Tag Archives: Ken Hutchison

Remembering Lisa

By Ken Hutchison, Feb 3, 2017

Yesterday was a sad day for me. I walked in the building, along with hundreds of my co-workers, former co-workers and friends. I was handed the folded piece of paper; on it was one of my photographs. It’s happened before to me. I should be used to it, but not this time.

It was the portrait I took of Lisa Hardaway (that’s DR. Lisa Hardaway). In the photo, she’s holding a scale model of the New Horizons spacecraft. The spacecraft that passed Pluto last year, capturing the first ever, high resolution, up close and personal images of the furthest thing in our solar system. I remembered taking the shot; it was for various press releases, social media, education outreach, and because she was recently named as the Engineer of the year by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Lisa was so proud, and who wouldn’t be, because that’s the Holy Grail of aerospace engineering. Lisa was the program manager for the Ball part of the mission.

Then, on the paper, were the dates. The date she was born, and the day when she left us with only her memories and legacy. On the cover were two other pictures, of her and her husband, and the shot of her kids. Lisa, mother, wife, friend, co-worker, and damned smart American, died at the young age of 50.

We filed into a beautiful light filled room, hundreds standing and sitting, hugs, tears, handshakes that turn into hugs because men have that awkward “do I hug?” thing that we do.

The Rabbi came out. Now, I’m a flunky Presby kid from Pueblo, not exposed to the Jewish religion at all. I’ve never been to a Jewish funeral, only a wedding. That dance with the bride and groom in chairs is, well, different from our fussy traditions. Looks a lot more fun.

This, hands down, was one of the most beautiful services I’ve been to. The Rabbi began with what I guess was a call to worship or mourning, I’m not sure. It was Yiddish, ( 2/4/2017, author’s update: Hebrew, not Yiddish; pardon my ignorance) and my depth of that language is about as deep as saying “Oy!” Still, it was haunting, moving, having an ancient tone of thousands of years long. The Rabbi spoke, and then gave an outline of who would be talking with us. First up was her husband, James.

I’ve known James for years as a customer and colleague. He proceeded to wrap the entire room around his little finger with stories of how they met, the food and wine they loved, their children, and the things he learned from his wife. The last thing he mentioned that he learned was “courage”. At that point, and that point alone, is when his voice broke… Along with all of the hearts in the room, for we all felt the same. Next, her daughter Jaella Hardaway came up, and captured the room with her charm and grace, her laughter, humor, and stories, some of which she’d never shared. That girl has a future, you could see why Lisa was so proud of her.

There were a couple of more speakers, family and friends. Then the Rabbi addressed the family. At this point, the tears started for me, because she was a rockstar with her words. She asked the folks in the room that would be willing to provide life guidance to the children should they ever need it to stand up.

The entire room stood.

Then there were the closing prayers, chants and other Jewish customs which were alien to me, and the service was over. Upon exiting, I walked past the two men I noticed on the way in. They had pistols on their belts…private armed guards. You see, the Jewish Community Center had a bomb threat phoned in two days prior, along with dozens others around the country.

It was not only a sad day for us, but for our country as well, when those who are grieving need to be protected.

May God bless the family of Lisa Hardaway.

Editor’s Notes: Ken Hutchison is the Senior Staff Photographer at Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation.  He also gives tours, entertains high level guests (Congress persons, Generals) and is a heck of a writer.  He lives in Longmont, Colorado.
I also had the honor of working with Lisa on the New Horizons mission (Ball’s instrument was called “Ralph”). Ball is a very close community.


— By Ken Hutchison

I meant to post this yesterday, on Veteran’s Day, but the day got away from me.


Staff Sergeant EB Hutchison

Dad never really talked about the war. As a boy, I always wanted to know how many Germans he killed. He said he didn’t know, wasn’t sure if he did, etc. Looking back now, I remember seeing his blue eyes glaze over, and a heavy breath would follow.

In reading his letters it’s evident that he was in house-to-house, close quartered bullshit. One of his scars went from his elbow, radiating in a spiral across the inside of his forearm to nearly his wrist…it was about a half inch wide. He was searching a house when a “potato masher’ (German hand grenade) broke through the window. He got as far as he could before it went off, costing him a majority of hearing in one ear, plus having his flesh torn apart by red hot shrapnel. It’s the only one of his injuries I heard about first hand. The others I discovered in his letters home. Sniper fire that nearly bled him to death, machine gun wounds in both legs during a battle in a frozen marsh. Despite being hit in the legs, he was able to run to cover, no helmet, rifle jammed with mud.

Despite that, he did tell a few funny stories. In one, he and his men arrived in a train station, largely abandoned, except for the lone tanker car that had a guard (I don’t remember from where, non-US though). The boys thought they’d found fuel. They told the guard to get lost or get shot. He was smart. Efforts to open the valve were in vain, so one of the GIs hit it with the butt of his BAR (rifle).

