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'She’s a hero': Woman dies saving neighbors from Middle Tennessee flooding

Mary Luten
Posted at 12:03 PM, Aug 25, 2021

WAVERLY, Tenn. — For Jodie Stawski and her son Daniel Cate, the pain of losing so much, so quickly, is sometimes more than they can bear.

"Everything's ruined," Cate said.

"It's all ruined, it's all gone. All my stuff. It's just gone," Stawski said.

The two spent Tuesday sifting through what could be salvaged. Jodie got emotional seeing important paperwork and old love letters from her parents, now marred in mud.

"It's OK though, it's OK. Didn't lose any family," she said.

That's true because of their neighbor, Mary Luten, who saw the need to knock.

"She said, 'It's an emergency,' and she made me understand. She didn't just say it once," Stawski said. "She made me understand — get out. If it wasn't for her, we wouldn't be here. There's no doubt."

By the time they could get the car around, Trace Creek had risen to their doorstep.

"I remember as I was getting into the car, her standing there and she was like looking at us like, almost rooting for us to get out of here, go," Stawski said.

Luten stayed behind, alerting others, but there wasn't enough time to save herself.

"We will never forget her and we will tell all the people about her forever, and our grandchildren will," Stawski said.

In addition to being a kind neighbor, Luten was also the proud mother of two adult sons.

"She's a hero. She saved our lives," Cate said.

"We wouldn't be here if it wasn't for your mom," Stawski added.

Losing so much, so quickly, Cate and Stawski don't have much they can give Luten's sons, other than an unending flow of gratitude.

"I know that [God] sent Mary here, and I'll never let nobody forget her as long as I'm alive, she'll be remembered. I can promise you that," Stawski said. "And she wasn't even worried about herself. That's what gets me. She didn't care. She just worried about us. That's a true hero."

Luten's family has set up a GoFundMe page to help with funeral expenses and help her son, Dustin, get back on his feet after losing everything in the weekend's flood.

This story was originally published by Chris Davis on Scripps station WTVF in Nashville.