Jennifer, Kim and Alan Wilson moved to Kingsley in April 1998, three weeks before the tornado hit.
Jennifer, Kim and Alan Wilson moved to Kingsley in April 1998, three weeks before the tornado hit.

Alan Wilson and his wife bought a home in the Kingsley neighborhood just before the big tornado hit.

“When we moved in, three weeks later is when the tornado hit, in April 1998,” Wilson said. “So in a way, even though that kind of bummed us out when we first moved in, we actually got involved with the community.”

On April 9, 1998, tornadoes tore across the northern suburbs of metro Atlanta, touching down in Cobb, Fulton, DeKalb and Gwinnett counties. The most severe damage was in Dunwoody, where the storm’s intensity increased to the top of the F2 rating range, with winds reaching 150 miles per hour, according to the National Weather Service.

Damage occurred to thousands of homes, and the storm snapped or uprooted tens of thousands of pine and hardwood trees. Hundreds of homes had major damage, and a few dozen had to be completely rebuilt.

The Dunwoody Preservation Trust started a community committee to replant the Dunwoody forest, and the Wilsons got involved.

“Because of the way the neighborhood came together, we actually started meeting more people,” Wilson said.

His involvement with the Dunwoody Preservation Trust led him to meet neighbor Louise McCann, who encouraged the Wilsons to help with judging for the Fourth of July

“She was doing the judging, and asked if we would help,” Wilson said. “I eventually took that over for 10 years.”

Though the tornado acted as a catalyst for getting the Wilson family more involved with their neighbors, the Kingsley Racquet & Swim Club helped them choose their home in the neighborhood.

“We became members the first year,” Wilson said. “That was one of the reasons we chose this neighborhood. I started playing ALTA tennis and my wife did, too.”

Wilson said he and his wife, Kim, were active with the tennis program for a while, and she recently retired as captain of her team. He took his turn to be a board member for the club and then took over as president from 2010-2012. “It’s one of those things where we feel like if we’re going to be part of something, you’ve got to be involved,” he said.

After becoming friends with McCann, the Wilsons started attending Kingswood United Methodist Church. Alan Wilson said 75 percent of the people he knows in Dunwoody came through the swim and tennis activities or through the church.

“The majority of our friends from church all belong to the swim club,” Kim Wilson said. “So even those people who don’t live in the Kingsley neighborhood become part of the community through the

Erika Harris moved to the Dunwoody Club Forest neighborhood nine years ago, and she and her family joined the Kingsley Swim & Racquet Club.

“We soon learned that the club pride and the strong sense of community was what really gave this club heart,” Harris said. “The social gathering opportunities seem endless. Kingsley became much more than a place to swim and hit a tennis ball.”

Harris said for her husband and four children, the club became a family place to gather. They’d spend summer evenings there, watch football games in the club house, or simply bring their kids to play on the playground while their dog went swimming in the

In March, the Harris family will move into a bigger home in the Kingsley neighborhood. She said they need more space, but chose Kingsley because of its club, its proximity to Brook Run Park and the lakes in the area.

Tom Lambert, who followed Wilson as president of Kingsley Racquet & Swim Club, also served as chair of Kingsley Elementary School’s Charter Council. He said his family has lived in Kingsley for 15 years. “We moved in as newlyweds, and now have two children that we have raised here,” he said. “We love the

Kim Wilson said many of the children in the neighborhood go to different private schools, and her 14-year-old daughter, Jennifer, goes to Alpharetta to ice skate, but they all get together again during the community’s recreational activities. Much of the time, friends gather at the holiday parties at the clubhouse and adults enjoy events such as Casino

“I just love the fact that people are pretty respectful of each other for the most part,” Kim Wilson said.”I think we all watch out for each other.”

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