WOODWARD — As a football player at Mooreland High School 20 years ago, Dusty Peil always knew when his dad had arrived to watch his games.
Steve Peil would ride up to the stadium on his Harley-Davidson with several of his biker friends, engines roaring, announcing their presence. Those same friends gave Steve Peil the nickname “Mickey Mouse,” and it stuck with him for the rest of his life, which ended Sunday when he was killed by a tornado in Woodward.
“You'd hear the Harley being loud coming up,” Dusty Peil, 38, said. “All my friends have been saying how they remembered that. You knew he was coming. My friends loved him.”
Steve Peil and his wife, Kathe, were caught in their mobile home when an EF3 tornado touched down just after midnight Sunday. Both were critically injured and taken to a hospital in Amarillo, where Steve Peil later died. Kathe Peil is still listed in critical condition but is expected to recover, family members said.
Steve Peil had two sons, Dusty and Adonis Peil, 36.
The past few days have been especially tough on the grandkids on both sides of the family. Adonis' sons are 3 and 13. Going to visit granddad in Woodward was a big deal. The family would stay at a hotel all weekend and swim. Their grandfather's vast collection of Mickey Mouse memorabilia was also a hit.
Adonis Peil said he doesn't know how the family will break the news to Kathe Peil, who remains in a medically induced
“She still doesn't know that her husband is dead,” Adonis Peil said. “She's going to have to wake up to that. That's probably the part that eats me the most.”
The death of a man known throughout Woodward as Mickey Mouse is also affecting many who weren't related to Steve Peil but loved him nonetheless, his sons said.
“He was a larger-than-life character,” Adonis Peil said. “He was ‘Uncle Steve' to a lot of nephews who weren't even his. People have been calling and saying, ‘I know we haven't seen you in years, but we just loved your father.' Some people have told me that they didn't even know his real name. People just called him ‘Mickey.'”
Dusty Peil said people were drawn to his father. Andrea Rush, a friend of Steve Peil's, identified herself Monday as his sister. Although Dusty and Adonis Peil said she is not related to them, they aren't surprised people felt that way about their father.
“He had a big heart, and he was known as being someone you could talk to,” Dusty Peil said. “He wasn't judgmental of people. Dad was a good listener. The nickname just fit. He was Mickey Mouse.”