Victim Floyd Whitfield helping others when killed by tornado

Floyd Whitfield and his girlfriend, Leverne Dorsey
Floyd Whitfield died in Sunday's tornado in North Minneapolis when a tree struck his car. He's pictured here with his girlfriend, Leverne Dorsey.
Photo courtesy of Lou Ann Pendleton

Friends and family will gather on June 3 to remember a Minneapolis man who died in Sunday's tornado in north Minneapolis.

Floyd Whitfield, 59, was killed when a tree crashed through his van's windshield. A friend's child who was a passenger was not seriously injured.

Whitfield's family and friends say he was terrified of storms, but it was fitting that he died while trying to help others by driving neighborhood kids home from church.

Friends and family say they'll remember Whitfield as a man who overcame obstacles and troubles and turned his life around in recent years. He was a mechanic who had a gift for fixing cars. His girlfriend, Leverne Dorsey, said Whitfield was a deacon and usher and sang in the choir for the church group that met Sundays in the gymnasium of the Phyllis Wheatley Community Center.

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After Sunday's service ended, Whitfield unwittingly drove straight into the path of the tornado.

"He left church doing the Lord's work, dropping people off from church," Dorsey said. "He was coming through on Fremont to take one of the young men home, and that's when the accident happened."

A tree crashed through the windshield, striking Whitfield, causing fatal head and neck injuries.

Whitfield's sister Brenda Davis had been with her brother at church that day. She said Whitfield was afraid of storms. She remembers kidding him about it in the past.

"The Saturday before, when we had we had a thunderstorm and stuff, he was at home, and he ran to his mother's house when it cleared -- the rain slowed down a little bit and stuff, he ran over to his mom's -- and said, 'Mom, I just came over to see how you was doing.' He didn't want nobody to know that he was afraid of the storms."

Davis sees her brother's death not as a mistake or bad luck driving the wrong way into a deadly storm.

"God was picking up roses," she said, "and he needed Floyd."

Whitfield leaves behind his mother, four sisters, two brothers, three grown children, his girlfriend and many friends.