Eric R. Hutchins
Michelle Hutchins – Read by her father Eric R. Hutchins
Lazy Mary will you get up. She answers back I am not able. Lazy Mary will you get up. We need the sheets for the table. One of the most vivid memories of my grandpa is him walking into the living room of their house in Judith’s Fancy where I was sleeping on the pull out couch and he would wake me up singing that little song. Grandma would already be in the kitchen making pancakes for us. We would sit down at the dining room table and grandpa would say something sarcastic to grandma just to mess with her. He would always call her Susie. And she would always reply Oh Gene Stop it! She would get so frustrated and grandpa would look at me and make a funny face and chuckle a little. I will always remember my grandpa’s laugh. I loved when he smiled. I think everyone loved when he smiled. Grandpa was a tough guy or at least everyone said he was. But to me he wasn’t such a tough guy. Even though he did make me weed whack the lawn in Judith’s fancy one day with him, until of course I hurt myself and ran to grandma to save me from doing anymore work! My grandpa loved to do things outside. He loved to take walks and when grandma and I would go down the to the beach to collect shells and play he would always come down with us and would sit on a long on the beach and just watch grandma and I play in the water or in the sand. He liked to take a lot of walks. When he was going through therapy I think taking a walk to the barn and back was his favorite thing to do. Grandpa liked to build and collect things. Sometimes when I was younger I would go to my grandparent’s house and grandpa would surprise me with a little plane and we would build it together. When it was all finished we would go outside and wind it up and fly it around for what it seemed like hours. Besides planes we would love to fly kites together too. He loved to be outside doing something. He was always a child at heart and that’s why I think he always liked to play. He collected a lot of different things. He collected cannons, cannon balls, ducks, and a lot of other anatomite objects.
I have at least one memory for every time I was with my grandpa, but if I was to share them with you all today this speech would be days long. But what I can tell you today even though I am sadly not there is that my grandpa love each individual in this room and even people that couldn’t make it here today with all of his heart. My grandfather had many friends and many people loved him. He was the smartest guy Ive known besides my dad of course. But my grandpa was very wise. He had an answer to everything and if he didn’t have any advice to give which he usually did anyways he would always know the right things to say to put a smile on your face and feel very important. Everyone was very important and dear to his heart. But the most important person whom I know he would do anything for was my grandma Sue. Even though grandpa would mess around with her and sometimes frustrate her I always knew my grandpa adored her. There was no other girl in the world for him. He couldn’t have lived such a happy and full life without my grandma. When I think of my grandma and grandpa (and I know this is cheesy) but I really do think of true love. You can’t find that every day. They might’ve had their rough days but in the end they only truly loved each other and would never let each other go. Their love is something I look up to each and every day of my life.
Grandpa was a funny guy. He always had these jokes which absolutely don’t make any sense but were still so funny. He would always tell these jokes which were more like riddles and sometimes some of them wouldn’t even have any answer. But even though they didn’t have an answer grandpa would just look at all of us smile and chuckle a little and just say I don’t know! And we would all laugh anyways.
Grandpa had a way of making everyone’s bad day turn into an amazing day. Just with his smile, a funny comment or even when he would mess around with his fake eye and when he would make a funny face.
Grandpa was a great guy. There are a lot of good and bad people in this world but there are not a lot of great people. Grandpa was one of the greats.
I am truly sorry that I could not be there today but I loved my grandfather unconditionally. He has taught me great lessons in life and he has left me with memories that I will tell my kids someday and my kids will tell their kids. He will never be forgotten. And he will always be loved. I think about him each and every day. He will always have a reserved place in my heart which will never go away. I hope and I know that each of you all feel the same way as I do. What can I say? It was hard not to love him.
Thank you all for coming and sharing a special and sad time together today, but if I was to speak for my grandfather he would say to me “Shelly, put a smile on that pretty face.” So everyone put a smile on for him. Think and share all the memories you had with my grandfather, our best friend.
And if you can hear me up there, I love you grandpa and I miss you truly. You are my best friend. I will never forget about you and I’ll never let you go. I’ll help take care of grandma for you. I love you with my heart.
Steven E. Hutchins
Eugene Hutchins was a Remarkable Man
As I have tried to put together some thoughts that might provide us with some perspective on this man’s life, more accounts and facts have kept pouring in in recent days. Giving a fair account of what made my Dad so remarkable was becoming a greater discourse than I could compress into this Eulogy. I decided that for today I would like to look at three of his special qualities and see in them how his all or nothing approach to life pervaded in all that he did.
While it may be bad form to list a man’s qualities, Dads qualities did not just make an occasional appearance but were exhibited daily and at the highest level and I am compelled to mention the more significant ones briefly before focusing on the three.
His diligence – He was always working, from the time he was in elementary school and gainfully. As long as he was walking, he was out doing physical work. He was never idle.
His devotion to family – We were his world. The homes he built for us, the trips we took, the time and attention that he afforded to every member of the extended family all the way down to Wilfred, the youngest great-grandchild that he met.
His humor – Whether you liked his jokes or not, he always seemed ready to interject humor in any situation, and most often the jokes were hilarious.
His cheerfulness – Always. He was as buoyant as a cork. I don’t remember him being in bad moods. Always cheerful
His integrity – Unmovable. He let you know where he stood and he did not waver. Incorruptible – he didn’t need it.
And there are others but I will now detail three of his qualities.
The first quality I would like to speak of is Courage.
