The man who fought Whites Creek
Most folks knew him as "Bobby." As the "patriarch" of the West Hamilton Avenue neighborhood, one friend explained, Robert Woods was the eyes of the historically black Bordeaux community — the man people turned to with problems, and at the same time a master handyman, willing and skilled to fix about anything.
Woods, a retired truck driver and school crossing guard, had for two-plus decades taken aim at the constant flooding of Whites Creek, alerting city officials and community leaders of the need for dredging and widening to resolve the issue. Politicians took notice — of some kind. Eventually, Woods was appointed to Metro's stormwater committee, but he took such gestures as mere lip service ignoring the problem within the low-income neighborhood.
"Unfortunately, the very problem he had worked so hard to solve ended up taking his life," said At-large Metro Councilman Jerry Maynard, who resides in north Nashville.
On the weekend of Nashville's historic flood in May, Woods, a father of six children, went missing. Depending on whom you ask, he was last seen helping neighbors move cars out of harm's way, or he was helping friends transport furniture from their homes. Either way, he was offering a hand.
Chrysty Fortner, a friend of the Woods family, said the rushing waters of Whites Creek swept Woods and two other neighbors away. The three were clinging to a rearview mirror when emergency crews arrived. Those two neighbors were successfully rescued, but a rope extended by firemen couldn't reach all three.
The body of Robert Woods was found Sunday, May 3. He was 74 years old.
Today, drivers crossing Whites Creek on Tucker Road can spot a sign that reads "Robert Woods Memorial Bridge," a fitting tribute honoring the man who devoted his life to battling that creek. Still, nearly eight months after the flood, it's hard for friends to believe what happened.
"No one would have ever imagined that he would have been swept away," Fortner said. "He was really strong, prominent and he served as a pillar of that community. People came to him for things, no matter what it was."
THE FLOOD REMEMBERED
Joshua Heath Landtroop, 21, a server at the Olive Garden on Bell Road in Antioch, had been studying at Middle Tennessee State University to become a teacher, while also helping his wife raise their two sons. Landtroop tried to walk to his home on Valley Way, some 2.5 miles away, after his shift finished Saturday night, May 1. He was apparently swept away. Two boys found his body the next day in a baseball field that backs up to Mill Creek on Blue Hole Road.
Billy F. Rutledge, 70, and his wife, Mary Frances "Frankie" Rutledge, 65, apparently showed up for services at St. George's Episcopal Church on Sunday morning, May 2, not knowing worship had been canceled. They then drove down Harding, only to disappear into the rising waters of Richland Creek. Their bodies were found near the Belle Meade Kroger supermarket.
Joseph T. Formosa Jr., 88, and his wife, Bessie E. Formosa, 78, perished on May 2 while trying to get away from their flooding home in the hard-hit River Plantation subdivision. Rescuers found them in their overturned car not far from the house.
Mary Jane McCormack, 86, was found inside her inundated home on Sawyer Brown Road in River Plantation.
Andrew J. England, 78, and Martha England, 80, were found inside their West Nashville home after Sunday's storms.
Dan Brown, 18, disappeared on Sunday, May 2, after attempting to float an inner tube down the torrential waters of Mill Creek. Searchers found his body eight days later at the foot of a 30-foot bluff near Massman Drive.
Danny Tomlinson, 39, of Pegram vanished Sunday, May 2, when his Cadillac was swept off Newsome Station Road into the swollen Harpeth River. Five months later, on Sept. 26, his remains, his wallet and his cell phone were found near the Narrows of the Harpeth in Bellevue. E. THOMAS WOOD & JIM RIDLEY
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