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When Jonesborough Firefighter Luke Story first learned he had pancreatic cancer, he could have had no idea the impact his struggle – and his life – would have on this small town in Northeast Tennessee.
Story passed away five short months after his diagnosis at the age of 37. But his message didn’t end there.
“Luke was amazing,” said Major Natalie Hilton with Jonesborough Public Safety after news of Story’s death had begun to spread. “He wasn’t just a great employee. He was a great friend.
“He brought this community closer together. And his legacy will continue.”
That legacy included a nonprofit group, titled the Luke Story Foundation, designed to help support other patients and family struck with a pancreatic cancer diagnosis.
It’s a legacy that was a perfect fit for Story’s care and compassion, according to Hilton. Story was known, she said, for always having a smile on his face and for always being more concerned about others than himself.
“He always worried about everybody else,” she added.
A David Crockett High School graduate, the Jonesborough firefighter was the one who started Crockett’s Prom Promise, a program designed to help protect young lives. He was also instrumental in Jonesborough’s annual “Shop with a Cop or Firefighter” program.
Story died on Jan. 24, and firefighters gathered from across the state to celebrate his life during funeral services held on Jan. 28.
That tribute spoke volumes to the impact Story had on lives throughout the community and across the state.
Almost half of the filled chapel at Dillow-Taylor Funeral Home was made up of multiple branches of first responders in dress uniform packed shoulder to shoulder.
Story’s bravery, service, even his comedic nature, were lauded during the ceremony, but Pastor Mike Anglin told the crowd Story’s most important decision was made Jan. 24.
Though raised in the church, Story had never made a public profession of faith. During a conversation with Maj. Natalie Hilton that morning, he accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior before dying in his brother’s arms.
“It’s always been stated that you preach your funeral while you live,” Anglin said, referring to four pages of remembrances about Story that had been given to him by family, friends and co-workers. “I have that sermon with these stories. Now Luke has his testimony as a child of God.”
As the procession led by almost 20 fire trucks traveled to Cherokee Baptist Cemetery, supporters including members of the Washington County Sheriff’s Department, the Jonesborough Public Safety Department, business people and county residents, could be seen standing at the roadside in a show of respect, many with hands over their hearts.
Following a traditional ringing of the fire bell in recognition of Story’s completing his last shift, a Wings Air Rescue helicopter circled the cemetery in tribute.
“We will take it from here,” his comrades assured him. “Luke, rest in peace brother.”