Remembering Amanda Hutchinson
Family and friends are invited to share their memories.
Amanda Hutchinson was a cook, a seamstress, wife, mother, friend and much-loved member of the Island community. Last Saturday night, she died of exposure to the elements while going out to check on a property that she was caretaking.
We’ve asked those who knew her to send us their memories of her and invite anyone else who wishes, to add their own to the comments section below.
Steve Hutchinson, Amanda Hutchinson’s husband, had the following to share:
She came to Vineyard in her youth to live with her paternal grandfather on North Water Street in Edgartown. That was in the late 70s and she created close friendships with Island kids. Many of those friendships are what drew her back here in her adult years. We were introduced by Steve Yaffe, who went to the George School with Amanda. She was working at Martha’s Rest in Edgartown when I first got my eye on her.
We lived in New York for five years and had our first two children, Caetlyn and Dylan. Amanda was a real advocate for natural childbirth and our third child, Alayna, she had at home with midwives. It was wonderful thing that our kids were there to see their sister born. She delivered children seemingly effortlessly – the joke in our house was that Amanda was snoring minutes before Alayna was born.
When the kids got older, she got restless and got involved in caretaking between 20-50 estates in Aquinnah and Chilmark. Later, she went back to her roots of her sociology degree from SUNY New Paltz and got involved in town government. We lived a life fairly back to back, but she has friendship groups that I’m not even aware of. Cooking and food have always been an important part of our life, we always had dinners together until our kids finally grew.
We are not having a formal memorial service anytime soon. She is being cremated. I know that it will be hard for a lot of people that we’re not doing anything right away, but I’ve talked to her father and our kids and we’re just not ready. A lot of her people are Islanders and a lot of them are off Islanders. I know there are tons of people who need to grieve and need closure. We are not a church going household, but we will have some sort of spiritual memorial for her, but not now, hopefully some time in the spring.
Juli Vanderhoop, owner of the Orange Peel Bakery in Aquinnah, had the following to share:
I knew Amanda on the professional level due to the bakery - our meeting two or three times a year brought us together. She was at first very patient and understanding, yet straight up and to the point. Last week we met and she was happy and full of compliments noting how far the bakery had come. I met Amanda over the birth of our daughters Ella(for me) and Alayna(for Amanda) they are only a month apart, that was 16 years ago. As a fellow parent of the class of 2013 she will not be forgotten.
Betsy Weinstock, family friend from Chilmark and New York City, had the following to share:
In the shock and the terrible sadness, I have dozens of images of Amanda rushing through my head, beginning with our first meeting, when Hutch brought her over for a proud and happy introduction. I see her with baby Caetlyn in the sling she wore, taking her everywhere, bearing cookies or larger offerings to gatherings of friends or Chilmark Community Center events, working the tennis cookouts with Hutch at the grill. She made baby clothes and beautiful pillows, served on committees and boards, helped out always, with her warm ready presence and always her wonderful rather shy smile. We all will miss her with great pain.
Sian Williams, yoga instructor from West Tisbury, had the following to share:
I first met Amanda when she came to yoga about three years ago, and she would come to my Sunday class; quiet and humble, but with humor and a gentle manner. She reminded me of a bird; so slight, her body slightly stooped from an old injury. When she talked she would cock her head to one side and look at you with those intense eyes.
It is strange how you can be quite intimate with people when you practice yoga with them, and meanwhile know very little about their daily lives.
I knew she had kids the same age as my older ones, I knew she caretook houses, sewed, kept bees, she was your intrinsic Island woman with long braided hair and a unique spirit.
The last time she came to class was at the YMCA with her youngest daughter sometime last summer. I asked how she was, and she gave me a wry smile.
This last weekend, before I heard about her passing, her face flashed before me at my Sunday class, and I wondered about her.
I think of her huddled in the deep woods in Aquinnah, covered in snow, and I am once more reminded of a bird who had fallen from her nest, and died. I find comfort knowing that her spirit has flown away to find peace.
Lynne Whiting, employer and friend from West Tisbury, had the following to share:
She was our housekeeper and friend for over a decade. She and I shared the same birthdate. She confided in me. We trusted her. Our home was a better place because of her. Last night when I was attempting to process the news, I got an email reminding me of a writing prompt due for an online writing group I belong to. The prompt was "hold onto the center." This is what came out:
I am grasping for words.
As I walked across the first snow covered brick patio my cell phone rang.
I paused to take the call.
Not good news.
"Mom, did you know that Amanda died? I just saw on Facebook that she was found in a snowdrift this morning."
The conversation that followed was fraught with emotion, anger, confusion and dread.
I handed the phone to my husband and proceeded numbly into the house.
I am grasping for the right words.
I've read the local online reports.
I've made the few calls I knew I could.
I've rehashed the last moments I spent with her.
I've relived the times I tried to help.... with words, with caution
Three lovely children without a mother.
