John (Jack) Joseph Hutchinson and Ella Gertrude Connor


Jack Hutchinson was born on August 8, 1912, in Wichita Kansas to Hiram Benjamin Hutchinson and Martha (Mattie) Matilda Jordan Hutchinson. At the time of his birth, the family lived at 236 South Green. His name on the birth certificate was listed as Carl Jordan Hutchinson but the family called him John Joseph. A corrected birth certificate was issued August 5, 1942. He was baptized as John Joseph at the Wichita Cathedral on September 22, 1912, one of the first babies to be baptized there. He was also present at the Cathedral dedication on September 19, 1912.


Ella Gertrude Connor was born on May 27, 1914 in Kansas City, Wyandotte County, Kansas to Charles Francis Connor and Mary Elizabeth Dagnia Connor. She was baptized on June 7, 1914 by Father Anthony Dornseifer in Rosedale, Kansas. She was known to her parents and siblings as Doll Baby. Ella had one older sister, Mary Louise, and seven brothers, three older and four younger. A younger brother Francis died at age five from an eye tumor.


Jack lived with his parents, sister Irma, and brother Ben at 326 South Green, and then on 447 North Lawrence (now Broadway) across from the Wichita Cathedral. The family eventually moved to 155 N. Madison. He attended school at Cathedral through the ninth grade and graduated from high school from Wichita High School East. During his childhood he often played with the Connor boys, usually Jim, who was his own age. When he was about twelve years old he was hit by a car and broke his leg while riding his bicycle. The doctors placed him under anesthetic to set the bone. He found a broken leg to be more serious than he originally thought for while he was under the anesthetic the doctors also circumcised him.  He also had a dog named King. King caught rabies and bit him, causing him to have to undergo painful rabies treatments.


Ella’s path to greatness had humble beginnings. When she was four she accompanied her mother on the train from Lenexa to Wichita to find a home. Mary Louise was left in Lenexa to take care of the house and mind the boys. Apparently the trip was too much for Ella as she threw up on the train and in a restaurant. She also attended Cathedral Grade School and Mary Louise was often called to the principal’s office because Ella was crying again because she missed her mother and brothers. She eventually overcame her fears and graduated from Cathedral Grade School and High School.


Jack’s high school years were occupied with basketball, friends, and work. He worked all through high school at King’s Drug Store just west of Hillside and Douglas. The following poem (from English class) was found among his papers:





We struggle and strain at our daily tasks

Till our sinews are weakened

Our strong years are spent

Then others come in our stead

Take from our relaxed grip

The tasks still warm from our handling

Which we passed at death’s command

Then some unknown does as we have done

Passes the torch full flaming

To some unknown in his stead

Who does the same.


Jack Hutchinson 3/30/30


Ella’s school years were also spent with family, friends, and school activities. She was an enthusiastic tennis player.


After high school Jack attended Wichita University. He continued to work at King’s Drug store and was active in the Pi Alpha Pi fraternity. Ella also attended Wichita University for a year. She was a member of the Pi Kappa Psi sorority. During this time, Jack and Ella started dating. Ella is quoted as saying “Jack’s fraternity brothers set me up with him, and I wasn’t a bit interested at first. Jack wasn’t sure I was supposed to be his date, so we didn’t get together until toward the end of the party. When they became engaged Ella’s mother was quoted as saying “I hope this is nothing serious.”


After one year of college Ella took a job in the Sedgwick County Assessor’s office. The assessor was involved with misappropriation of county funds and Ella was instrumental in reporting this to the authorities and was the star witness at the trial.


Jack and Ella were married on May 5, 1938 in the Wichita Cathedral by Monsignor William M. Farrell. The best man was Jack’s brother Ben. The matron of honor was Ella’s friend Ginny Grove. Other members of the wedding party were Robert Connor, Raymond (Pete) Connor, Thomas Hammond, Mary Louise Connor, and Dawn Dunn (flower girl). They spent their honeymoon in Dallas, Texas.


Upon return from their honeymoon their first home was an apartment at 227 North Hydraulic. Life in this new home was often an adventure. The couple in the next apartment was very nice but often fought. On more than one occasion gunfire was threatened and Jack and Ella slept with the mattress between them and the next apartment. Other stories from this time relate that when the toilet seat broke in their apartment the landlord supplied a handmade cardboard replacement. After some argument Jack purchased a real toilet set but saved the cardboard seat and reinstalled it when they moved out of the apartment.


During this time Jack worked at New York Life Insurance as an agent. When World War II began he began a new career at Beech Aircraft as an apprentice weight engineer, and was eventually promoted to development weight engineer. He did development and test work on trainers, gliders, and combat type aircraft until the end of the war. He then moved to commercial aircraft and did weight design for the Bonanza, Twin Bonanza, and Super Model 18. After eleven years at Beech he joined Boeing, Wichita as a weight saving specialist on the model B-47 project. He also worked on the development of the B-52 and Boeing 707. In 1954 he was loaned to Boeing Seattle to do design work on the 707 and KC-135 tanker. In 1955 he joined the Technical Staff of Cessna Aircraft’s Military Division as Chief of Weight and Balance.


On October 11, 1940 Ella began her career as a mother with the birth of John Joseph Hutchinson. This was quickly followed with the birth of Thomas William (8/28/42), Ann Louise (3/22/44), and Mary Janet (11/21/45) - four babies in a little more than five years.


