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Local legacy honored at National Championship after losing battle with cancer

(IMG:FB) Local legacy honored at National Championship after losing battle with cancer

Rival teams came together at the National Championship for a bigger reason - to honor the life of Stephanie Cartagena. Cartagena was a local color guard member with Alabama’s Million-Dollar Band who passed away Monday morning.

"I know she's waving her flag in heaven, routing for Alabama," Cartagena’s father, Carlos, said.

For 20 years, Stephanie lived as an example of a leader. As a color guard team member for both Davidson High School and the University of Alabama, Cartagena constantly fought hard for what she loved most.

"She was so inspirational, she kept fighting all the time,” Cartagena’s sister Sophia said, adding, “she meant so much to me.”

After more than a year, two surgeries, and two rounds of chemo, brain cancer took the life of Stephanie Cartagena. Family members say the battle was long and tough, but she fought so hard.

“In December of 2016, after the Iron Bowl, she had her first surgery and right after that, she wanted to go to the National Championship,” Cartagena’s mother Maybel Dunaway said. “The first thing she told them after the surgery was I want to be there for the color guard and she was there for the game.”

“She was a warrior, we would say she's Wonder Woman,” Carlos said.

An outpouring of messages, calls, and social media comments show the Cartagenas that Stephanie’s legacy that will live on forever, from Tuscaloosa to Mobile county and even Honduras where her family is from.

“I was so proud to go to the games,” Sophia said adding “I would always take picture to show my friends and said that's my sister."

Cartagena’s band director as Davidson High School told NBC 15 News he was honored to have such an incredible leader on his field.

“Recently, she was in between treatments and she would come in and work with the girls,” Davidson’s Band Director Tim Beattie said. “She was so selfless and on top of everything else, she wouldn't except payment when I would try to pay her for instruction. Her legacy is cemented at Davidson as a hard worker, selfless, and just a giver.”

Family members say Cartagena was selfless giver up to the very last second of her 20-year-old life.

“Last night, by the end, she waited for us to fall asleep,” Carlos said. “Her heart all the night was pumping like crazy, that tells you she cared about us all the time, even at the last second, that was it."

Now family members use the posts Cartagena left behind to share her message: live every moment selflessly as their Wonder Woman would.

“She wrote about enjoying your life,” Carlos said, adding, “just be happy and worry about other people."

Funeral services will be at Pinecrest Funeral Home on DIP. Visitation will be on Friday 12th 5:00 - 8:00 pm. On Saturday, there will be a Mass at 11:00 am.

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