The valve stem broke off. It wasn’t fuel. It was wine. Rich. Red. Wine.

Being the proud American soldiers they were, they didn’t shy away from the obvious threat at hand. They proceeded to rip out the liners of their helmets and then get six-ways-to-Sunday shitfaced … drinking from their steel hats. Dad maintained, sort of, as he was the sarge, and had to get his men into the boxcar when the time came.

The other story he told was of the tank. Panzer tanks were colossal hunks of powerful deadly steel. Dad and the boys came across one abandoned somewhere in the Ardennes, and of course, boys being boys, they decided to drive it around. Whoever was driving pushed the throttle forward a wee bit too much, too fast, sending the occupants flying into the walls. Then they couldn’t figure out how to steer or stop the multi-ton hunk of German engineering. Poor guys took out a farmhouse, barn, haystack, and God knows what else before stalling it in a dry riverbed.

I would have paid money to see it.

Time Wounds all Steeled Memories

Guest Essay by Ken Hutchison

Dateline May 14, 2015: Random Memories


418 W. 6th Avenue, Pueblo, Colorado. 1969

I was probably around seven or so when Dad bought the property at the above listed address. On it sat an old dilapidated house. The paint was gone; elm trees grew out of the cracks in the foundation. I was dumbfounded by that as boy. It didn’t seem possible. Trees grew out of dirt, not concrete. Elms, I’ve discovered, grow out of anything. Even in Pueblo.

This was the location of the new Hutchison Pest Control. It was going to be a gleaming cinder block building with two garages and plenty of parking. Now, his old business was in the office of an abandoned grain elevator down across from the Pueblo Tent and Awning Company. Almost as ghetto as it can get. Just off the highway, small, dingy, and just down the street from some of the best steelworker bars known to mankind. But not a place where you went at night.

On this particular morning a group of us had assembled next to the house. The gigantic yellow backhoe was sitting on the vacant land next door, salivating hydraulic fluid as if it was hungry. The death of the dilapidated structure of wood was imminent. Dad came over with a brick. He got down on one knee to be at eye level with me. “Okay, son, this is your chance. You can break every window in this house and not get in trouble. Here you go…”, and the brick — this big heavy brick — was placed in my hands. It was rough, used, and had some left over mortar from its prior life.

I stepped up to the side of the house, placed my feet about five feet away from the house, and threw that sucker as hard as I could at the window.

Where it hit and fell to the ground with a thud that hung in the air like a pickled egg and beer fart.

Leaving the pane of glass in place.

The construction workers — or I guess destruction workers for lack of a more appropriate name — broke into laughter. I stared at the brick for a few seconds in disbelief. I didn’t understand. The brick hit the glass at a perfectly direct angle and the impact was distributed evenly. The tremendous throwing arm of a kindergartener didn’t help the cause at all. All of the big burly workers pointing and laughed.

I turned to my Dad, (who I’m sure had an internal laugh at my expense); the expression on my face must have been “help”. The old lower lip tremble pre-cry expression must have been on my face. He came over, put his hand on my shoulder, and said, “Let’s try that again, son. Throw it like this…”. And he tossed it.

My memory shows the brick flying in slow motion. Sort of like the super cliché scene in movies where the actor is walking away from the bad guys house when he flips his cigarette over his shoulder into the gasoline, never bothering to look back. (seriously, they never even flinch a little…right). The impact was, well, shattering.

Dad picked up another brick. This time it was a broken one. A “bantam-size” window breaker if you will. And I nailed that bitch right in the center. This time, baked clay won over fifty year old fused silica. That sucka was destroyed.

Dad and I proceeded to take care of all the windows before the Cat fired up his diesel engine and reduced the house to splinters in minutes. It was a bonding moment I’ve never forgotten.

A couple of years ago, I went by the old office. It’s empty. A faded “For Lease” sign in the window, phone number barely legible. I walked around the side, standing where I had stood some 45 years earlier. It was a lot smaller than I remember.

And then I saw this next door.

Ye Old HPC building, Pueblo, CO

Ye Old HPC building, Pueblo, CO

The sadness overwhelmed me. I couldn’t even photograph the old HPC storefront. What was once a gleaming clean proud new building was ghetto, just like his old one…

That was down near skid row.

Ken Hutchison © 2015


Thanks Ken. I ever-so-gently edited this -JG

You can email Ken at  ==> Email Ken H

Red Hot Chili Wrecker

From Random Memories, by Ken Hutchison © 2015

Christmas Chili Cook Off, 1988

Tonya and I were first married.  Our little house in Boulder had a small but efficient kitchen.  I sometimes miss it because everything was practically in arm’s reach.

I’d never signed up to do the cook-off here at work. I guess because I was in my second year, and had absolutely no idea that annually the machinists, engineers, techs, and all of the other people who are smarter than me toss various ingredients into saucepans the evening before the event, simmer the crap out of them, and the following morning place them in crock pots throughout the manufacturing building.

