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Hutton takes final bow 

Theatre of Mankind curator dies at 78

click to enlarge William Hutton, standing on the porch, covered his - house north of downtown with dozens of pieces of - artwork. Each piece held special meaning for Hutton; - here are several examples from his eclectic collection. - MICHAEL DE YOANNA
  • Michael de Yoanna
  • William Hutton, standing on the porch, covered his house north of downtown with dozens of pieces of artwork. Each piece held special meaning for Hutton; here are several examples from his eclectic collection.

William H. Hutton died doing what he loved most in his later years: nailing a painting to the outside of his glimmering art-covered home.

The 78-year-old poet fell from a ladder at the two-story house at 124 E. Espanola St. last week when his heart failed, triggering an outpouring of sorrow from his acquaintances and neighbors.

"His idea of dying was that he just wanted to walk off into the ocean and head toward the horizon," said Roberta Coulter, a friend of Hutton's for 15 years. "That's what he's done."

The silver-haired gentleman's house is like a kaleidoscope in reverse, with a mishmash of replica paintings, busts, lawn sprinklers and photographs attached to the outside.

click to enlarge Bust of Napoleon in front a globe: He said, Imagination - rules the world. - MICHAEL DE YOANNA
  • Michael de Yoanna
  • Bust of Napoleon in front a globe: He said, Imagination rules the world.

Hutton dubbed it the "Theatre of Mankind," and it sparked everything from bewilderment to adulation from his neighbors. He told the Independent last October that it was a massive work of art, meant to stir people's imaginations.

"It opens up the cosmological eye to creativity," he said.

But his house also hit the radar of city inspectors. Acting on an anonymous telephone complaint, they asked Hutton to clear off his porch, citing concerns for his safety.

Hutton fought back, with pro-bono help from his neighbor, Jerry Greenker, a local lawyer. The city ultimately backed off, allowing much of the stuff to stay.

"He was a very young spirit, even at 78," Greenker said.

click to enlarge Poster of Colorado mountaineer: Did I tell you about - mans highest aspirations? You might really get to the - top of a mountain. - MICHAEL DE YOANNA
  • Michael de Yoanna
  • Poster of Colorado mountaineer: Did I tell you about mans highest aspirations? You might really get to the top of a mountain.

Search for a will

On June 21, Colorado Springs Fire Department Station 2, a few blocks from Hutton's north end home, responded to a 911 call from neighbors who found Hutton lying motionless on his lawn. His death was brought on by a heart aneurism.

Only days earlier, the station's firefighters, who often chatted with Hutton, had attached a picture of their crew to his house.

"He just kind of grew on us," said Eric Ware, a station paramedic. "The whole station was close to him."

It is unclear exactly what will happen to the house. Hutton's nephew, Stuart Scott, a statistician who lives in the Washington, D.C., area, will arrive with his wife, Claudia, to handle his uncle's affairs sometime this week.

click to enlarge Small carving of Daniel Boone: Boone was an innovator - in the realm of materiality because he wasnt afraid to - trample through the jungles of a new country. - MICHAEL DE YOANNA
  • Michael de Yoanna
  • Small carving of Daniel Boone: Boone was an innovator in the realm of materiality because he wasnt afraid to trample through the jungles of a new country.

Scott has invited Coulter to help him search for papers documenting Hutton's financial affairs, as well as a will.

Born to Christian missionaries in India, Hutton moved to Colorado Springs via Kansas in the early 1980s and lived with his mother until she died more than a decade ago.

After her death, he became more flamboyant, wearing a trademark black suit, gloves and a golden vest, noted one of his next-door neighbors, Myrene Hoge.

"He became more apparent," Hoge added, with a chuckle. "We didn't like what he did to the house, but we didn't complain."

