Big-hearted Alaskan handyman embraces role as father figure & mentor

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Terry Tutor is ready for work, come what may. Yes, he’s getting along in years, but the seasoned facilities maintenance manager at Lumen Christi High School in Anchorage continues to pour time and energy into the school, both the brick and mortar as well as with the up-and-coming generation.

Now in his 70s, Tudor leans on an unshakable Catholic faith as he balances a professional and personal life that might overwhelm a lesser man.

On any given school day, in the morning he can be found helping take care of his great-grandson who attends kindergarten at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton School. Later in the day he can be seen completing various mechanical feats to the great relief of Lumen Christi staff and students, or helping a deployed neighbor’s young daughter with her after-school homework. Tutor takes on responsibilities the way others incur debt, but he remains quick to smile and easily breaks into his signature giggle.

 

OUT FROM RETIREMENT

Tutor was happily retired in California more than 15 years ago. But then life took a twist, which required him and his wife JudyAnn to pursue custody of their two Alaska-based grandsons, then ages 10 and 12. At the time, the boys’ parents were struggling to provide an appropriate home environment for the young boys.

The second go-around at parenting meant packing up and moving to Alaska where they got custody of the boys and began raising kids again.

Today Tutor and his wife are helping to take care of their great-grandson, age six. Tudor also went back to work in order to make ends meet. While his golden years haven’t been much of a retirement, Tudor saw a need and felt a burden to reach out.

“Young people have open minds and hearts,” Tutor told the Catholic Anchor. “They need guidance to become good people of faith and mentor to others as they grow. It is our responsibility to provide them with a strong faith base from which to draw and guidance about how to navigate life’s challenges.”

 

A STEWARD & MENTOR

Along with the years of first caring for his grandchildren and then later his great-grandson, Tutor has also poured countless time and energy into the students of Lumen Christi. He serves as both mentor and role model to students who know him as much more than the facilities manager, and his presence is felt everywhere at the school.

“Generally, the school would fall apart without him,” said Debbie Brewer, a teacher at Lumen Christi. “He is also a good steward of our gifts — he is often found fixing or rebuilding something that others would throw away.”

When it comes to the students and staff, he is also attentive, she noted. “Terry sees the school as an extended family and is there to talk with and offer advice to staff and students as needed.”

Lumen Christi’s principal John Harmon agreed.

“Terry is an inspiration to faculty, staff and students,” he observed. “He goes above and beyond expectation, from routine maintenance issues to helping set up for special events like our fundraiser gala. He is a hard worker, yet he takes time to make students and staff feel special.”

He added: “Terry is one of the many ‘lights of Christ’ working at Lumen and it is a great pleasure to have him as part of the school staff.”

 

CATHOLIC CONVERT

During Tutor’s many years working with youth as a coach, counselor or youth group leader, he came to believe that a classic Catholic education was the best route to success for young people, despite the fact that he didn’t join the Catholic Church until much later in life.

Tutor was raised without formal religious instruction, and his only exposure to religion involved taking a bus to Sunday school at a nearby Nazarene Church. In an amusing twist, Tutor discovered years later that his mother believed he was attending a local non-denominational church, but the bus took him to the Nazarene church, so that is where he went. As a teenager, he “discovered girls,” and began attending a Methodist church because a girlfriend went there.

Later, when he and his wife Judy Ann, a Catholic, started looking for a new church in California, they attended a local Methodist congregation where the sermon was “more of a political rally,” says Tutor. Disenchanted, they went to the Catholic Church, which eventually led to Terry completing the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) and becoming a Catholic in 1995.

 

CHAMPION OF CATHOLIC SCHOOLS

Tutor always had a heart for youth, but now it had a Catholic focus. In his work at Lumen Christi, he encourages students to stay with the Catholic schools, from elementary school through college.

“Pursuing education in a Catholic environment is so important,” Tutor said. “We adults can provide examples to students of which schools will allow them to continue learning in a faith-based manner.”

“It is also important for our youth to see us practicing the faith every day,” he added, “whether by attending Mass, volunteering as readers, eucharistic ministers or altar servers.”

What do Catholic schools do better, in his opinion?

“The schools are generally smaller and tight knit,” he said. “There’s more of a sense of community.”

The diversity of families and students, too, adds to the school’s strength, Tutor maintained.

“There is a feeling of all of us pulling in the same direction for our kids’ sake,” he said. “Kids come to school prepared for the day and ready to learn.”

 

‘SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER’

Tutor also believes that youth need the investment of time and attention more than ever before.

“Today’s youth have a hard time communicating and understanding where we (adults) come from when it comes to church, country and family,” he observed. “Their communication skills are sorely lacking due to the dominance of electronic media. Look around — most of the time they are texting, on the phone or playing with the computer!”

The key, according to Tutor is to “spend more time together as families, at home, and especially outside the home — like in church.”

Adults have a duty to show by example, he said. “How to carry a conversation, how to look at history and not make the same mistakes over and over again.”

But if and when friends and loved ones do make bad choices, Tudor and his wife try to help as they can.

“We open our hearts,” he said.


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