James T. Hutton
James Thomas Hutton, 63, passed away after a long illness in Boise, Idaho on July 23, 2020. Born in Cleveland, Ohio, he grew up in nearby Euclid and Hudson. He graduated from Hudson's Western Reserve Academy in 1975 and earned a degree in Biology from Kent State University in 1980. Jim earned a Master's Degree in Public Administration and Resources Management from Boise State University in 2009.
With a love of the outdoors and a profound conservation ethic, Jim worked for the National Park Service for 33 years, retiring in 2013. He began his career as a park ranger, educating the public and protecting the lands - front country, backcountry, law enforcement and more. From several of the "crown jewels" – Grand Canyon and Grand Tetons – to numerous smaller parks, Jim was fortunate enough to live and work in some of the most beautiful places on earth. He had wild stories and anecdotes galore: the grizzly bear that wreaked havoc upon a fancy wedding party in the Tetons, the excitement at Big Thicket in Texas at the discovery of an (extinct) Ivory-Billed Woodpecker! (alas, false alarm), the ranch foreman at Channel Islands, CA who trusted only Ranger Jim to bottle-feed his rescued wild baby elk four times a day, falling asleep by candlelight in his tent at the Florida Everglades, only to wake up and find his paycheck burned up. A thousand stories kept us enthralled!
And as if the adventures of life as a park ranger weren't enough, Jim had another great calling: wildland fire! Partway through his career he switched gears, and hats, and took a position at Whiskeytown National Recreation Area in CA as the Fire Management Officer (fire chief) and in addition joined a team as a fire management specialist. He loved going out on those wildfires! If Yellowstone was burning, Yosemite, Glacier, he was there and in his element. The team members were allowed one five-minute phone call per day and we could hear the thrill in his voice.
His final destination as a National Park Service employee was his promotion to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise. After all those years of remote living, it was a bit of an adjustment to a work space in an office building in a city, but a good challenge nonetheless.
Jim enjoyed countless outdoor activities – camping, hiking, river rafting, skiing, fishing, golf, tennis, bicycling, swimming. And perhaps, above all, birds were his biggest passion. He was the quintessential ornithologist. He knew every bird, every call. Binoculars always at the ready, his excitement on the occasion of "getting a glass on a life-lister" was something to see! During his years in northern CA, he was very active in the Audubon Club, and taught a springtime college level ornithology class as well. Over the years he amassed an impressive floor to ceiling collection of ornithology books, some so old and rare, they describe birds that today are long extinct.
Jim was a brilliant and unassuming intellectual. He was a voracious reader, his interests crossing every genre, but again, he was perhaps most riveted by his esoteric journals of scholarly bird articles. The scrabble king, we were always quick to "accuse" him of having the best letters. But no, merely the best mind. He loved the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, a summer highlight every year. Once settled in Boise, he was thrilled to take full advantage of Boise State University where he could pursue his Master's degree. An active member of the Cathedral of the Rockies, Jim and his wife taught Sunday school together for seven years. With a little trepidation, they took on the role of science teachers and discovered it was loads of fun, and that there are innumerable exciting science experiments one can perform with the kids based upon the current theme of the week. It just takes a little creativity!
Jim was a devoted family man and a wonderful dad. Whether enjoying together all the outdoor activities he loved so much, attending sports events at Boise State, going on father-daughter trips to the fair, coaching his son's soccer team, or being fully engaged in a most unusual, family-created, high-stakes game of charades, he was happiest when spending time with his family.
The son of David and Ruth Hutton, Jim is survived by his wife Jessica, his children Lowell and Jane, his brother Ted (Connie), his sister Robbie and six nieces and nephews. Services are on hold due to Covid-19 and will be arranged at a later date.
Published in Idaho Statesman on Aug. 9, 2020.