Butts County woman keeps her spirit high after tree crushes home

The storm that blew through Butts County on Thursday, Jan. 12 sent a massive tree crashing down on Joanne Mathis’ home on Cherokee Drive near the Newton County line. When the storm clouds cleared, a white wooden cross and Christian flag in Mathis’ front yard were untouched.

When volunteers removed the tree from the single-wide trailer, they found a picture of an angel on the roof. The picture, which depicts an angel watching over two children, had hung in Mathis’ home.

“It had been ripped out of the frame, but was intact and laying on top of the house,” said Mathis’ daughter, Tonia Dalton.

Credit: Sharon Dowdy Cruse

Credit: Sharon Dowdy Cruse

Mathis says she was warned that she would experience a life-altering event.

“Three months ago, I was laying in bed and I heard a voice tell me, ‘There will be big changes that your faith will take you through.’ And, my best friend, who passed away last month, told me that the Lord said to tell me that I was going to go through a big trial, but my faith would take me through it,” Mathis said.

The 69-year-old had heard that bad weather was expected the day the tornadoes hit Butts County, but she didn’t take the warning seriously.

“I knew they had been saying there was bad weather coming, but they often say there’s gonna be bad weather and then it changes,” said Mathis who was busy washing dishes and doing household chores that afternoon. “I didn’t even have my TV on, but I heard a small still voice tell me to turn the TV on.”

It was then that she discovered a tornado had hit in Locust Grove. Her daughter, Amanda Simpson, picked her up soon after and took her to safety before the tornado came through.

“The next day when I saw what the storm had done, I thought I would pass out,” said Mathis, who was the first to move into the neighborhood some 55 years ago. “I raised my kids and some of my grandkids here. It’s the memories that hurt the most.”

Explore‘I want my life back’: Georgia tornado victims share experiences, try to rebuild

Mathis does not have homeowners insurance and is on a fixed income. Despite her loss, she is thankful to be alive, and she’s thankful for the love she has felt from strangers.

“All kinds of churches have been coming by and bringing things,” she said. “And, the Red Cross brought us meals. When you are in this position and people you have never seen before reach out to you, that means everything.”

Mathis has applied for help through FEMA and her daughters have set up a GoFundMe page to help raise money to replace her home. Donations can also be sent to Mathis in care of 17.8 Cherokee Drive, Jackson.

She says in the future there will be very few trees in her landscape.

“The backyard is full of trees right now, but they were all once in my neighbor’s yard,” she said. “I had a hydrangea in a pot, and I would like to know where it ended up.”


Credit: Henry Herald

Credit: Henry Herald

MEET OUR PARTNER

Today’s story comes from our partner, the Henry Herald. The Henry Herald provides daily coverage of community news, events, and sports in Henry County at HenryHerald.com.

If you have any feedback or questions about our partnerships, you can contact Senior Manager of Partnerships Nicole Williams via email at nicole.williams@ajc.com.