A community full of people like myself at this moment
Grieving the loss
Reaching forth desperately in order to find and
Hold onto the center.
We may never know why now.
We just know that keeping our center means not trying to know.
Loving, remembering and sending compassion to those left behind.
Lucy Hitchcock, a childhood friend, had this to share:
Amanda and I went to high school together. She was my dear friend. We went to a beautiful pastoral boarding school, run by Quakers, in Pennsylvania, not far from Philadelphia. And Amanda was my pal. We lived on the same hall for a few years, and so we knew each other well. And deeply. Amanda was always ready with a hug, a kind word. She had a peaceful demeanor that helped when times got overly complicated as they often do in high school. She knew how to laugh, to play, to be serious or goofy. But what I remember most of all is her incredible sweetness. And also that she held in a lot. She was a confidant, a listener, but didn't often divulge her own story.
Many years passed, but she was never far from my thoughts, and when I saw her again two summers ago at a small reunion of dear friends, I was amazed at how little she had changed. Still her same willowy self, with a tilt of the head, and a quick warm smile, and the ability to dive right in to the big important stuff about all our lives, how we were, how we all had fared over the years. She got to meet my young daughters, and she treated them like the little miracles that they are. Oh Amanda... I will miss her.
There was great comfort in knowing she was there, just over the water, not far from Rhode Island where I made my home. She and I would check in with each other now and then, comment on each other's lives, successes, failures... And take comfort in knowing we were there. Distant friends, but linked by time, history, values, love. And now, the missing. I send love, to her family who I never got to meet (but I hope I will), to Amanda, who lives now in the ether, formless perhaps, but alive in memory and love. Big hugs Amanda, and big big love. xxoo
Gabbi Camilleri, an old friend, had this to share:
“Don’t be sad.” Amanda said to me shortly after Mebbit died. So many times I have heard her sweet voice saying those words looking at Meb’s picture through my tears or thinking of her as I do often. I told Amanda that, “It was very hard for me not to be sad as I missed Meb so much.” Hard not to be sad when you think of the special moments you have shared with someone. Hard not to be sad to think of the times we won’t have together in the future. Impossible not to be sad when I think of her children without her.
I am so grateful to have had Amanda in my life. Hanging out with her when we were teenagers in New York, or probably even when we were little at Dinny Price’s childcare in Palisades. Seeing her on the Vineyard when I decided to follow in the footsteps of my many N.Y. friends who landed there. Becoming closer as mothers who enjoyed the special events that we had when we were kids such as May Day celebrations, creating special crafts with our kids, teaching them how to sew, and doing what we could to give our kids a childhood filled with magic and love.
Being a Mother was where Amanda was at her best. From the thoughtful and careful way she brought her children into the world, to the healthy food she made sure they ate, and the Island community she chose to bring them up. It was her most important job in her life. Her children Caetlyn, Dylan, and Alayna are truly beautiful and special people. The Shining Stars of her love as a Mother.
Amanda wanted everyone in her life to “not be sad”, and she devoted her life working very hard to make people happy. And she succeeded. Working with Amanda one summer cleaning houses up Island I witnessed how much more she was to her clients. They were her friends and I could tell how her presence in their life was very important.
Four years ago, a year after Mebbit died, Amanda and I went looking for trees to plant in her memory. Amanda told me of a beautiful blue spruce that she was going to buy, but the spot chosen to plant it was too shady and that I should get it as she was going to choose a Hemlock instead. She brought me to look at the blue spruce, which I bought and planted in my yard. It was then Amanda told me she had breast cancer, but that like mine, it was caught early and in her optimistic way, told me everything was going to be ok, and I believed her.
I am sad Amanda. Your giving spirit and loving nature will always stay with me. I imagine that you and Mebbit are watching over your children together. Two beautiful Mothers, Sisters, Daughters, and Friends that I will never, ever forget.
Betsy Shay, a friend of the family, had this to share:
Amanda and I became friends at the bus stop when Dylan and my son Ian were kindergarteners at the Menemsha School. Each day at noon we would race to the overlook to meet the bus where off bounced these 2 little guys running around, hiding in the bushes and begging not to go home; in those moments of motherly
patience we bonded.
Over the years we shared many adventures with our children; night fishing at Herring Creek (hooking those live eels!), countless overnights accommodating fussy eater diets, major clamming expeditions with miles and miles of driving between our houses to drop and pick up our kids. For a good many years Dylan became our 3rd son. Amanda did everything with grace and love for her children.
We were on the same page about raising our kids and the love I would see pouring out of her heart for Caitlin, Dyaln and Alayna ran deep and connected us on a level that will never die in my heart.
I am honored to have shared that special time with her as our kids grew up and although there were times we weren't in touch as often, she was always right where we left off the next time our paths crossed. Amanda will be sorely missed; I can barely believe she is gone.
Max, Ian and I are sending our most heartfelt love to Hutch, Caetlyn, Dylan and Alayna in this horrific time of loss.