RUSH: It really is just a thrill to be with you each and every day. I still look forward to it as much, if not more, than ever.
You know, life is an amazing thing. As a person gets older, it becomes more conflicting. In my case, I’ve always wanted to be older because I thought I would be happier as I got older, and that has always been the case. When I was a teenager, I wanted to be in my twenties. In my twenties, I wanted to be in my thirties. The reason was that older people seemed to have more freedom. They seemed to have a greater ability to be self-reliant. They were obviously more successful.
I always wanted to be older than I was. I was a kid, I always wanted to be an adult. I’m 62 now, and I’m not necessarily looking forward to being 75, but I’m not afraid of it. I wouldn’t say I’ve reached the point where I’m no longer hoping to be older, but at least I’m not afraid of it. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ll just speak for myself, and I assume it’s like this for a lot of people. As I’ve gotten older and the aspects of life that I thought would improve have, there are also some things that happen that conflict with the happiness. And that is that as you get older, people that you knew and loved get sick and some of them pass away and die.
That’s not something that happens often when you’re young, for most people, but it begins to happen with increasingly regularity, it seems, when you get older. So on the one hand for me life has been better every year than it was the year before, but in the midst of all of that there has been incredible sadness to have to balance along with it. I’m sure it’s this way for everybody. I’m not trying to say here that I’m experiencing things nobody else has. I certainly don’t believe that.
But this has been one of those years. I’ve lost two people that were really, really close, outside of family. Vince Flynn
Both people, by the way, I would not have met were it not for this radio program. And just yesterday I was walking outta here at three o’clock, shortly after the program ended, to get in the car and head up to a staff Christmas party. The phone was ringing, but I didn’t know it for some reason, so finally I saw there was a text on the phone from a friend of mine who said, “We really need you to call us. I’m at Hutch’s house in Seattle.”
I had known for a long while that Ken Hutcherson, the Reverend Dr. Ken Hutcherson was ill. He had been fighting cancer for 10 years, but I had no idea how serious it was, and that’s because he wouldn’t tell me. A number of times I implored him to tell me the truth, and he continually downplayed it and said it’s not important, he’s gonna beat it, no big deal, and he was trying to totally set me at ease, rather than apparently tell me the severity and the depth of it. And because he had survived it for 10 years and because he was treating everybody else the way he was treating me with it, I didn’t think it was an immediate crisis until one night this week I got an e-mail saying that they decided to stop chemo and move The Hutch into hospice.
But even at that, there was no expectation that yesterday would be the day he would pass away. So I was finally able to return the phone call, and that was the news that I got yesterday afternoon. I was really blindsided by it because I was just not aware that he was that sick. I don’t want to make a big deal out of that. The point is he didn’t complain about it. It was not something that was at the forefront of his life. He didn’t try to extract feelings from people by talking about it. He dealt with it very privately, very internally. And I remember I was on the phone yesterday afternoon, it was Jim Zorn who called me and told me. They were friends from way back. They played together, The Seattle Seahawks, and I was talking to Jim on the phone as I’m driving to the Christmas party.
The Bluetooth in the car happened to be working well so I was able to use the phone, and miraculously I was able to understand every word he said. And I remember, I was getting mad. Not at Zorn, I was just getting mad. I had no idea it was this bad. I really didn’t. And I started to question whether or not I had paid enough attention to it or not, and I thought about it, and I said, “No, every time I brought it up with him, he swept it aside, would not let me talk about it, never once complained about it. It was not allowed to be discussed.”
And he was not afraid of it. It was not that. He was a man, folks. There was no complaining. There was no bleeding on people. There was none of that. He didn’t want his relationship with anybody to be defined, even in what turned out to be the latter months of his life, by his illness. He was still writing and producing scripts for his TV show and for his work at the church, the Antioch Baptist Church in Seattle.
Like I say, he was a man. He was a great man, actually, and so was Vince Flynn. And the conflict with things doing well and every year being better than the year before and then these moments of real sadness and loss. I get very introspective when things like this happen. I start thinking, which is for me, deeply about it. I don’t know how deep it really is, but I’ll tell you a little bit about The Hutch. I met him quite by accident. Howard Slusher, who at one time in his life was a sports agent and later in his life ended up working for Nike, he was in management at Nike.
He had gone to some fundraiser where there was an auction, and one of the items was a fishing trip to Vancouver Island. He was the high bidder and won the auction. And he was able to bring three other people, so a trip for four people. So he invited a close friend of his, Paul Westphal, former player for the Celtics and the coach of the Phoenix Suns, and at Pepperdine, the Sacramento Kings. And this guy Ken Hutcherson. And Westphal said, “Oh, yeah, you’re gonna love Hutcherson. He used to play for the Cowboys, was a linebacker, and the Seahawks, and the San Diego Chargers, and he’s got a church now in Seattle, the Antioch Baptist Church.”
I said, “Okay, cool.”
