The definition of professional success is subjective. For a funeral director, it might be determined by job security, salary or seniority. An owner, perhaps, could measure triumph by consecutive years in business, call volume or gross revenue.
Patty Hutcheson, CFSP, executive director of the Academy of Funeral Service Practice, would credit her career accomplishments to the love and support of family, especially Danny, her devoted husband of 40 years. Since 1983, the couple has owned and operated Hutcheson’s Memorial Chapel and Crematory as she simultaneously served as a long-time instructor at Gupton-Jones College of Funeral Service, subsequently becoming the institution’s first female president.
However, the last two years have been challenging, a direct impact of the massive stroke Danny suffered at the funeral home.
“Live each day as if it were your last,” said Hutcheson, who celebrates continued blessings and praises and is forever thankful for God’s faithful presence during their journey of life and love.
Hutcheson was raised in the small town of Bremen, Georgia, and graduated from its high school. While not high school sweethearts, Hutcheson and her future husband both were natives of Haralson County.
“We were introduced at a Wednesday night prayer meeting for youth. Danny attended the county school, while I went to the city school. We were in the same class, but I’m four months older,” she described, recalling that Danny would jokingly brag that he was married to an older woman.
Many students expressed interest in the funeral profession during high school, but Hutcheson had aspirations of becoming an educator.
“I received my associate degree early from Truett McConnell College and then completed my bachelor’s degree in English at West Georgia College. The funeral business was not in my blood, nor was I groomed to be a funeral director. My first experience with death was my grandfather’s funeral when I was 15,” she remembered, admitting that Danny initially had another calling, also.
“When we started dating, Danny wanted to be a United Methodist minister. Early on, he was the youth pastor at Rockmart First United Methodist Church before taking a position with Hightower Funeral Homes as a funeral assistant, eventually becoming a certified emergency medical technician,” Hutcheson commented, attributing the opportunity to altering her husband’s career trajectory.
“Danny felt he could have a bigger impact as a funeral director than by standing behind a pulpit,” she said.
Serving the church together in various capacities would remain constant throughout their marriage.
“Shortly after getting married, we moved to Warner Robins, and Danny served his apprenticeship at McCullough Funeral Home,” she stated.
Meanwhile, Hutcheson would travel home twice a week, stay with her parents and continue coursework toward her master’s degree at West Georgia College.
“Danny would help out at the funeral home during the evening, and I would often accompany him. Mr. McCullough said that I might as well work, so I began working visitations and serving my apprenticeship. Looking back, our experience in Warner Robins was great for our marriage. We had both come from the same small community where our parents still lived, so we were able to grow up and gain some independence,” Hutcheson recounted.
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