was in a suit. They asked me if I was a doctor and I said, ‘sure, I’ll be anything you want me to be.’ I went in the back way to my house and got lost coming in the back,” he exclaimed. “The tornado actually split the Windsor Park and Arrowhead housing developments in half. It came right through that back of the line, it took part of Windsor Park and our house was right there probably 100 yards from the center.”

The house also went from being fixed temporarily to being fixed permanently,” he said. “To my surprise, one day Dick and Betty Combs showed up with a check for the repairs. Living in Xenia, Ohio, and Dick coming down from Columbus, personally, not many agencies would do that.”

Bob Giesseman

Giesseman did not know what to expect, he had come home to an area that he now found decimated beyond recognition. The housing developments in the area had been ravaged by the tornado, with some of the houses being reduced to rubble while others suffered only minor damages. Luckily, he came home to find his house still standing.

“My wife and kids were in the house. When I got there, I pulled up in the driveway, which was not actually the driveway because I had to pull up into the yard,” he said seemingly still in disbelief. “It amazed me that there wasn’t more damage to my house versus the house across the street from me. I mean there were houses that were totally vaporized, yet for my house; the only damage that we got was the roof, which just amazed me to no end.”

The wave of emotions finally started to set in as the immense shock slowly faded. Now that he had seen that his house and family had survived, the reality of the situation began to set in.

“I can’t tell you exactly how I felt, other than relieved that the family was all right. You could smell gas in the air and see the gas company coming around and shutting things down so you don’t have explosions,” he recalled. “I actually had several friends who knew I wasn’t at home. One of them came over and he made sure my wife and the kids were all right and put plastic on the one big window so that they would be safe until I got home. I had lots of friends taking care of things for me. Really, I was more worried about getting them settled someplace for the night and go from there.”

Here, the relief of finding his family safe and that his friends had taken care of them through the whole ordeal gave Bob the freedom to focus on making sure everyone would be okay while the aftermath of the storm was taken care of.

“The following weeks we couldn’t live in the house, so I sent my wife and kids down to her mother’s down in southeast Ohio. I had another close friend of mine with a construction company come out and do a temporary fix on the house so the roof wouldn’t leak, so that the inside of the house wouldn’t get wet. I had lots of friends.” He said.

Bob’s friends in the area made it possible for him and his family to carry on while their home was being repaired and everyone else in the area was being taken care of. The community came together in order to rebuild from the disaster, and there wasn’t a single person that was not affected by the tornado in some way. Everyone just wanted to help.

“The next week really went by like a flash, because I knew the family was safe and I was totally tied up taking care of work. The house also went from being fixed temporarily to being fixed permanently,” he said. “To my surprise, one day Dick and Betty Combs showed up with a check for the repairs. Living in Xenia, Ohio, and Dick coming down from Columbus, personally, not many agencies would do that.”

Bob and the Combs Agency had a relationship prior to the tornado, but no amount of care in an office or casual setting could compare to the compassion they showed when they drove down to make sure that everything with the family was okay, and that their assistance was available if they needed it.

“It made the wife and I feel absolutely great, Dick always treated her like a daughter because he knew her before I did, and that just proved itself out. He was genuinely worried about us,” he rejoiced. “I always want to think that he made the visit because of us first, and wanting to see what happened second. It made us feel good because we knew that we were well taken care of.”

The care that Dick and Betty Combs showed that day and throughout the whole process made a lasting mark on Bob and his family, and over time it showed that the Combs Agency was always there for them whenever they needed them. Not just on a professional level, but on a personal level as well.

“Everything I ever wanted from Dick, before that and after that, all I had to do was call Combs Insurance and they got me an answer. Whether it be to help, or just for questions. He was never a pushy person. Chris and I have now known each other for 22 years, he calls me Uncle Bob,” he said.

Dick could not be more caring about his customers, always finding his solace in knowing he was taking care of people for his work. This is something that he made sure to instill in not only his own life, but also the lives of his son and grandson who now run the agency. Rick and Chris combs carry on his tradition of treating the customer like family to this day.

“I go back three generations, Chris, Rick, and of course Dick, the original founder of Combs insurance. They are absolutely great guys. They’ll do anything to help their clients or even a non-client,” he said. “They had good training from Dick. He never ever pushed for you to do anything you didn’t want to do. If you wanted to sit down and talk about it, you would sit down and talk about it, and you went from there. He didn’t push you to make up your mind. You made up your own mind. You couldn’t ask for a better agency.”

The care that the Combs have shown to Bob has proven them to be differentiated from a common insurance agency, one that is better acclimated to dealing with issues for their customers on a personal level. When someone decides to trust the Combs agency, they repay that trust by treating them like family day in, and day out.

“He wasn’t an insurance company, he’s your agent, and there’s a difference. He was always there when we needed him,” he said. “I couldn’t ask for a better agency, they’ve helped me out since with my kids and even with my grandkids. They’ve done everything they could possibly do. I can either stop in or just drop in anytime. They’re a good group. Chris is one of the best.”

2019-03-22T22:49:54+00:00