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Article ID: 6747
Age Group: Adult
Posted: October 11th. 2003
In Memorium: Fred Tuttle - A Man With A Plan
Remembering Fred Tuttle...
by Peg Aloi
Fred Tuttle, dairy farmer, occasional film actor and world-famous Vermonter, passed away last week at the age of 84. Many friends and neighbors mourned his passing, which was swift and painless; he suffered a massive heart attack just after sitting down to dinner with his wife and son (my friend Chris).
I first met Fred Tuttle on one of his rare excursions out of his home state: at the Kendall Square Cinema in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Chris mentioned to me that his parents would be in town for a publicity event at the theatre, because his dad was starring in a new movie.
Filmmaker John O'Brien had cast Fred in a small part in his previous film, Vermont is for Lovers, but this time Fred played the lead role: himself. In Man with a Plan, Fred demonstrates courage and good old-fashioned stick-to-itiveness when he decides that being a U.S. Senator may prove more lucrative then being a dairy farmer, in a country where such occupations have come upon hard times. In the film, the fairy tale ending has him winning the seat and heading to Washington. In real life, as a sort of publicity stunt, Fred and the filmmakers decided to stage a real campaign. Runing against a millionaire "carpet-bagger" from Massachusetts, Fred easily won the primary. He then decided to publicly support his oponent, incumbent Patrick Leahy.
I went to the theatre and saw the film and got to meet Chris' parents for the first time. Fred and Dot seemed a bit overwhelmed by it all: fans from the big city coming up to shake hands and crow over the film, seen by audiences in small venues and arthouses throughout New England. But a few months later, Fred had become a household name! Well, at least in Vermont. Ben and Jerry named flavors after him. He was featured in a statewide "Got milk?" ad. And he appeared on national TV with Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien. I remember visiting friends in Tunbridge and attending the Tunbridge Worlds' Fair. Fred would be there, decked out in his customary overalls, with his signature hat that said "Fred" across the front. Despite his michievous habit of calling anyone from outside the state a "flatlander," he genuinely loved to meet new people and would invariably ask them how they liked Vermont. He loved to sign autographs for his many fans, and enjoyed conversations about any and all subjects, especially politics and social issues, during which he dispensed honest opinions and often well-articulated wisdom.
Back at the house with his family after a day at the fair, Fred would still have the energy to talk with his son and daughter's friends, or with anyone who stopped by the house. On weekends when there was no fair or crowds of people, just hanging out and eating good meals and talking, Fred would still love the company. He loved to show people the raspberry patch up the hill, and I remember more than one occasion when he'd walk up there with me to pick berries, sometimes struggling with his cane. "You like Vermont?" he'd ask. Or sometimes, "What you think about this Bill Clinton fella?" He liked to talk about farming, and his family, and his army days, especially his old girlfriend from England. "What'd she see in me, I don't know," he'd joke, though I have seen pictures of Fred from those days, and he was a handsome, and, I would guess, charming man. He ended his life in way many of us would wish for: after a day doing the daily work he enjoyed (digging his potatoes), and surrounded by loved ones, at home in his beloved Vermont. He was buried in his overalls, a pen in his pocket for autograph signing, and a can of Moxie by his side. Here's to you, Fred: may the Summerland always show you the stunning green hills and golden meadows, the contented animals and friendly folks you loved so well.
Earlier News release by Wren
We were saddened this week by the news of the passing of a man whom Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., described as being "the distilled essence of Vermonthood". Fred Tuttle, dairy farmer and movie star, was the epitome of both the 'everyman' and of the unique individualist. He lived life his own way and on his own terms.
Fritz and I met with Fred on several occasions. His colorful down-on-the-farm -- and sometimes in the barn (wink-wink) -- stories kept us entertained for hours. He was incredibly tolerant of alternative lifestyles and beliefs for a man of his generation. And he really enjoyed playing the 'devil's advocate' as evidenced in his "run" for political office. His 'Fredisms" are famous throughout the state and everybody could truthfully say that he or she 'knew' Fred. Vermont indeed has lost one of her favorite sons.
But we know that wherever Fred is now, he is probably still telling his wonderful stories... and should the summerlands have a print shop, we wouldn't be at all surprised to see 'Spread Fred' bumperstickers tacked up on every tree and cloud.
Our condolences go out to his wife, Dorothy, and to his children -- and our good friends -- Thoth and Maat. We love you.
To read more about Fred Tuttle, his 'plan' and his legacy, see: Vermont's 'Man With a Plan' Dies To offer YOUR condolences visit the article featured on Wren's Nest
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