The Finish Line
DON TUTTLE, 1/30/31-1/13/01
By Dave Tuttle
It is with a huge lump in my throat and a sad heart that
I report my father, life long best friend and guiding light,
left this world as we know it January 13, 2001, just a couple
weeks shy of his 70th birthday.
Many of you know that he suffered from the crippling
effects of Parkinson's disease for 32 years, something
that most suffers die from in 10 to 15 years. Christmas
of 1968, while trying to make a deadline and running a
fever, he came down with encephalitis and a 105-degree
fever. At age 37, he was one of the youngest cases of
this old folks' disease ever seen.
Because of this, he became a research patient of UCLA
Medical Center, the west-coast equivalent of Harvard Medical
Institute. This greatly helped medical science learn about
the treatment of Parkinson's and allowed Dad to live a
full and active life.
He continued to work full time until 1995, when he retired
at age 65. He lost his driving privileges not long after
that, after his second tangle with a parked car, and his
condition slowly crept up on him.
The Hot Rod Reunion was the highlight of his year. He
looked forward to that as much as we kids did Christmas
when we were younger! The sounds, the smells, and most
of all his friends at the Drags were the times he enjoyed
most. Those who were fortunate enough to greet him this
year, noticed he wasn't looking good. Way more than before,
friends of his who found me first, seemed to have him
on the top of their agenda, as if it might well be the
last time they'd get to say Hello. That gave me a weird
feeling all weekend!
Just a few weeks after the Reunion, Mom had him admitted
to the hospital, as he didn't respond to his daily medication
and lost his equilibrium. He spent 18 days in there and
missed getting out for Thanksgiving by a day.
We got together for dinner and gifts on Christmas Eve
and he looked pretty good. I'm glad I got to spend some
quality time with him then, as that's my last image I'll
have to keep.
Friday, January 5, he went back in the hospital and although
he responded well at first, he was not coherent. Monday,
we got the word that his kidneys had shut down and he
had a case of pneumonia. He and Mom agreed some time ago,
that when the time came, not to prolong it with life support.
He went quietly and was in no pain.
Dad was a tough one, to fight this off for so long. He
always made the best of every day and never complained
one bit! Even though we found he had cracked a couple
ribs back in November! His short-term memory wasn't too
good. He couldn't remember who won the race he just finished
watching on TV. But ask him what happened at Indy in 1968
and he'd go into detail for hours! He had some great stories!
Dad's in a better place now where he's surrounded with
old friends he hasn't seen in a long time, he feels no
pain, he can stand up straight, both his hands work the
best they ever did and there's an unlimited supply of
cold Pepsi's on ice! (His favorite!)
Memorial services will be held not far from where he
lived since 1961, in Simi Valley Calif. This will be a
graveside, family only service. Rather than sending flowers,
the family requests that you make a donation in his honor
to the following charities.
The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Disease,
The National Parkinson's Foundation, 1-800 327-4545
To help me cope with this loss and as a tribute to him,
I'm planning to add a page to my web site in his memory.
I've been digging through lots of old photos that have
much more meaning now, and am working on something special
to celebrate his life and achievements.
Thanks in advance for all your kind words.