Nell Smith Lutz was born on 29 November 1921, in Dothan, Alabama, and was raised in Marianna, Florida. She graduated from high school in 1939 and attended Florida State College for Women (now Florida State University).
Immediately following her graduation from college, Lutz enlisted in the WAVES. In July 1943 was sent basic training at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. Following basic she was sent to take supply and disbursing classes at Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In January 1944 she was assigned to the supply corps of the Norfolk Navy Yard at Portsmouth, Virginia, as an assistant disbursing officer. There she met and became engaged to Frank Lutz. She was then transferred to Glynco, Georgia, as a disbursing officer with independent duty. She married Frank Lutz in August of 1945 and on 29 November 1945, Lutz was discharged from the WAVES.
After leaving the service, Lutz moved to Portsmouth to be with her husband, who was still on active duty. The couple raised three children.