In a 1940 photograph, a young farmer by the name of Hallock Tuthill sits atop a tractor under the summer sun, plowing field of wheat on a machine powered by just three massive farm horses.
“Sitting on his rig, Hallock Tuthill is such a cool dude; he could easily pass for one of today’s young Slow Food farm interns, with his shades, his shorts and his porkpie hat,” Louisa Hargrave wrote in her biweekly column, “The Oeno Files,” for the May 15, 2014, edition of The Suffolk Times. “Come to think of it, he was a Slow Food farmer, literally!”
Mr. Tuthill, who died Feb. 9 at age 98 from complications following a stroke, was the picture of a mid-20th-century North Fork farmer, those who knew him said. A fixture in the community, if he wasn’t mending the picket fence outside Cutchogue Presbyterian Church, he could be seen delivering farm fresh eggs to local eateries or caning a chair for someone he knew.
“It wasn’t grapes back then,” his widow, Clara Tuthill — known by most as Cotty — said in an interview at the Cutchogue home the couple shared for nearly seven decades. “It was potatoes and cauliflower. And you always hoped the price would be good.”
A descendant of the North Fork’s earliest English settlers, Mr. Tuthill worked as a farmer, caretaker and craftsman. Cotty Tuthill spent many days baking and keeping the homestead in order and God and church played important roles in their lives.
The Tuthills met during a Cutchogue Presbyterian Church outing in the early 1940s and he remained a church member until his death.
“He was kind of a shy person. We were on this tour in Nassau Point. I noticed someone kept touching me. I said, ‘I can’t get out of the way,’” Ms. Tuthill recalled. “He looked at me and said, ‘I’m not trying to push you out of the way.’”
The couple married in October 1945, just after World War II ended. Mr. Tuthill, the youngest of three bothers, did not serve in the war, though his older brothers were deployed.
“They had a farm so they didn’t take them all off the farm [to serve],” Ms. Tuthill said.
Building materials were scarce after the war, Ms. Tuthill said, so the couple purchased a home located next to the Cutchogue Diner and had it moved to their Alvah’s Lane property.
Those who knew Mr. Tuthill recalled his subdued, generous deeds, like having the weather vane that sits atop the church steeple covered in gold leaf or mowing the lawn of an injured neighbor.
“He was a very quiet, self-contained person. But extremely generous in his own way,” said Tom Wickham of Wickham’s Fruit Farm. “He did more for that church than anybody throughout the 1900s. He would always be repairing things or fixing them or contributing items for a yard sale. He was so self-effacing. He didn’t try to put himself forward at all.”
Other friends remembered his warm spirit.
“He was the best-hearted man. He would do anything for anyone at any time,” said longtime friend Daphne Horton of Cutchogue. “I came to this country [from England] in 1946 and they were the first ones in this country to invite myself into their home for dinner.”
The couple had one child, a son named William, who died in 1972 during an accident aboard a Navy ship. When asked to recall the couple’s happiest memories in their nearly 70 years of marriage, William’s birth was the first that jumped to Ms. Tuthill’s mind.
“I don’t know how one kid could be so good,” she said. “Everybody just loved him.”
Although they did not have other children, they remained close with extended family.
Jacki Goy, a great-niece who hails from Cutchogue and now lives in Schenectady, N.Y., dropped by the family’s home for a visit.
“He had a story about everything and until you saw pictures, you couldn’t believe all the things he did by hand and so simply,” Ms. Goy said, adding that she would ferry Mr. Tuthill to visit his wife during a hospital stay or to family get-togethers.
“Every time,” she recalled, “he would get in my car and say, ‘This is a mighty fine rocket ship here.’”
Caption: Cotty Tuthill holds up a photo of her late husband Hal. (Credit: Vera Chinese)