Howard Kelley Award 2016 recipient Hugh McCutchen is remembered by friends and family as a generous volunteer and passionate fisherman. The Durham resident died close to family on April 27, at 82.
“The main thing that was important to him was just helping people,” said his daughter, Heather McCutchen Kannam. “He loved helping people, he loved being useful, he loved doing things, fixing things.”
McCutchen was a volunteer and leader for Trout Unlimited and Connecticut Surfcasters and would help veterans, including disabled ones, fish on weekends through Take a Vet Fishing.
He also taught Sunday school for many years, served on various church committees, and McCutchen Kannam said her father was always the last person there on Sundays washing dishes after coffee hour.
Over his life, he also served as a volunteer ambulance driver, a Rotary member, a United Way fundraising leader, Junior Achievement director, a Little League coach, and served as a mentor to many college students through the Episcopal Canterbury Club.
He loved animals, especially dogs, and enjoyed going to baseball games with his family. McCutchen had many hobbies, including traditional stamp and coin collecting, and would build projects by request, like treehouses and dollhouses.
“And fixing things: his kitchen counter was a magical space where broken things were left and he would tackle them with determination, ingenuity, and usually super glue,” McCutchen Kannam said in his obituary.
McCutchen was honored with the Howard Kelley Award from the Coginchaug Valley Education Foundation in 2016, for his contributions to the Trout in Classroom program and fishing club at Memorial School in Middlefield. Fellow program leader and longtime friend Bill Glueck won along with him.
The Kelley award, founded in 2011, recognizes a commitment to education within the community.
McCutchen and Glueck helped run Trout in the Classroom programs in more than 10 schools across Middlesex County since around 2005. Together they supported teachers in setting up cold water tanks with trout eggs, and after months of the students studying and caring for them, helped release them in into the wild.
“You don’t know where these children are going, and the more you have them exposed to things like this, the more chances you’re going to have with children that are going to think back and say ‘yeah, the environment is really important,’” Gleuck said.
The two also ran the Memorial School’s fishing club for about 10 years.
“Hugh loved it,” Gleuck said.
McCutchen Kannam said her father was modest and became even more excited for the Kelley award when she won it two years later, for founding PaperHouse Productions.
McCutchen was born in South Carolina and met his wife Julia while living at West Point. Both were “Army brats.” He studied chemical engineering at Colorado School of Mines, Clemson University and Virginia Polytechnic Institute.
He previously lived in Alabama, and moved to Durham with his wife 15 years ago, to live with Heather and her family. Looking back, McCutchen Kannam said she’s grateful for the time she and her children got to spend with him.
“He was just such a steady, dependable presence,” she said. “You could count on him to always kind of be there to pick up whatever needed doing.”
When they moved to Durham, McCutchen was retired from a full career as a chemical engineer and worked for International Nickel, DeepSea Ventures, Diamond Chamrock, Eltech Corp. and the American Fireworks Association.
McCutchen Kannam said he holds patents for his work with electrochlorinators and he designed the original prototypes for saltwater swimming pools. She said her father had an impact on many people, and since his passing, she has received plenty of phone calls.
“This has been really nice, just to hear from people that he had an impact on, from all of his life,” McCutchen Kannam said.
McCutchen is survived by his wife of 59 years, Julia, and children Alan, Heather and Scott, son-in-law Tom, and grandchildren Julia, Catherine and Thomas.
Services were held May 9 at the Church of the Epiphany in Durham.