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Longtime Greensburg fire chief is inaugural 'Distinguished Alumni'

| Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013, 8:55 p.m.

Members of a Greensburg Salem Education Foundation committee needed to hear only one name when considering who should be the group's inaugural “Distinguished Alumni.”

This past spring, member Tom Abraham nominated J. Edward Hutchinson — Greensburg's long-serving fire chief — and the nominations abruptly halted.

“He was a slam dunk,” Abraham said. “Everybody agreed.”

“It was a unanimous vote,” added Suzanne Wright, foundation chairwoman.

Hutchinson, a 1939 Greensburg High School graduate who is in his 60th year as Greensburg fire chief, will be honored during a banquet Nov. 2 at Lakeview Restaurant on Route 30, west of Greensburg.

Retired Maj. Gen. Tom Jones, founder of the Outdoor Odyssey program, which Greensburg Salem students take part in, will serve as guest speaker.

“To us, he's an icon,” Anita Leonard, co-chairperson of the selection committee with Abraham, said of Hutchinson. “He's a role model for all generations.”

The foundation was formed in 2012 and seeks to help the school district to fund academic, arts and athletic programs. The committee consists of district representatives and community leaders.

The award goes to a Greensburg Salem graduate who has served the community and been a role model, committee members said. The foundation will raise money through the banquet and plans on continuing to bestow the honor in future years, possibly to more than one candidate yearly.

“It's for a good cause,” Hutchinson said of the honor.

Abraham, a 1961 West Point graduate, said he noticed Hutchinson's involvement in the community when he returned to the area about 15 years ago.

“Every place I went, his name was behind the private funding,” he said. “And when there's a fire in town, he's out on top of the roof directing traffic.”

“I don't think anyone felt there's anyone in Greensburg that's done more,” Wright said.

Hutchinson's accomplishments include:

• Helped establish one of the first dive teams in the state, which has grown to include a swift-water rescue team active throughout the region and beyond.

• Founded a bloodhound team to help in the search of missing people and fugitives.

• Worked with local officials to start the Mutual Aid ambulance service.

• Led fundraising efforts to build The Aerobic Center, Greensburg's state-of-the-art fitness facility and indoor pool.

• Helped to build workout facilities at Greensburg Salem High School.

• Built pavilions and a soccer field at the city's Mt. Odin Park.

• Helped establish the Five Star Trail, an extensive walking and biking trail stretching from Greensburg to Youngwood.

Many people don't know the extent of Hutchinson's community service, Leonard said.

“He's helped many people behind the scenes that no one's aware of,” she said.

“He doesn't do things for recognition,” Abraham added. “He does it out of the goodness of the heart. That's a special person.”

Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6622 or