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Mechanic, firefighter didn't travel far from home

Matthew Santoni
| Friday, Dec. 16, 2016, 11:00 p.m.

Much of Eddie Joe Hutter's life revolved around a quarter-mile of Route 130 in Unity, where he went from home to his auto repair shop and the Pleasant Unity Volunteer Fire Department next door.

The mechanic who pressured his daughters to mind their own cars' maintenance and inspections would sputter around the neighborhood in a beater.

“He always had the worst cars, because he was only going a little way up and down the road,” said Mr. Hutter's daughter, Lisa Phillips, 49, of Latrobe.

A lifelong mechanic and volunteer firefighter, Edward J. “Red Ball” Hutter died Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016, at Excela Health Latrobe Hospital of complications from an infection. He was 73.

Mr. Hutter, the eldest of four children, grew up around the E.J. Hutter Garage, owned and operated by his father and grandfather.

“He's been in that garage since he was born; he's never worked for anyone else,” Ms. Phillips said. “There are stories of him moving cars around for my grandpap when he was 11 years old.”

He met Janet Shine on a New Year's Eve, when both were members of a wedding party — Mr. Hutter's best friend was marrying Ms. Shine's best friend.

They courted slowly at first and began dating in earnest after Mr. Hutter's father died in 1964.

They celebrated their 50th anniversary this year.

The Hutter family lived with a police scanner chattering away in the house at all times so Mr. Hutter could be the first to respond to crashes with his tow truck or fires with the Pleasant Unity fire department, which he joined at 21 and served as trustee, captain and president over more than 50 years.

Until he helped raise money to build a new station in 1985, the fire department was next door to the garage, and Mr. Hutter would answer calls while he worked.

“Many days he left the doors open on the garage and cars up on the rack when there was a fire call,” said Pleasant Unity fire Chief John Bacha. “If you were having gas pumped or work done and that siren went off, you had to wait.”

He stopped responding to fires about 15 years ago but remained active with the department through fundraising, repairing the fire trucks and calling bingo games, Mr. Bacha said.

Though Mr. Hutter worked long hours, his daughters always were welcome to visit him at the garage down the road, where they watched him work on cars or played among the tires, Ms. Phillips said. When his four grandchildren were born, he was so happy to have children around again, she said.

In addition to his wife, Janet, he is survived by two daughters, Lisa Phillips and husband, Randy, of Latrobe, and Amy Liberoni and husband, John, of Norvelt; and four grandchildren.

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Leo M. Bacha Funeral Home in Pleasant Unity.

Memorial donations can be made to the Pleasant Unity Volunteer Fire Department.

Matthew Santoni is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6660 or

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