MARQUETTE, MI. - Ira Walter Hutchison "crossed the River" about 4:30 a.m. Friday and into the wide welcoming arms of his God and those who had made that life-giving journey earlier, including his beloved wife, Barbara.
He was blessed with a peaceful end to his earthy life at home with his family, friends and dogs at his bedside. Outside, the March air was dry and still, stars were bright and Christmas lights sparkled on evergreen trees (one of Ira's many passions).
Ira was 70. To know Ira was to know a gentle man eager to embrace friends with deep bear hugs. He was deeply spiritual and spirited, yet acknowledged his assorted imperfections. His humor was typically wry. Some would say he looked like Santa Claus with his sparkling brown eyes, full beard and warming smile.
Ira was a gentle scholar and intellectual committed to bringing out the best in family, friends, students and colleagues.
Born on Oct. 19, 1943 in Hackensack, NJ, Ira was the second of eight children (five sons and three daughters) of Ira and Mary Hutchison of Midland.
He lived most of his childhood and young adult years in Midland, graduating from Michigan State University and the University of Notre Dame with B.A., M.A. and PhD degrees in sociology.
Ira's academic expertise was in family dynamics and spousal abuse. He taught first at Florida State University and then for many years at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. It was there that he was honored as Professor of the Year.
He married Barbara Neff in Charlotte in November 1995. Five years later, they moved to Marquette to be closer to family and enjoy the northern Michigan environment. Ira assumed his new position as head of the Sociology Department at Northern Michigan University.
Ira and Barb absolutely embraced Marquette and the love was returned many-fold. Their home on Grove Street quickly became a getaway for family from Michigan, Ohio and North Carolina as well as new Marquette friends. Their home saw many gatherings of The Society of Friends, garden club meetings and such.
Ira and Barb were passionate about Lake Superior, its beaches and amazing waters. Most times their dogs played in the water as they walked the shore.
On two occasions they hosted dinners for their nephew's college basketball team when they were in Marquette to play NMU. "Good" snow years saw sled runs built through their property. Ira often hired NMU students to help build runs, spread chips, maintain trails, move shrubs and new trees, help with gardening and similar tasks.
Beyond their home sanctuary and the NMU campus, Marquette would find Ira at Donker's (often with visiting family), at the prison for his ministry there, or at St. Michael's Catholic Church where he was a member and baritone in the Resurrection Choir. He was a frequent visitor of the Sisters of St. Paul, Messiah Lutheran Church and Room at the Inn Shelter.
Ira is survived by his brother Edward, Midland; brother Michael, Bath; sister Judy (Jim) Arnold, Kalamazoo; brother Jerry (Beth), Battle Creek; sister Cathy, Battle Creek; and sister-in-law Joan Hutchison of Chehalis, Wash.; and seven nieces and nephews. In addition, Ira is survived by his five step-children: Beth (Tim) O'Connell, Raleigh, N.C.; Jennifer (Johnny) Daigle, Charlotte, N.C.; Karen Linton, Charlotte, N.C.; Lisa Domby, Carborro, N.C.; and Chris (Celina) Domby, Chapel Hill, N.C., as well as six step-grandchildren.
Ira was pre-deceased by his parents, Ira and Mary Hutchison and his brother Lewis and sister Mary Sue.
Visitation will be from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday, March 10, 2014 at the Canale-Tonella Funeral Home, 526 North Third Street. Rev. David Van Kley and Rev. Amanda Kossow will celebrate Ira's life at 11 a.m. Tuesday, March 11, 2014 at Messiah Lutheran Church, 305 W. Magnetic Street.
Those wishing an expression of sympathy are requested to consider: The Sisters of St. Paul of Chartres, 1300 County Road 492, Marquette, MI 49855, Food for the Hungry 1224 E. Washington St., Phoenix, AZ 85034 or Habitat for Humanity, 1027 N. Third Street, Marquette, MI 49855.
Ira's obituary may also be viewed at canalefuneral.com where memories may be shared.