So we convene at this place in Vancouver Island. It’s a salmon fishing trip. I’ve never done anything like this. It was a three or four-day thing, and we had our own cabin. And whatever salmon we catch, we’d bring it back at the end of the day and the people that run the place would cook it up, and we would eat it. Just a guy fishing trip. And that’s where I met The Hutch. And being the rabid, at the time, football fan I was, I just peppered him with every question I could think of about The Dallas Cowboys and Tom Landry and his experience with the game. And I learned quite a lot about him.
He’s from Anniston, Alabama, and he grew up during really bad racial strife. He came from a pretty poor background. And he grew up angry. He grew up being told that he was only three-fifths of a person, that he couldn’t eat or drink with the white people and so forth. It was that bad in this little town where he grew up. And I don’t know if he would want me to say this, but one of the reasons that football was attractive to him was it was a legal way to hit white people.
Now, he would tell me that with a big smile on his face, by the way. He never did anything but laugh. Don’t get the wrong idea. He was not mad. He was never angry. He was not filled with rage. He was not reliving the past. He’s just telling me about his life. And he played, if you’re a football fan, he played with Ed “Too Tall” Jones and Harvey “Too Mean” Martin, and Jethro “Too Jethro” Pugh, that era of the Dallas Cowboys.
I remember Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson. I met him at a golf tournament once after I’d met The Hutch, and I’d never met Hollywood, either. And I said, “Oh, I met somebody you might know, Ken Hutcherson.” Hollywood Henderson looked at me, he said, “Tom Landry, on the day the Cowboys traded Hutcherson, Tom Landry said if he coulda had a team filled with Ken Hutchersons, that the Cowboys would have never lost.” But the vagaries of the NFL were such that they had to trade The Hutch and forth. Anyway, after his playing days, he made it official, started his church, and he was the minister who married Kathryn and me at our wedding three years ago. And he was sick, even then. He arrived and he was in and out of a walker. It was obvious he was sick, but again, he never allowed that to be anywhere near the focus of anybody’s attention where he was involved. And as such I think a lot of people were not really aware how bad his cancer was. And that was by his choice.
So I get the news yesterday that he passed away. He passed away right as this program ended, real close to it. And it’s sad because he was 61 years old. He had become very active in trying to revive and save the American culture through his work as a minister and as a human being. He made the trek to Washington every year for the Values Voters coalition and so forth. He’d become a leader in the state of Washington coming up with petition campaigns to try to influence votes in the state legislature there, and he was constantly offering assistance. Of course you people have heard him on this program talking a couple of times on issues such as that, but he was a regular here during the playoffs of the NFL season during the Super Bowl, offering his expertise as a player and trying to help us understand who might win or what teams were involved going through it.
He was a devout Christian. He was a devout practicing Christian. And, as such, I don’t think that he feared death because of that. But he’s gone now, and it’s a great, great loss for his congregation and his family because he’s a unique individual. Nobody can be replaced when they’re gone, but he’s created an especially huge void for a lot of people because he was a counselor to people in trouble, no matter what the problem was.
He was one of these people that, whatever your problem, he had the correct advice for you, and he was tough about it. He didn’t baby anybody that was off the rails. He didn’t hold their hands and commiserate. He told ’em what was, what they had to do, and then told them they could do it. He didn’t baby anybody. He had not been babied at any point in his life.
It’s a sad, sad thing, but I remember when Bum Phillips passed away. Bum Phillips died this year, the old coach of the Houston Oilers, and his son Wade said something that stuck with me. In announcing his father’s death, he said, “Bum is gone to heaven.” Not “has.” “Bum is gone to heaven.” Still alive. Not “has.” “He is gone to heaven.” Bum was a devout Christian as well, and that was The Hutch. The Hutch is gone to heaven now, called home, and everybody that knew him will never be able to replace him.
There isn’t anybody who could replace what he was to people in their lives. Feel kind of helpless ’cause of that. Want to be able to help kids, family, do what you can, but nobody can replace him. It’s a testament, but it’s also an indication of the nature of the scope of the loss to people who loved him and were in his immediate family. He had some of the funniest stories about the NFL, about the people he played with, about the coaches, about the owners. I loved him. I had more fun hanging around… He showed up here once.
I’ll never forget, he showed up here one summer, he had the family in tow, and they were going Disneyland and so forth. He came in, and he would always taunt me with this black-white stuff. He’d always hug Snerdley and say, “What does it look like, man, two brothers hugging each other?” What’s it look like? He was constantly taunting me. I said, “Hutch, you know, I’m gonna give you a gift. I’ve got a jersey that the Pittsburgh Steelers gave me way, way back. I want to give it to you.”
He said, “Fine. Will you autograph it?” I said, “Sure,” and I signed the jersey, and I wondered, “This guy played the NFL. What’s he care about a jersey for?” He loved it. He loved it. He never played for the Steelers, but I figured he’s got jerseys out the wazoo from the time he played. Anyway, Ken Hutcherson is gonna be terribly missed by a lot of people, and I would be remiss if I didn’t share with you some of these brief memories today.