An anonymous donor is paying off the $360,000 mortgage for a man who lost his wife and house in a deadly mudslide.
Homeowner Tim Ward received the unexpected news last week.
"There are still good Samaritans out there," Ward told NBC News. "This is life-changing."
The massive mudslide destroyed Ward’s farmhouse near Oso, Washington, where he and his wife, Brandy, raised turkeys and chickens. They were both home on March 22, 2014, when the wall of earth and debris came cascading down the hill.
Tim remembers running toward his wife in those final moments.
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"She called my name and yelled, 'Tim!" Ward recalled. "And from the moment that voice left her body, she had left the man she had been with for 38 years to be with the son of God she’ll be with forever."
Brandy Ward was killed instantly by the impact. Tim was buried in about 25 feet of mud, but he survived thanks to an opening that reached to the surface, allowing his screams for help to be heard.
He was pulled from the debris and flown to a hospital, where he was treated for severe injuries, including a crushed pelvis.
Four of their five German short-haired pointer dogs were also killed. The one survivor, Blue, was rescued three days after the slide. The dog lost his leg, which was buried beneath a stack of cedar trees.
On top of his recovery, Ward had been trying to negotiate a settlement of his mortgage, which was owned by the Veterans Administration and serviced by Chase Bank. The mortgage was in forbearance, which meant Ward did not have to make payments while going through negotiations.
"It was like the elephant sitting on your chest," Ward said of the mortgage. "You knew it was there, you knew you still had to take a deep breath, but it was very hard."
But he was able to breathe much easier after an anonymous donor, who read about Ward’s story in the newspaper, reached out to Chase Bank and offered to pay off the loan.
"I honestly have never seen this kind of an act of personal generosity where it’s anonymous," said Phyllis Campbell, vice president at JP Morgan Chase.
Ward fully understands that the good Samaritan wants to remain anonymous. His message to that person: "Thank you. Totally, thank you."
Ward has been renting a home in the wake of the tragedy because he could not have two mortgages. The act of generosity means Ward can begin to look for a new, permanent home as he continues to recover — both mentally and physically — from the tragedy that changed his life.
Joe Fryer is a nationally recognized reporter who works for NBC News as a correspondent based in Los Angeles.