Dad was incredibly courageous. I think Dads courage was forged early in life. He grew up in North Kalamazoo, Michigan during WWII. That was the rough side of town. He ran home every day to try to escape getting beat up. His Dad bought him boxing gloves and taught him to fight. Later, he went on to compete in the Golden Gloves tournament At 11 his father left for war leaving him as the man of the house. After Army service in Germany and a move to the East Coast, he then took a huge leap to St. Croix, Virgin Islands. It was 1962, it was third world, dirt roads, no home telephones and a radically different culture. He fought through the territorial and racial obstacles to build what is exists today as the oldest construction company in the Virgin Islands.
After surviving a seaplane crash in 1986, he had to decide on amputation versus rehab of a badly injured leg. While other family members struggled with the issue he said “amputate” I want to get on with my life.
I think Dads courage was fueled by optimism. He was the eternal optimist. He always aimed high and was unafraid of the unprecedented. He challenged our notion of the impossible and while we laughed at some of the radical ideas, he made us begin to wonder. He boldly ventured in building speculative condominiums and homes, and did well, possibly because of the encouraging influence he had on that small market by taking the lead.
His optimism drove his outlook on life and he imparted that positive outlook on us. He used humor and tried to help us put our problems in perspective. Whenever one of us was feeling down and out he would usually recount a tale from his youth.
It went like this:
One day as I sat sad and lonely
A voice came to me from the Blue
It said: Cheer up, things could get worse
So I cheered up
And, sure enough, things got worse
At least we started laughing.
The next quality that I would like to speak of is Dad’s Creativity and Resourcefulness.
He was one of the most creative, inventive and resourceful people I’ve ever met.
He had to be resourceful as an 11 year old and provide for his home. He always had many coals in the fire and worked very hard. He bought his family’s first car. These skills were tested as he worked throughout his academic career with graduation from Western Michigan, in Business Administration.
These skills became essential to survival, let alone success when establishing a new business venture on a Caribbean Island, and that business is construction contracting. As complex as it is on the mainland, building in the Virgin Islands was a higher level of magnitude of complexity. Everything came by ship, late and damaged, there were no material shortages, just outages. Even good labor had to be imported and bonded.
He taught himself to draft and to prepare plans for building permitting. He also tapped a great resource in his wife Sue. He taught her construction knowledge and how to draft plans and between them they drew up the plans for all of the spec homes and personal homes that he built. He was way ahead of his time by implementing “Green” features in his projects 30 years ago, including photovoltaics, light pipes, passive cooling, cross ventilation, and potable water cisterns for rainwater collection.
When we lived on Water Island near St. Thomas, in 1964, Christmas was approaching and we had no tree or any way of getting one. Dad cut off the stalk of a century plant, the perfect height and shape and spray painted it gold and it was the best tree ever.
When the seaplane crashed in Christiansted Harbor in 1986, one engine tore loose and the propeller ripped through the fuselage where Dad was sitting and struck his head and mangled his left leg before stopping. As the plane was sinking and with half of his face torn away and left leg bones shattered in a dozen pieces, he retained consciousness, kept thinking and pulled himself through the hole in the fuselage that the propeller made. Then, knowing that he would run out of blood and lose consciousness floating in the seawater, he used a belt to strap himself to some floating wreckage. He was always thinking.
The third quality is Fairness and Regard For his Fellow Man
If you got to know Gene Hutchins well you would soon learn he had a clear and consistent philosophy on the forming of relationships with everyone he met. Race, politics, appearance and even resume were left out of the picture. It was man to man, person to person. The way you conducted yourself towards him alone drove the formation of the relationship. If you betrayed trust, he wouldn’t get angry, you would just be out. If it was positive he would generously bestow trust, opportunity, responsibility and friendship and loyalty. The relationships he built lasted and they are numerous. He employed and befriended people from all origins and walks of life. He played tennis with judges and Hess Oil company executives and went fishing with construction laborers.
After the plane crash, he was overwhelmed with support and encouragement from old Crucian families, politicians, and workers from years past. I travel to St. Croix once per month and there is never a trip that I don’t have several people asking about Gene and how he is doing.
Over the years almost every competent tradesman and subcontractor on the island had worked for Gene at one time or the other. There is a core crew that has a long history with the company. Gene is known throughout the territory as a fair employer, an honest man and a builder of notable projects. Although things have slowed some under my watch, we recently completed a hilltop villa and when we were staffing up I was sure to mention that it was Gene’s project. We had a stellar crew and achieved a demanding completion goal. I can guarantee you that if Gene was here today and put out a call for a construction crew for a job, there would be crews standing 3 deep at 7:00 Monday morning to work for him.
Go look at the memorial website. Look at all of the tributes. These were all born out of respect for a fair, kind man.
For the last 3 years of Dad’s life he was in almost continual discomfort and pain. It started with a blood infection that eroded his vertebrae and damaged a heart valve. He suffered from pneumonia, diabetes, renal failure high blood pressure, anemia, clogged carotid arteries, injury to vocal cords, aspiration, huge open wounds, carcinomas, congestive heart failure, over medication and the rigors of dialysis and the practice of medicine all in the past three years. I have not witnessed greater courage as he fought through this misery. Vibha’s Dad observed that “he fought like a tiger”. I agree. He fought to the last minute. We should now all be thankful that his suffering has ended and he is at rest. But for us that remain, this world will indeed be a colder place without him. He will be missed greatly by many. I will miss our interaction, his advice, his judgment and cheerful support that I enjoyed to the end. By the loss of this one ferociously unique man, we will all feel a collective loss in our own lives of;
That relentless cheer
The ready humor
The astute advice
The clear perspective on issues
The positive outlook
The encouraging words
The razor sharp memory and knowledge
That was my Dad. I love you Dad. Rest in Peace.