Woody Hutson had so many interests, talents and abilities that it’s hard to single out just one way to describe him. But if I had to try and do that, here’s what I’d say:
He was a world-class friend. He cherished old friendships and embraced new ones. An old Luttrell boy born into a musical, religious family, he was country as cornbread, open minded, intellectually curious, and was gifted with a velvety voice and a heart as big as the world. His wife, Kathy, called him “My sweet Woody” like that was part of his name. And he lived up to it every day.
Among those who will dearly miss Jerry Lamar Hutson are Marguerite Johnson and Glenda Rymer, who bought an old hardware store in Maynardville in April 2014. The building was in pretty rough shape, and it took a couple of months of non-stop work to clean it up, remodel and repaint it, stock it and get ready to open the doors. They don’t know if they could have done it without Woody, who had retired from Norfolk Southern Railroad in 2012 and was free to spend his time as he wished.
“He did everything to help us,” Glenda said. “I don’t know what we would have done without him. He was there every single day – organizing, cleaning. Legally he wasn’t a partner, but he really was, to us. He felt like he was part of that hardware store.”
Traditional hardware stores tended to be man caves, and Woody aimed to create an environment where women would feel comfortable and safe to shop. He wanted to create community, and he worked at every day until he took sick with his first round of cancer,
“He took a break, then came back two or three days a week, and would work when we needed him. He and Kathy came up and helped us do inventory… Over time, so many people that came in that he was able to talk about his family; people he was kin to. One guy came in who taught his brother to play the guitar,” Marguerite said.
Woody’s parents, Ruth and Bill Hutson and his only brother, Larry, all died years ago, and Woody cherished discovering these shared memories and joked that being related to the Kitts family meant he was kin to half of Union County.
Grief is a thing that ebbs and flows, and Glenda felt its waves last week as she was putting out seeds for in a display for spring planting.
“Woody loved gardening,” she said.
Back when they were opening the store, they’d hear from him every night – “Glenda, I’ve got a thought.” When they bought out another hardware store last summer, Woody came up and went back to work organizing and integrating the new stuff. When Kmart went out of business, they heard from him again: “Marguerite, they’ve got shelves…” Same with Fred’s and Toys R Us.
How would they describe him?
“Kind hearted, dependable, giving. A good friend.”
And that was Woody, across the board.
He was also the keeper of the memories. He collected and archived everything ever written about his old friend John Bean, the legendary prankster who died in 1984. It was John who gave him the nickname that stuck with him the rest of his life – it started with a photo of Jerry sporting sunglasses and leaning against a doorframe, looking cool as the other side of the pillow. John started calling him “Hollywood Hutson.” and so did everybody else. When that proved too wordy, John whittled it down to Woody.
He loved music and came by it honestly. His brother was a member of the original Kingdom Heirs gospel quartet. His dad was the group’s manager. He was one of the most active members of the Gibbs High School Alumni Association, got involved in local political campaigns, collected – and cooked with – old-time recipes and could tell you where to find the best blackberry patches and farmers markets. His canned tomatoes were legendary; nobody could get out of his house without a jar of them.
When he and his friends were young adults, they used to get together at Woody’s house on Sunday evenings and play music (John lived there, too, on and off, and his piano was a permanent resident). They called themselves the Schecters for a guitar favored by heavy metal shredders and made up in enthusiasm what they lacked in finesse. John wrote an audacious little song called “When Me and the Boys Get Together,” that predicted the day when they’d get to heaven and teach the angels to sing. Woody recorded all their music on cassettes, which he later transferred to compact discs and gave out to band members and friends. It’s going to be tough, for a while, to listen to them on this side of heaven.
Kathy and the rest of his family will receive friends 5-7 p.m. Thursday, March 12, at Rutherford Memorial United Church Family Life Center, 7815 Corryton Road – right across the street from the house the family moved into when Woody was an eighth grader. The memorial service will begin at 7.
There will be singing.
Betty Bean is a veteran reporter for Knox and Sevier counties. Reach her at email@example.com.