I’ve been dealing with the death and funeral of my mother this past week. It’s been tough . I am overwhelmed that so many friends and readers of my posts have sent cards, emails, and called by phone.
Because of this, I thought I should post a bio I wrote about Mom. She had a very full and long life. For those of you who knew her, I hope you’ll find the following a worthwhile tribute and learn new aspects of her life.
Thanks for indulging me with this. Will return to the usual blog stuff soon.
Adele Catherine Hutton
1921 – 2016
In Loving Memory
Adele Hutton entered this world April 9, 1921 the third of four children born to Frank and Grace Greenway of St. Louis, Missouri. In addition to her parents and three siblings, she enjoyed close relationships with her Grandmother Simeon, who owned and operated a local boarding house, and with her many cousins. It was a different age when the grade school age Adele along with her young cousin, Dolly would ride the trolley unaccompanied downtown on Saturdays to the movie house. At other times, Adele would wander over to the nearby Mississippi river and gaze upon it- perhaps daydreaming about all the places the Great Muddy might take her. She was a bright, energetic, and frugal child.
Despite the passing of years, some wags claimed Adele never grew up, as her adult stature was only 5 feet 1.5 inches and a scant 98 pounds. A comment to which Adele might have responded with one of her often-repeated phrases, “Good things come in small packages.”
A product of the Great Depression, Adele developed frugal ways. She was known, as a child, to mine the couch cushions for lost coins where she invariably found spending money. She also had an endearing practice of “selling” her dog to the neighborhood fire station for a nickel, and later her dog would return home in time to curl up with Adele on her bed for the night. Given that she repeatedly sold that same little dog to the same firemen, they must have either especially liked the enterprising little girl, or else she missed her calling as a salesperson.
An early trauma in Adele’s life occurred when her parents’ divorced. Her enterprising mother, no doubt grievously pained by the divorce, struck out on her own and relocated the four children to Kansas City, Missouri. There she became a successful salesperson for Spirella Corset Company and eventually rose to become regional sales manager.
Adele’s mother forbade the children to ever talk about or have contact with their biological father. Perhaps therein Adele developed her lifelong penchant for keeping her personal thoughts to herself. With her mother working full-time, Adele became more self-reliant and helped rear her younger brother, Dick. Adele made friends easily, developing lifelong friendships during her junior and senior high days.
Adele’s mother met and married Charley Corp of Olathe, Kansas. Adele always considered Charley her father and frequently described his kindness to her and her siblings. Charley Corp worked as a mail clerk for the Kansas Pacific Railroad that became part of the Union Pacific Railway. Perhaps his travel related occupation also influenced Adele’s nascent love of travel.
In addition to being an excellent student, as evidenced by her becoming salutatorian of her high school class, she became a good athlete. Adele made a name for herself as the fastest girl in her high school. As the family story goes, one summer day, a group of girls and boys were enjoying a day at the park. The boys began to chase the girls. Adele liked the looks of young Howard, her eventual husband-to-be, but he wasn’t fast enough to catch her. Years later Adele admitted that she purposefully slowed up, just enough, for him to catch her. The rest was history.
After a year at Kansas City Junior College, Adele joined Howard at the University of Missouri. She there again made excellent grades. She also joined Alpha Delta Pi sorority and in her junior year was elected to be president of the sorority the following year.
December 7, 1941 not only lives on as a day in infamy, but also changed the course of Adele’s life. Following Pearl Harbor, Howard immediately signed up for the U.S. Army Air Forces and reported for service following his spring 1942 graduation.
That spring Howard also proposed to Adele who had up till then been contemplating a career in business. With the world in crisis and the future uncertain, she decided to leave school, marry Howard, and for the next three years trail him to a series of forlorn out-of-the-way military bases. This vagabond existence proved good training for her as she was forced to make new friends and become even more self-reliant, as the men were seemingly always off training in their military airplanes.
Adele also worked at the Fleur Corporation while Howard was assigned to a California military base. The extra income helped as the salary of a second Lieutenant proved meager. In addition to receiving income though, frugal Adele also helped the war effort as Fleur had many military contracts. Her vocational participation gave her a sense of patriotic pride. Adele exemplified what Tom Brokaw later called, “The Greatest Generation.”
Following the whirligig of the war years, Howard, Adele, and firstborn child, Joan, returned to Kansas City and the embrace of their families. There over the next years Adele gave birth to three more children: Tom, David, and Jim. In 1957 Howard’ job, as a pilot for Braniff Airways, required the burgeoning Hutton family to transfer to Dallas, Texas.
