Friday, August 12, 2022
2:00 PM EDT
Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes
6080 Stadium Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
Burial will follow at Hope Cemetery.
Life Story / Obituary
Longtime public servant to Kalamazoo County and member of the Greatest Generation, Harold E. Nutter, Jr. passed away Friday, August 5, 2022, surrounded by family and loved ones after a brief illness at age 97.
Harold, or “Hap” as he was known to family and friends, was born June 10, 1925, in Kalamazoo, the son of Harold Sr. and Fanny (Loher) Nutter. Although he came from humble beginnings – growing up on a working farm on “F” Avenue and dropping out of school at age 15 – his drive, determination and work ethic would serve him well throughout his life. At 17, Hap followed in his older brother’s footsteps and enlisted in the Navy to support his country during WWII. He was assigned to Destroyer Escort “Lloyd E. Acree” where he saw action in the final years of the war. After coming home to Kalamazoo, Hap met and married his beloved Iris Lamson in 1947. They were united in their dedication to family and raised 3 children – Jackie, Harry and Susie – in a loving and nurturing environment that included regular weekly visits with Hap’s extended family and frequent Sunday dinners with his parents. All of Hap’s vacation time was dedicated to family time, and camping! The inaugural camping trip (using tents!) in 1961 was with close friends, the Wesaw family, and it was the first of many more. As a father, Hap was a great, “hand’s on” Dad whose intense scrutiny of his kid’s behavior sometimes stifled their dating opportunities (Hap was known to interrogate a potential date!) but he enjoyed a close and warm relationship with all three of his kids and their spouses (Don, Mary, and Rich) throughout their entire lives and he treasured their uniquely different personalities and skill sets. He was truly proud of their individual accomplishments. Hap’s dedication to family set the stage for his close relationships with nieces and nephews – Paul Blanchard who followed Hap’s career path, and his brother Dick’s children – Diane, Don, Darlene, and Rich – who lost their dad at an early age. In recent years he had many conversations via Skype and had a close relationship with nephew Don Nutter. He enjoyed visits with niece Judy and often “jammed” with nephew Jerry (Bud) Phelps. He also had a close relationship with his grandkids and their families. In fact, blessed with a clear keen mind until the end, Hap continued to guide and advise of those who were lucky enough to be in his orbit and nurtured all of these important relationships throughout his entire life. His kindness and generosity extended to strangers as well. It was not uncommon for Hap to help a homeless family by paying for a few days in a motel to help them find work. Harold had an enormous drive to help others and was always looking to find the best in the people around him. He was truly a good man.
Throughout his life, Hap was not involved in hobbies, per se, but he had a deep and abiding love of country music… playing guitar and singing with friends throughout his entire lifetime including his dear lifelong friends Bill Trainer and Gordon Wesaw, plus a bevy of “jam” band members. Any visit to the Nutter house usually included Hap pulling out his guitar to strum a few tunes. Singing and playing guitar was also a staple at almost all family gatherings of the Nutter clan. It was his joy. During his retirement years, he was a favorite performer at country music “jams” in both Kalamazoo and Tarpon Springs. And he was still “jamming” in public earlier this year.
Hap’s career path took a few turns before finding his calling as a dedicated public servant with the Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Department. Prior to joining the force, Hap worked for the Van Bochove Florist & Greenhouse in Kalamazoo. Even as a delivery driver, Hap’s analytical mind conceived of a better, more efficient way to make flower deliveries. He noticed several competitors making the same delivery rounds, and soon organized an all drivers meeting at the beginning of the day to divide up the flowers – meaning only one delivery truck would go to a specific location. He was an innovative problem solver throughout his career life.
Eventually, Hap was a floral arranger and then manager of the Downtown location but had developed a curiosity about police work. Despite a chronic bad back from an earlier injury which may have deterred his being hired, he started showing up at the office of Sheriff Kirby Mason asking for a job as a Deputy Sheriff. His persistence paid off and he was hired in 1959. During his years with the Sheriff’s Department, Harold was particularly known for his interrogation skills and was credited with bringing to justice the criminals whose heinous crime spree terrorized Kalamazoo County in the early 1970’s. Thanks to Detective Nutter’s dogged determination to track down the killers, he helped make Kalamazoo a safer place for all who live there. Even as recently as June of 2022, Hap was still receiving requests for interviews about his pivotal role in solving those crimes. His law enforcement career with the Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Department spanned three decades with Harold retiring as Captain of Traffic and Patrol in 1977.
In the years following his early retirement, Hap and Iris became “snowbirds” spending the winter months in Florida and enjoyed spoiling their Grandchildren – Julie & Donnie and Harry & Greg. Sadly, those times were cut short as Iris developed Alzheimer’s Disease and Hap became her primary caretaker until she went into Nursing Home care and died in 2008. Harold decided to visit the local Senior Center to meet people and get involved in new activities, and he made a special new friend, Iola Dunsmore. Together, they became close companions who enjoyed travel, music and watching old TV shows. Iola was there along with Harold’s children, Jackie, Harry, and Susie to be at his bedside at the end.
Harold was predeceased by his parents and older siblings, Ella (Jerry) Phelps and Richard (Delores) Nutter and also predeceased by his beloved wife Iris. He is survived by his 3 children – Jackie (Don) Ashbaugh, Harry (Mary) Nutter, and Susie (Rich) Dugan; 4 grandchildren – Julie (Russell) Tharp, Harold (Shelly) Nutter IV, Donald Ashbaugh Jr., and Greg Nutter – and many great-grandchildren, nieces, and nephews. He is also survived by his longtime companion Iola. Friends will be received at Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900 on Friday, August 12 at 1 p.m. A service to honor his life will follow at 2 p.m. Burial at Hope Cemetery. Please visit Hap’s webpage at BetzlerLifeStory.com to archive favorite memories, photos, and sign his guestbook.