DUTTON FUNERAL HOME
Son takes the reins as father retires
By: Sherrie Williams
Larry Dutton recently retired after 45 years of service to families during what is likely the toughest time most families can go through.
Larry started his career in late 1966 when he took a job with James B Totten and Sons Funeral Home in Electra, where he was raised.
However, he started serving people of Electra before he was old enough to go to school, after his Dad bought him a bicycle with a basket.
That is when he began helping people. He would go to the grocery store for older woman of the community and take their groceries home in the basket on his bicycle.
Larry said as a child he spent a lot of time with older people because he just liked being around them.
As he was preparing to graduate high school in Electra, Totten’s daughter, who he was friends with, suggested he talk with James about a job. He was hired in late 1966, and that was the beginning of a long fulfilling career for Larry.
However, there was a time he did not care for all the duties that went along with a funeral home.
He explained that all funeral homes back during that time also operated the ambulance service.
Dutton said because of that he took on an additional job at Hornsby Hardware, to broaden his skills and possibly look at a different line of work.
He said responding to accident scenes was something he did not care for. What he cared for even less was notifying families that their loved one had died in an accident.
“I recall a big wreck just east of Electra and everyone in the accident was killed. I sat there and listened to Mr. Totten calling family after family to tell them their loved one had been killed in an accident. All the screaming that went on, I decided right then I didn’t want to do that,” said Larry.
However, in 1968 Dutton joined the Army, where his service earned him two purple hearts.
Dutton was deployed to Vietnam in January 1969 and was injured a short time later.
He was presented his first Purple Heart Sept. 24, 1969.
He was deployed again and soon he was injured again and spent from March until the end of June hospitalized.
This time after recovering he worked in Bio Chemistry until he completed his two year tour.
After getting out of the Army the funeral home business had changed in the sense that they no longer were the ambulance service in communities. Since that was the only thing Larry didn’t like about that field of work he decided he would go to mortuary school, using his Veteran benefit.
While attending mortuary school Larry also had to receive on the job training, so he worked for a funeral home in Dallas.
After earning his license, Larry worked as an instructor for the Dallas Institute of Funeral Service for a year before returning to Wichita Falls where he went to work for Hampton Vaughan.
In 1981 he became a funeral director for Owens and Brumley Funeral Home and eventually moved to Burkburnett where he operated the Owens and Brumley there.
In 1989 he and his wife, Norma bought Tanner/Aulds Funeral Home, which was founded in 1908.
They moved their family to Iowa Park and the funeral home became Dutton Funeral Home.
The couple’s three children, Lori Dutton Holman, Kassey Dutton Pounds, and Lynn Dutton, who are now grown, grew-up watching their Dad spend long hours, day after day, at the funeral home.
“In 1999, when we were offered a merger with Dignity I accepted because we didn’t have any family interested in carrying on the business,” Larry said.
Lynn said he wasn’t interested because he saw the long hours his dad worked and the time he spent away from the family.
“I resented the business and really didn’t want anything to do with it,” said Lynn. “I have always had an interest in design and always wanted to be an architect.”
However, after enrolling in Midwestern State University and struggling with math, Lynn decided he might have to change his career choice.
The plus side of that is that after high school Lynn had started working at Dutton’s Funeral Home and was seeing a different side of the business, working with families and being there for them during the worse time of their lives.
“The more I became involved I realized there was more to it than just being gone working long hours. It is a ministry really,” said Lynn.
Once Lynn realized the business was about touching people and helping them in their time of need he decided he was interested in following in his dad’s footsteps.
Lynn said technology also brought about more freedom, so you are not so tied down to the facility and able to live a normal life and be called in at the time of need.
He recalled before technology, his dad had to be at the funeral home in case he was needed.
“In 2003 I announced to my parents I want to go to motuary school. My Dad was surprised,” said Lynn. “So, that is what I did and I have not regretted it.”
So, eight years later when Larry started thinking of retirement, Lynn’s decision helped make that easier.
“I want Dutton’s to still be considered part of our family. I didn’t want to just walk out. I have buried numerous family members and I would hate for them to have to deal with someone not a Dutton,” said Larry.
Although Larry officially retired Dec. 31, 2011, he still remains employed at the funeral home.
“I just don’t work full time and I don’t get up as early as I use to,” said Larry.
Lynn explained after he received his license he worked at Hampton Vaughan, a Dignity Funeral Home in Wichita Falls, but worked at Dutton’s on his dad’s days off and was on call alternate weeks.
So, after Larry retired they left that the same.
Lynn said he is glad his Dad is staying on because he appreciates the help, but he always wants him to stay active with people as much as possible.
He said his dad had always been free with letting him learn the business.
Now that he and Larry have switched roles of boss and employee, Lynn says it feels strange sometimes when Larry tells him, “you are the boss.”
“The hardest part is knowing I am the final say. Taking the bad along with the good. Before it was Dad it fell back on. Now it is me,” said Lynn.
Lynn said he is glad to be back in Iowa Park at Duttons, but admits he learned a lot while working at a larger funeral home like Hampton Vaughan.
“You learn to deal with different situations in a larger city than we are accustom to in Iowa Park. But, I am grateful for the experience.” he said.
As for Larry, he has no big plans since retiring. He said he just piddles around at home and works in the yard, when he isn’t helping out at the funeral home.
Larry said Norma has no plans to retire at this time.
He talked about recently mowing his large yard and it costing $38 in gas to do so.
With that, he smiled and told how he recalled the reason they moved to Wichita Falls from Electra was because gas was too expensive to drive back and forth to work at 42 cents a gallon.
A retirement reception will be held to honor Larry from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday at Dutton Funeral Home.