In Texas Adele faced a new physical landscape of rolling cotton fields, as far as the eye could see, a creek full of copperheads and Timber rattlesnakes, and marauding tarantulas that persisted in invading her garage. She later joked that at any time she had expected to see seething Comanche coming from over the horizon. Despite these novel challenges and the lack of available help from her extended family, Adele persisted doggedly and built new lives in Texas for herself and her family.
Concerned that the small town of Richardson, population 10,000, had too few activities for her children, she organized a dance club with its many social events, supported athletic interests of her sons, promoted youth groups at the First Presbyterian Church, and established increased PTA activities. As her offspring sheepishly will attest to this day, a youth event in those days was hardly ever held that Adele and Howard did not attend.
Adele always loved animals. Despite protestations from the kids that they would care for and feed the various stray animals they found, it frequently fell to Adele to do so. At times the Hutton household included a menagerie of dogs, cats, parakeets, turtles, a possum (his name was pouty possum), rabbits, lizards, and an ever-expanding number of white mice. Noah’s ark had little on the Hutton home. Howard finally put his size ten foot down and seeded the neighborhood with countless white mice and then swore the kids and Adele to perpetual silence. What exactly the surprised neighbors thought about the sudden unexplained infestation of white mice remains unclear.
In addition to having established a dance club for her children, she also created one for their parents. Adele loved to dance and she and Howard were accomplished dancers and enjoyed “cutting a rug.” Years later when Howard’s mother and father moved from Kansas City to Richardson, Adele established the Richardson’s Senior Citizens Club in order for them to meet new friends. When the children left home for college, Adele turned her loving attention to volunteering at Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas followed by volunteering at the Richardson General Hospital. She became volunteer coordinator and was beloved for her organizational skills and hard work. She was active in the Richardson Women’s Club and served for a time as its president. Her business training later also kicked in and for over a decade she ran an AARP office during income tax season that completed tax returns at no cost for senior citizens. She also cared for her sister Grace during Grace’s decline from Alzheimer’s disease. With the death of Adele’s beloved brother, Dick, her already close relationship with her niece, Lynn, and her great niece, Laura, became still closer. Her caring and compassion for others seemed boundless.
Adele’s youthful but unrequited passion for travel was finally realized with the benefit of Howard’s airline passes. She and Howard proceeded to see the world. They visited the major capitals of Europe, toured Egypt, Russia, multiple countries in South America, Canada, Mexico, Iceland, Australia, the Caribbean, South Africa, Japan, various southeast Asian countries, and had repeated visits to her special place, the Hawaiian Islands. Adele and Howard also cruised extensively where she would dance until late into the night. She possessed an outward looking attitude and taught her children and grandchildren to be aware of and think of the world as a whole.
Adele had a gentile manner and capacity for love that translated to her grandchildren. In the summer her home became a destination for grandchildren where she would teach them to swim, shop, explore, play games, and enjoy Six Flags Over Texas along with numerous other children’s activities.
Years later during her decline when living with Joan, Tom, or David she was asked what was her greatest reward and achievement in life. Invariably she would reply by saying it was raising four loving and successful children. Her wise counsel, capacity to love deeply, and her urging of her children to be successful resulted in their four bachelor’s degrees and four advanced degrees. Her lifelong frugality and penchant for saving made paying for these educational efforts possible.
Her drive for education and improved understanding of her world passed through to the grandchildren as well. Of this she was extremely proud. She rarely seemed saddened by having not completed college but instead continued to read and learn on her own. Adele deftly steered the vocational successes of her offspring from which she gained satisfaction.
Those final years living with her children provided a wonderful time for summing up of her life and imparting final valuable messages to her children. It was clear she was at peace with herself and with her world. She continued to be a private person and to keep her own counsel. But when asked, she would always offer sound advice. Her children agree wholeheartedly that a better mother must never have existed.
Several days before her death, she was sitting and enjoying Joan and Joan’s husband, Eldon. In a picture taken of the three of them, Adele appears dressed in a flowered blouse and red sweater, is nicely coiffed, and wears a huge, almost beatific smile. It may have been that she at the time was flirting with Eldon whom she dearly loved and who has had that effect on many others. Alternatively, it may have been Adele was simply demonstrating her strong sense of satisfaction for her life, a life well lived. Her children like to think the latter is the truer explanation. Adele Catherine Hutton died peacefully soon after in her bed November 23, 2016.
We celebrate her life. Adele Hutton was well loved and shall be dearly missed. She is now with her Lord. She also lives on in the hearts and memories of those who loved her so dearly.