What if you could spend your life’s final moments doing something you love?

On the morning of March 22, 2021, Terry Hutcherson did just that.

It was the second day of spring and Terry was outside tending to his yard — mulching near the foot of the driveway — when he collapsed. He was 78.

Terry and Kathy, his understanding wife of 30 years, lived in the heart of New Columbia, Illinois, located in the countryside north of Metropolis. His landscaping skills had such curb appeal that passersby have been known to slow down to get a good view of the manicured lawn, stone entry, spiraling trees and fencing with the look of horse country.

They had a horse, Tipper.

Mowing yards was one way Terry quickly became a part of his wife’s community. If someone was sick or had mower trouble, he was always ready to help. He regularly cut grass for his in-laws, while they — Kathy’s brothers, nephews, uncle and father — were busy working Travis Brothers Farm. Come the end of August, Terry would have the best time helping them haul silage, driving a tractor like he did when he was a boy growing up on Bradford Road in West Paducah, Kentucky.

He often said New Columbia reminded him of his Kentucky childhood. He liked how everyone knew each other and families went back generations.

Charles Terry Hutcherson was born at home on Oct. 14, 1942, to the late Charles “Fat” and Gardy Hutcherson. He and his big brother, Sonny, were part of the family’s fourth generation there. His parents named him Terry to honor the woman who helped deliver him, his late Aunt Sallie Terry, his father’s oldest sister.

Terry — nicknamed “Hutch” — grew up during the boom times when the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant was being built nearby in the 1950s. Seeing a business opportunity, his dad opened Hutcherson Grill and Pool Room in Grahamville, and that was where Terry spent much of his youth. The pool room, known for greasy cheeseburgers and homemade chili, opened Halloween 1953 and closed April Fool’s Day 1957. The empty building still stands at 5640 Metropolis Lake Road.

When he was 14, Terry played catcher on the state championship Paducah baseball team which finished fourth at the 1957 Pony League World Series in Washington, Pennsylvania. It was the first time he had ever been away from home. When the team won the regional at Salisbury, Maryland, the boys were treated like celebrities, giving newspaper interviews and autographs to their newfound fans.

He returned to Bradford Road that summer to a game-changing home improvement — bathroom plumbing.

Decades later, he and Kathy took a road trip to Salisbury to revisit those ball diamonds. In 2007, he organized a reunion to celebrate the Paducah team’s 50th anniversary.

As a proud member of the Heath High School Class of 1960, Terry along with classmate and lifelong friend David “Dobber” King organized their class’s 20th, 30th, 40th, 50th and 60th reunions. Before there was a Google, tracking down long-lost classmates was like detective work.

In 2011, Terry created a Facebook page so the class could keep in constant contact. It was a success and a new way to entice a bunch of seniors, now in their late 60s, to reminisce about the old days via a new social media platform. His careful and enthusiastic research — powered by his recently acquired high-speed internet and newspapers.com — about locations of long-gone elementary schools and drive-ins in their Western Kentucky stomping grounds was mixed with the occasional snapshot of a classmate’s new grandbaby.

But his approval process for the Heath High School Class of 1960 page could be tough. Posts had to be related to things that occurred in 1960 or before. His tech support for his social media experiment was his daughter, Jackie. As a Heath Class of 1984 graduate herself, she tried to sway him on more than one occasion to allow a post that skirted his self-imposed guidelines.

He wouldn’t budge.

Thanks to his efforts, the hyper-local page enjoys a healthy following of more than 200 people, the majority being children and friends of the class.

In addition to graduating from Heath, Terry was a 1962 graduate of Paducah Junior College. He earned his bachelor’s degree in 1964, master’s degree in education in 1971 and master’s +30 from Murray State University.

While he was at junior college in the summer of 1961, Hollywood came to Paducah and Smithland with the filming of “How the West was Won.” Terry was an extra and played one of the many singing soldiers in the “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” Civil War scene. Seeing movie stars John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Debbie Reynolds and many more was such a fond memory of his that anytime the three-time Academy Award-winning movie was on TV, it was a must-see.

