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FERRIER FILES: Nashville Christmas miracle kept secret for nearly 60 years

(FOX 17 News)

A former bridge worker is finally being honored for his heroism decades after he helped save a baby from the Cumberland River on Christmas Eve.

Here is the story of a Nashville Christmas miracle kept secret for 60 years:

It was a cold Christmas Eve in 1956.

Marguerite Hunt was a new mom. She had a 3-month-old baby she named Judy.

“She drove to the Shelby Street Bridge, wrapped me up in a blanket, climbed to the highest part and jumped,” said now 61-year-old Judy Hunt Charest.

Two young bridge workers were still at work that Christmas eve. They saw it happen.

“Mr. Jack Knox jumped in he didn't take his shoes off or anything he jumped in.” Judy said. “He got to mom, by the time he got to mom he was hearing other people they were yelling ‘there is something else in the water, there is something else in the water,’ and mom said ‘my baby, my baby is in the water.’”

Jack Knox kept swimming in the frigid water and grabbed the baby and handed it to his coworker Harold Hogue.

Hogue ran up the bank, bouncing the baby on his shoulder up to a waiting ambulance.

“When I had that baby on my shoulder she was bouncing I heard her cough so I knew she was alive,” the now 91-year-old Harold Hogue told FOX 17 News.

Then it was back down where he directed an exhausted Knox to a river stand he had designed, perhaps saving both the savior and the young mom.

“It was just the greatest blessing I ever had in my life,” Hogue said.

But it was a blessing he was ignored out of for 59 and a half years.

Why did Marguerite jump from the Nashville bridge?

Marguerite Hunt was bipolar before anyone had ever even heard of the disease. After her attempt at suicide, she got help and actually turned out to be a wonderful loving mother.

Judy Hunt was the baby she was holding when she jumped, and out of respect for her mother and her mother's shame -- she did not tell her Christmas miracle story until mom had passed away.

“Mom struggled with it her entire life of course, in the end she was okay with it, she was okay, she had found peace,” Judy said.

Honoring her heroes

But, Judy was still looking for something. She had talked on the phone with Jack Knox before he died. He had deservedly been given several awards for bravery.

But humble Hogue had disappeared.

Little did Judy know, Hogue was telling that Christmas miracle story every Christmas Eve. First to his children, and then his grandchildren.

He never knew what happened to the baby. He never knew anyone's names.

But when Marguerite Hunt finally died, the obituary answered questions and a meeting was arranged between Judy and Hogue.

“When he came through the door he had arms wide open when he put his arms around me it felt like I had been there before,” Judy said.

Because, of course, she had -- in 1956, when she was coughing up water on a slippery bank, like a second birth.

I still thank god for him every night,” smiled Judy. “ I had so many angels there that day.”

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