They’re placed strategically, so there is absolutely no escaping the smell, no matter how pleasing or hideous it may be.  But, when all of the smells were together in one area it was tough to tell the good from the bad.  Thus I had no idea of the wretched culinary abortion that I took into my mouth, known as “pheasant chili.”  I literally gagged.  Politely of course, since I was in a social setting.  That’s when I decided I could do better.

So, a year later, Chef Kenny is hard at work in the kitchen.  Slicing onions to Steely Dan tunes, chopping tomatoes to the Doobie Brothers.  Jalapenos were next, but I decided I needed a potty break.

I went in, did the ol’ #1, washed my hands, and came out to continue.  Then it happened.

The flaming pain began slowly in my pants.  “It” was beginning to smolder.  The wonders of capsicum. You see, we’re all taught to wash after going, but never before.

“MOTHER OF GOD WHAT HAVE I DONE?!” was the first thought that came to mind.  “MOTHER OF GOD WHAT DO I DO?” is what came next.  Actually, the “mother” part of those phrases was correct, the other words aren’t accurate.  I’m protecting you, dear reader, from my actual thoughts.

I shoved the cutting board aside, making dang sure that the knife was over arm’s-length away from me in case of seizure, which I felt was about to happen.  All I could think of doing was putting out what seemed to be an inferno inside my BVDs.

Water.  Water puts out fire, right?

So, I drop my pants, stand on my toes, grab the sprayer nozzle and begin to douse the invisible roaring flames, soaking down the counter, my remaining clothes and everything else around the area. This was sheer panic as it was getting worse, not better.  I wanted to get in the sink but there’s no way I’d have fit.

That’s when Tonya put down her purse and keys on the table behind me.

I didn’t hear her come through the door because of the water.  We’d been married for just over a year.  She thought I was doing some weird, kinky water sport.

I told her what happened.

When she stopped laughing — and that took a while — she called “Ask a Nurse” and put it on speaker.  I told the nurse that I’d burned my hands; Tonya’s laughing and yelling in the background that it wasn’t true, I’d burned something else.

I was told honey is the magic cure, but I’d probably want to wear gloves since it would stick to everything.  Tonya’s laughing even harder at this point, tears streaming down her cheeks as I’m shoveling through the cabinets in search of the little bottle shaped like a bear that held the golden antidote.

All I can say is it worked fast.  I ended up ditching the chili.

Jalapenos gave me PTSD: Profound Tortuous Self-immolation Directly on my manhood.


Thanks Ken. I ever-so-gently edited this -JG

You can email Ken at  ==> Email Ken H

The Dog Catcher

From Random Memories, by Ken Hutchison © 2015

Summertime, around 1997

I’ve stolen dogs. I’m not afraid to say it. Abused and/or neglected dogs that is. A Husky kept on a four foot chain in a dirt yard just disappeared. A little mixed breed in a dirt pen with two other big dogs that would turn on her when we’d walk by got a new home. But this one was a coordinated effort, and a complex one at that.

We didn’t know the dog’s name. The situation came to us by way of a co-worker. She’d see the dog chained 24/7. The family’s kids would play catch in front of it just to torture it, laughing at the poor thing as she’d try to participate and end up choking herself when the chain ran out as she ran for the ball. Retrieving was in her genetic pool, and she’d rather die than not try. The kids were Satan’s spawn. They didn’t realize that someone had noticed, and that their little pathetic shit-ass game was not going to happen anymore.

So, under the cover of darkness in the middle of the night the operation began. Our friend got the dogs attention with some lunch meat, got a leash on her, took a pair of bolt cutters, and severed her steel chain of torture from her body. The note reading, “Don’t get another one” was left to the tree under the chain.

By sunup she got the dog to us, where she was fed and watered. She ate so aggressively that we wondered how long it had been since she’d seen food. She was matted, filthy, and had her own waste woven into her own hair. Our dog Gracie engaged with her immediately, which wasn’t like her at all. She tried to encourage her to run around the yard, but all she could muster is a gimp, one of her legs seemingly injured. After a few minutes, we went up to the tub, bathing and cutting out what we couldn’t get clean.

That’s when we found it.

The clothes hanger.

Wrapped around her rear haunch. It had been there so long that it had rusted and slightly embedded itself into her skin. She growled and whimpered a bit while we took the wire cutters to it, showing the pain that it was causing.

Once we had it cut out we took her outside again. The girl went crazy, running all over the front yard with our little canine welcome wagon. She had a new lease on life.

After about an hour the woman from Springer Spaniel Rescue showed up. We handed her the hanger. She sighed and shook her head. Then she looked at the little girl below and said, “I’m gonna name you Freedom”.

I know she’s long gone by now, but I’ll never forget that spastic run around the yard.

It was a “Thank you”.

You’re welcome.

Thanks Ken. -JG

You can email Ken at  ==> Email Ken H