Sunday, September 20, 2020

Worlds Apart, Oxford Couple Continually Beat the Odds

One of Mark Hutchison's helicopters, the S92 on the ground at Ketchikan, Alaska en route to Barrow, Alaska
One of Mark Hutchison’s helicopters, the S92 on the ground at Ketchikan, Alaska en route to Barrow, Alaska

Cancer and retirement are obstacles – one a curse; the other a blessing – but neither of which are able to keep a transplanted Oxford couple stagnant.

Actually, both life changes have given them fuel to progressively move forward.

Meet Mark and Joanne Hutchison; a couple who moved to Oxford over a decade ago “because we fell in love with the Square and could not think of a better place to live,” according to Joanne.

Oxford residents Joanne and Mark Hutchison
Oxford residents Joanne and Mark Hutchison

Mark, a retired helicopter pilot; and Joanne, a retired teacher met overseas, married overseas and haven’t looked back.

Joanne meets Mark in Sumatra, Indonesia for her first of many helicopter rides
Joanne meets Mark in Sumatra, Indonesia for her first of many helicopter rides
“We met in Sumatra, Indonesia. I had been teaching there for two years and at the end of my second year I was invited to a party in Duri, Indonesia about two hours from where I lived,” Joanne said. “As soon as I walked into the party I saw Mark. We spent the evening talking and then, the next day, we hung out together swimming and playing golf. On Monday I was back at school when the principal came into my classroom and told me there was a very nice sounding British gentleman on the phone. I went to the phone and Mark told me he was at the heliport near my school and did I want to go for a helicopter ride? The principal said he would watch my class and he pushed me out the door. Mark and I got married a year later.”

Mark, who grew up in Surrey, England knew as a young boy he knew he wanted to fly.

“He would ride his bike 25 miles to Gatwick Airport to spot planes and he could name every one that he saw,” Joanne said. “He saved the money he earned working in a gas station for flying lessons and earned his private pilot’s license at 17 – before he could even drive a car.”

Mark served two years in the Royal Air Force and, after leaving, was accepted into a helicopter-training program in Redhill, England. There he learned to fly helicopters and eventually made his way to Aberdeen, Scotland to fly for Bristow Helicopters on the North Sea.

Joanne, on the other hand, began her teaching career in Buffalo, New York where she taught for two years before heeding the call to venture overseas; three years in Caracas, Venezuela; three years in Indonesia and then with Mark to Aberdeen, Scotland; Doha, Qatar; and Brunei, Borneo.

After those globetrotting stops – next up was Oxford, Mississippi, where they have permanently set roots.

To this day, the Hutchisons maintain an active lifestyle in and around Oxford, tirelessly devoting their time and effort to all things exercise, flying and feline.

This is Dexter, one of the four rescued cats the Hutchisons share their home with.
This is Dexter, one of the four rescued cats the Hutchisons share their home with.
Joanne spent a great deal of her time volunteering for 9-Lives Cat Rescue before its close earlier this month. In fact, that’s where she rescued her extended family; her cats Dexter, Symba, Maya and Portia.

“I was very involved with 9 Lives, but they are closing so the other 9 Lives volunteers and I will continue to display cats from OLHS at Pet Smart,” Joanne said.

All of this seems atypical; two people literally a world apart, two completely different vocations, a chance meeting overseas, marriage a year later, years of globetrotting, a visit to Oxford and then – permanency. Throw in a serious cancer scare and you have the stuff movies are made of.

A recovering Joanne with Dexter after a long battle with uterine cancer.
A recovering Joanne with Dexter after a long battle with uterine cancer.
“I was diagnosed with uterine cancer when I was 58 and had a local recurrence six weeks later,” Joanne said. “That led to nine sessions of chemotherapy and 28 sessions of radiation.”

“Terry Ott and Lynda Addington went through their own battles with cancer at the same time and we were often together at the cancer center. Lynda and I made it but, sadly, Terry was dealt a more difficult form and didn’t. I still feel Terry’s presence around me and wish he was still here with his beautiful wife, Charlene,” she added.

These days, life rolls on for the Hutchisons with great appreciation and forethought. Mark’s first project in retirement was to go to Santa Fe where he flew a couple of jets “just for fun.”

Mark in the pilots seat of a Lockheed T-33 Thunderbird jet that he recently flew "just for fun."
Mark in the pilots seat of a Lockheed T-33 Thunderbird jet that he recently flew “just for fun.”
“He flew the L39 and the Lockheed T-33 Thunderbird and was in flying heaven,” Joanne said.

As for her, Joanne now enjoys spending time with her sister, Sue, who re-located to Oxford to simply be closer to her sister. And, as always, Joanne remains one of Oxford’s paramount feline saviors.

Oxford residents who may feel the need for a “staycation” or just comfortable, wholesome conversation should seek out the Hutchisons. To find them, you may want to check PetSmart, OLHS, the airport or perhaps … just look up. Their basket is blessed and full; and the captivating stories never end.

Mark Hutchison
Joanne Hutchison


Jeff McVay is a staff writer and graphic designer for Hottytoddy.com. He can be reached at jeff.mcvay@hottytoddyarchive.com.

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