By Everett Smith
A stone tossed into the quietness of a still pond sends out ripples in all directions. Similarly, an individual life sends out “ripples” of its own impacting those it touches. Whether the influence be of merit or that of futility will depend on the quality by which that life is lived.
If you conducted a search of the definitions of the following words: compassion, selflessness, generosity, integrity, honesty, genuine, humility to name a few, you just might find the name Jack Nutter woven in each line.
Jack will celebrate his 80th birth- day this June and spends a good portion of time in the outdoors. As a young boy raised in Manton Michigan,
Jack learned to hunt and fish from his father. He would say, “I was born into it”. The two rules his father diligently taught him were to break no laws and to harvest only what you will eat. Rules he and his family abide by to this day.
Jack and his wife Darlene reside in Elsie Michigan where Jack was a Chemistry teacher and coach in the Ovid-Elsie School District for 34 years. They have raised three children who carry the same high qualities as their parents. Each would say the high standards their parents held made them the people they are today.
“Mr. Nutter”, as many still refer to him, passionately pursues whitetail deer, turkey and duck hunting. He will often make the trip north to chase Salmon and Trout with his brother Al. “I have never paid for meat processing; I have always done my own”. Every usable part of the animal is carefully removed and stored for future use. The tougher parts meat, such as the legs and wings of the turkey which are often discarded by some hunters, are fed through a meat grinder and used as “table fare”. Jack would tan his deer hides and make clothes and fishing creels and cut lacing to repair the ball gloves of countless students in order to get them back in the game as quickly as possible. My own children were recipients of his kindness.
A charter member of the Friends of the Maple River, you will find Mr. Nutter gathering trash, cleaning brush and removing log jams so others can float the river more freely. He has built 27 Wood Duck nesting boxes to help create opportunities for others to enjoy these wonderful birds as they choose. All this is done on “his own time and his own dime” while never seeking personal recognition. Most of his life is invested in the betterment of others. If you are lucky enough to go fishing with Jack you will be placed in the position of greatest opportunity. Were you to join him on a hunt, his deliberate efforts will be for your success above his very own. And he will be genuinely excited for you to succeed, you can be sure of that!
Jack has a high and extremely rare level of humility. I have known him for over forty years and knew very little of the following, because he would never tell. Jack was a star pitcher for MSU for three years and then pitched for the Detroit Tiger organization for one year compiling a 13-7 record. Jack then joined the Philadelphia Phillies and played seven years in the minor league before becoming a full-time teacher. He coached basketball and baseball and because of his love of hunting said with a wink of his eye, “there would be no Fall coaching for me!”
Jack was inducted into the Reading Phillies Hall of Fame, the MHSAA Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame and was honored with the MVP of AAA baseball league.
Jack’s youngest son Guy shares this memory: My dad and brother had a Summermen’s league baseball team that played throughout mid-Michigan. They often couldn’t get enough players to fill the 9-man roster and my dad would have me play (much to my dismay!). Being a high school freshman, it was quite intimidating for me to play against adult men. The other team was really misbehaving making for an uncomfortable situation for me. The pitcher was throwing very hard and I came up to bat. I hit the ball but was thrown out at first. I must have thrown my bat a bit as the catcher began to scream at me then tossed my bat over the fence into a cornfield. My dad came storming out fired up at the catcher. I was certain we were going to have a brawl. After the inning ended, we all were in the dugout getting ready to go back out on the field. Dad was still fired up and said, “I’m going in to pitch!” We all looked at each other with eyes like saucers. He NEVER pitched! He was so humble and never really showed off. None of us had ever seen him pitch for real. But we heard he was very good. Needless to say, he mowed them down one after another. There were no hits for the rest of the game. I don’t remember who won the game, but I will never forget how my dad stood up for me on that day and I got to see him pitch like he was back in the pros!
His daughter Stacey spoke of her father always being kind to those who struggle and who are less fortunate. “Be kind to each other and look out for the little guy,” he taught. Jack seemed to have an internal radar whereby he would locate those in need and see to it that they were cared for. He had heard of a young man without a driver’s license seeking a job in a nearby town. The young man had no one to help with transportation. Jack would provide the one-hour round trip, twice a day so this young man could keep a job and make a start for himself. This went on for months until he could provide for himself.
There are many other stories of his kindness towards others. Because of his genuine humility however, getting Jack to share them with you can be like picking burrs out of the tangled coat of an English Setter.
The following is a personal tribute penned by Jack’s grandson Jake. It was so powerfully written it will appear exactly as it was received:
My grandfather is many things to me. The greatest role he has ever fulfilled in my life is as a teacher. He’s the best I’ve ever had and I owe my current success, despite my youthful trouble, to him. I don’t think I would be a respected civil servant and first time father of the cutest little boy I have ever met. I don’t have any grand climactic stories with my grandpa, but what I do have is even more valuable.
It started in the garden, picking strawberries and cracking walnuts. Once those skills became well-honed we moved to a subject that would come to define the very core of who I am. The wilderness.
My grandpa taught me more about the woods and water that all the accumulated knowledge of everything I have learned from books or other outdoor enthusiasts. On our family hunting camp, he taught me how to start a fire in the rain with birch bark. On the Maple River bow fishing for carp he taught me how the water refracts the light and where to aim to hit the fish. He taught me how to shoot a moving target by throwing corn cobs into the river off the old bridge. H taught me to tie a hook, to shoot, he taught me the names of plants and animals and how to follow a blood trail. Most importantly he taught me a love for the woods and water. Imbued upon my soul the very texture of the outdoors.
It was a revitalization of this passion in my early 20’s that drove me to evaluate the direction my life was taking and to correct it. If it wasn’t for him, I would never have fallen in love with back country camping. I would have never have known the sound of thunder rolling through an upper peninsula canyon on a remote lake. I would never have stood on a bald peak in Kentucky and watch the sunrise break across the mountains. I never would have felt the mountain streams of Montana rush across my toes as I reeled in a Cut Throat Trout.
But most importantly, I would never have gained the greatest gift to give my son. A love of the outdoors.
Cover photo: Jack Nutter with a newly completed wood duck box.