On Christmas Eve, his extended family knew their celebration wouldn’t be complete without the TBS loop of “A Christmas Story” but there was often an educational film on, say, cormorant fishing in China, thrown in.

Terry lived the last 30 years of his life in Illinois but he began crossing the Ohio River much earlier. In 1968, he became a business teacher at Brookport High School. He told friends that teaching was something he was meant to do. During his 13 years at Brookport he also taught seventh grade and absolutely loved it.

When Brookport and Metropolis high schools consolidated, he joined the business department at Massac County High School. He taught at Massac for another 13 years, retiring in 1994. That same year, he was honored with the Shawnee College High School Business Skills Outstanding High School Business Educator award.

His 26-year teaching career in the same community meant he taught the children and sometimes grandchildren of students from his early days. He was proud of their successes, chatted them up and remembered their names when he saw them at ball games or out and about. His Facebook friend list is also full of former students.

But the most important event of his teaching career — the one that would change his life — occurred in the winter of 1978. During an in-service day at Central School, Terry’s meeting was over, so he wandered the halls, popping his head in and out of classrooms, saying hi and seeing who all was around. That’s when he saw a young, new teacher named Kathy Travis and said hello. He knew immediately that he wanted her phone number, so a cupid colleague helped him.

After a bit of a phone number mix-up, things got sorted out and the two finally connected. Their first date was a basketball game at Shawnee College. They fell in love, dated for years, got engaged and, in 1990, built their dream home with the help of fellow teacher John Abanatha. It was later that summer, on Aug. 3, that they were married at New Hope Baptist Church. Kathy is the church organist and Terry always sat in the front row to be close to her and watch her play.

They shared a lifetime of basketball games, state tournaments, football games, St. Louis Cardinals games, so many laughs, food and fun. On his own, Terry continued his lifelong enjoyment of drag racing. His trips to South Georgia Motorsports Park in Adel, Georgia, were legendary. Brother-in-law Chuck would go with him on these southern road trips. Drag racing was another passion that came out of nostalgia. Back in the day, he would drag race in his ’69 Chevelle SS, blue with white stripes and a 396-cubic-inch-engine.

Also back in those days, he was a single dad for many years. Terry encouraged his daughter’s independent streak and their shared passion for travel. He advised her to pick a fun career so that she would never work a day in her life. Her journalism degree paved the way for a career in seven states, and he and Kathy visited her at every stop along the way. On his check-in calls, he would often ask if she was still having fun.

If there was ever any question as to the pride Terry felt for his daughter, it was answered in 2010 on a Friday afternoon drive to try the bologna burgers at Schindler’s Tavern in the Missouri Bootheel. Jackie was sitting alone at the table when the server took her order, then asked about her job as travel editor at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The server smiled and said that Terry might have mentioned it when she stepped away to wash her hands.

Terry Hutcherson was preceded in death by his brother Bobby R. “Sonny” Hutcherson and father-in-law Kenneth Travis.

In addition to his wife, Kathy, of New Columbia, Illinois, and daughter Jackie and son-in-law Stephen Parker of Fort Myers, Florida, other survivors include his mother-in-law, Betty Travis of Belknap, Illinois; two brothers-in-law, Dwight (Lerenda) Travis of Belknap and Charles “Chuck” Travis of Belknap; three nieces, Bobbie Carol Hanks of Lubbock, Texas, Samantha (Nick) Bremer of Jackson, Tennessee and Emily (Jace) Hargrove of Metropolis; three nephews Kevin (Valerie) Hutcherson of Western Kentucky, Granvil (Kristin) Travis of Belknap and Austin (Lesley) Travis of New Columbia; two great-nieces, Maybelle and Sadie Travis of Belknap; two great-nephews, Henry and Hudson Bremer of Jackson; a cousin, Billy Miller (Patricia) of Commerce Charter Township, Michigan; and granddaughter Christine Parker Shoemaker and great-granddaughter Evie Shoemaker, both of St. Louis.

Aikins-Farmer Funeral Home in Metropolis is in charge of arrangements. A memorial service will be held later in the spring.

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