Hutton and the Holy Grail

click to enlarge Photograph of Michelangelos Pieta (sculpture of - Mother - Mary cradling crucified Jesus): If I may be so - extravagant, that is me and my mother  Its all of us. - Its all a big metaphor for the end of mankind. - MICHAEL DE YOANNA
  • Michael de Yoanna
  • Photograph of Michelangelos Pieta (sculpture of Mother Mary cradling crucified Jesus): If I may be so extravagant, that is me and my mother Its all of us. Its all a big metaphor for the end of mankind.

Hutton spent hours each day explaining to passersby the meanings of the items on his house, peppering in bits of ancient history and famous quotes.

He called a sports trophy "The Holy Grail."

He said a picture of a peacock, fashioned of plastic jewels on black velvet, reminded him of the explosive chaos of the universe's ethereal beginnings -- where, he claimed, he'd been.

Once, at the Independent's office downtown, Hutton laid down flat on a glass table, noting that he was levitating.

In 1950, one of Hutton's short stories, "Real Life," was included in a compilation of prose and poetry among the works of icons like Henry Miller, Tennessee Williams and Gore Vidal. Hutton appeared at the time to be on the path to a literary career, but said his progress was slowed by the mental breakdown he suffered in 1960, following his return from a medical unit in the Korean War.

click to enlarge Blue Grecian urn replica: Quoting John Keats, Beauty is - truth, truth beauty  that is all Ye know on earth, and all - Ye need to know. Hutton is speaking to the characters - on the urn. - MICHAEL DE YOANNA
  • Michael de Yoanna
  • Blue Grecian urn replica: Quoting John Keats, Beauty is truth, truth beauty that is all Ye know on earth, and all Ye need to know. Hutton is speaking to the characters on the urn.

"He never got over it," Coulter said.

Despite regular rejections from publishers, Hutton still wrote, becoming the president of the Colorado Springs Poetry Society. At the time of his death, Coulter said, he was churning out a lengthy biography using a typewriter.

He sent Coulter many letters over the years, including one in 1989 that gushed over a necktie she'd given him.

"First impression: Flowers," he wrote. "Larger than morning glories. More like dahlias. Of course all in an abstract arrangement, arranged in such a way that background becomes foreground, foreground background -- interchangeably."

Scott last visited his uncle about five years ago, before Hutton began splashing the house with art. However, Hutton sent his nephew photographs, and Scott also recalled exchanging gifts with him during the holidays.

click to enlarge Arts-and-crafts girl playing mandolin: She is dancing on - the sands of time. - MICHAEL DE YOANNA
  • Michael de Yoanna
  • Arts-and-crafts girl playing mandolin: She is dancing on the sands of time.

"Probably better than anything was the thank-you letter that would come from Bill," Scott said, adding that his uncle's letters always entertained his children when read aloud.

For a brief time, it appeared that a little-known official, the public administrator, was going to dispose of the financial affairs -- and body -- of William Hutton.

Without a will and next of kin, and thus absent of money for burial, the public administrator's office was set to cremate Hutton.

Greek and Russian Orthodox Christians, Muslims and Orthodox Jews all forbid cremation. And several other faiths, such as Roman Catholicism and Mormonism, discourage it.

But Public Administrator Catherine Seal, an appointee of the state who steps in when there is no next of kin or will, said burials are out of the question unless friends or a religious congregation want to absorb the costs.

click to enlarge William Hutton, bedecked in front of his home in Oct. - 2004. - MICHAEL DE YOANNA

"There are no funds," she said.

So far this year, Seal has authorized about 17 cremations -- average, she said, for a six-month period.

Several funeral homes perform the cremations as a public service. There are no services prior to the cremation and no headstone placed afterward.

After searching for about two days after Hutton's June 21 death, officials eventually located Hutton's nephew, Stuart Scott of Virginia.

Now Scott will decide what to do with his uncle's remains.

-- Michael de Yoanna

capsule

A memorial service for William Hutton will be held on the front lawn of his 124 E. Espanola St. home Friday at 6:30 p.m.

  • Theatre of Mankind curator dies at 78

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