Loss of local bookstore owner leaves blank page
By: Tanya Foubert
| Posted: Thursday, May 17, 2012 06:00 am
To sum up a man like Lawrence Hutchings and the effect he had on the community of Canmore over the last 30 years would be an impossible and downright Herculean task.
Fondly called Hutch by all who knew him and even those who knew of him, he went to sleep Friday (May 11) at home with his wife Heath and passed away peacefully in the night.
Three weeks shy of his 64th birthday, Heath said her husband of 36 years this June had been in Calgary that day at a CBC book sale, bringing home 23 boxes with titles he had yet to carry in his The Second Story Books store on Main Street.
“He was so excited,” she said Monday morning holding back tears. “He died happy inside… he had such a great Friday and he went to sleep very happy and anxious for the next day.
“This is a total loss, but there is nothing we can do but heal and go forward. We are a very strong family unit and we are going to get through this.”
Heath and sons Greg and Kris said it was a shock that such an important part of their lives is now missing and that the outpouring of emotion and support from the community has been overwhelming.
“It is so wonderful; the love is so unbelievable,” Heath said.
Grandaughter Maile will be four years old next month and father Kris said since she was born, Hutch was rejuvenated and excited about being a grandfather.
He said his father regularly played princess with her and when at Christmas he couldn’t decide between five castles at the toy store, he bought her all of them, a reflection of his kindness and devotion to his family.
“He touched people in many ways,” Greg added. “I will really miss our morning chats each day.”
Chats with Hutch could be about any subject matter and often fell to municipal politics, even his last post on Facebook spoke of the upcoming byelection for a new mayor.
“He knew a little about everything, he was like a walking Wikipedia,” Greg said. “If he didn’t know about it, it wasn’t worth knowing about.”
Hutch owned The Second Story Books, which originally opened on the second storey of its present building, for 13 years.
Greg said he will take over managing the business and it will remain open for booklovers locally and regionally. It is the only second hand bookstore between Golden and Calgary and draws many of its customers from outside Canmore as a destination retail store.
He added he will also continue to be a voice in the community, like his father, to push those in politics and power to be accountable for their decisions.
Former Rocky Mountain Outlook editor Carol Picard she appreciated how Hutch always questioned those in power locally and his ability to get straight to-the-point, especially in his letters to the editor, which were always brief, but incisive.
“As the local editor, I so valued his plain-spokenness and willingness to state the obvious, share his opinions without fear of criticism and wade into the fray,” she said.
Hutch was always helping out in the community, either through supporting the arts or the Bighorn Library’s Bonnie Books program, but he never sought the limelight.
“Hutch was one of our earliest partners, literacy has always been one of his big passions in life,” said librarian Rose Reid. “I couldn’t begin to imagine just what the number was, but we have given out 40,000 books in the last five years and a good number came through his bookstore.”
Reid and Bonnie Ryan met Hutch through an adult literacy project and when they decided to start the Bonnie Books youth literacy program, they went to him.
He was involved in a number of ways, including donating books, discounting books for the program to purchase and allowing people to donate their credit at the bookstore to the endeavour.
Bonnie Books provides gently used children’s books to those who would not necessarily have any and it has done that internationally, for youth that have been incarcerated and on the Stoney and Hobbema reserves.
Elizabeth Green said his bookstore is a favourite place for locals to linger and browse and chat and learn.
“Hutch’s knowledge of the literary world was encyclopedic,” she said. “Just mention only half a title, or a vague recollection of the author’s name, and Hutch would point you to the volume, or come up with a reference.”
His family says it was his particular wish that no formal funeral service be held, however, donations can be made to the Heart and Stroke Foundation in his memory and a condolence book will be available for people to sign and share their stories at the bookstore.
Before being a bookstore owner, Hutch had an impact in the community as a science teacher for over nine years.
Through Facebook, many of his former students paid tribute to his inspiration of making science interesting and classroom strategies for dealing with teenagers.
A rowdy group in the middle of a lesson would result in Hutch getting quieter and quieter until attention was given as students were more than aware that what he was whispering would be on the next test.
Hutch and Heath moved to Lac Des Arcs in 1979 from Calgary and in 1983 relocated to Canmore.
“We never looked back, Canmore is home,” she said.
Born in Wetaskiwin, Hutch moved several times during his childhood as his father was an RCMP officer. His university education and law degree were at the University of Alberta and, after moving to the Bow Valley, he owned Hutch’s Pizza and worked as a bartender at Rafter Six while finishing his education degree.
Green, who is involved with Pine Tree Players, said she was parachuted into local theatre just by meeting Hutch at his bookstore.
“His own involvement included almost every aspect of theatre,” Green said. “As director, actor, backstage crew, ticket outlet and sponsor, he was a supporter par excellence of the arts.
“Banff Community Theatre, The Mountain Arts Foundation and Live on 7th also drew strength from his support.”
The one act play Ringrose the Pirate was his first appearance on stage with Pine Tree in 1998 and his involvement continued until a month ago with his appearance in Babels’ in Arms, which he also directed, as part of the most recent set of one-act plays put on by the group.
He directed On Golden Pond, I’ll be Back Before Midnight, which he also acted in, and appeared in Sinners and Drinking Alone.
However, it was Westray, a play about a mining disaster in Plymouth, Nova Scotia that took the lives of 26 coal miners that was his favourite, said Heath.
The couple traveled to Halifax many times and she said they fell in love with the Maritimes.
They went to the memorial site and Heath said when he read the play he knew he had to do it here in Canmore. Recently, the 20-year anniversary of the disaster was commemorated and it was on his mind again.
Green remarked that in truth words cannot capture the powerfully good influence he had on this community, but as friend and fellow actor Larry Whan posted on Facebook as news of his passing spread through the community: “Hutch, I know you’ll get a standing ovation in heaven.”