During this time the family moved into a new home at 625 South Fountain. It was very cozy in this two-bedroom home with four children but these were war years and everyone made sacrifices. Jack worked seven days a week at Beech on military aircraft, but he was luckier than most young men at the time because he was able to come home to his family every night.


Because of his growing family and because he was engaged in defense work Jack’s Selective Service classification was II-B. When it began to look like an invasion of Japan was inevitable, he was reclassified as I-A on May 5, 1945. On May 11, 1945 he received a letter, on his seventh wedding anniversary, from the President of the United States that began “Greeting: You are hereby directed to report…” He was drafted. He was found to be physically fit on May 12 and was off to Navy Basic Training. When the Japanese surrendered in August he was discharged before he even left the country.


Four of Ella’s brothers served in the war. John, Pete, Bob, and William were scattered across the United States, Europe, Philippines, and India. Although her brother (Pete) was injured by shrapnel and briefly missing in action in Italy, all returned home safely.


In late fall of 1947 the family moved to a bigger house at 3505 East Waterman. This house was about one-half block from College Hill Park. The park included a swimming pool and tennis courts. It was also fairly close to Blessed Sacrament Church and Grade School. The growing children were able walk to school as well as swim and play tennis.


The family took vacations each summer. The most frequent destination was Colorado often around Twin Lakes and Nederland where they were able to use friend’s cabin.


The most memorable family trip was a train trip to California in August of 1954. The family first visited San Francisco and then visited Aunt Irma and her family in Santa Monica. Swimming in the ocean was the highlight of the trip. The boys also attended a pre-season Los Angeles Rams football game.


Even with all of their allergies the family was able to have (and enjoy) pets. The first two dogs were dachshunds  - Pretzel and Jinx. Pretzel showed up in a Christmas stocking and Jinx was an emergency replacement when Pretzel was run over by a car. Both dogs were good companions and a significant part of the family.


During the summers the Hutchinson children were able to take good advantage of the College Hill swimming pool for lessons, cooling off, recreation, and eventually competition. College Hill had a swimming team and one of the highlights of the summer was the annual City swim meet. Both John and Tom discovered an aptitude for competitive swimming. Ann and Janet eventually showed the same interest and aptitude. Swimming was to become a big part of the Hutchinson family life for generations. In the winter of 1955 Coach Bob Timmons was able to arrange for pool time at West High School. This was the beginning of the Wichita Swim Club. It was soon evident that parental involvement was necessary and Jack Hutchinson was the first vice president of the Wichita Swim Club. School and swimming dominated the next decade.


Even though the family lived very close to College Hill Pool it was not possible for everyone to swim together. It was always a big treat for the family to get in the car and go to the Municipal Pool. The pool was located where the present Riverside Tennis Courts are located. The pool was very large and had two water slides and diving boards. There was also a snack bar. On one of these occasions Ella said she saw a flying saucer as everyone was piling out of the car. After her original astonishment (and the skepticism with which her observation was greeted) she did not like to talk much about flying saucers.


The Hutchinson children all graduated from grade school at Blessed Sacrament. The boys graduated from Kapaun High School and the girls graduated from Mount Carmel High School. John graduated from Saint Benedicts College and received a PhD in mathematics from the University of Kansas. Tom attended and was captain of the swim team at Kansas University and graduated from Wichita State University. Both Ann and Janet attended Wichita State University.


While the children were in college, Ella took a job in a dentist office. She worked as the office manager for Dr. Ted Funke. This provided a little extra income along with some socializing. Many of Dr. Funke’s patients were friends from Blessed Sacrament parish.


Jack and Ella began the next phase of their life on July 10, 1963 when their first grandchild David Wayne Walker was born to Ann. After this came Kevin (64), Jane (66), John (68), Joseph (70), Katherine (72), Amy (73), Natalie (75), and Shannon (78). During this time Tom was drafted into the Army and first served in Germany but was eventually sent to Viet Nam. This was a difficult time for the family but eventually Tom returned home safely and the family, careers and marriages worked their way out of difficulties.


After the turbulence of the 1960s and 1970s Jack and Ella were able to relax a little bit. They moved to a much smaller and more easily maintained house at 4951 Kings Row. Jack had left the aviation industry and found employment as a printing salesman. He was able to leverage his engineering experience with printing technical and sales/advertising information for local aviation companies. He eventually retired from Acme Printing in 1985. Also during this time Jack and Ella were able to do a considerable amount of traveling as well as enjoy their grandchildren. They especially enjoyed watching their grandchildren’s swimming careers. Kevin, John, and Joe all swam on college teams.


As he learned to talk grandson David Walker referred to his grandparents as “Mom Mom” and “Pop Pop”. The nicknames stuck and extended beyond the immediate family. The new names became a symbol of their grand status.


While working at Acme Printing Company Jack began playing basketball at noon at the Downtown YMCA. This usually included an exercise class and lunch with cronies. During lunch they discussed world affairs and various big deals they were working on. This continued even after retirement. His last basketball game was on Friday February 8, 1991. On Sunday he attended the dedication of the new Olympic sized Wichita Swim Club pool facility. Early Monday morning February 11, 1991 he suffered a massive stroke. He lived for a few hours and died that afternoon. His funeral was on Thursday (Valentines Day). He was 78. He is buried at Calvary Cemetery in Wichita, Kansas.


After the funeral Ella went home and resolutely began the next phase of her life. She eagerly learned and assumed responsibility for finances, car repair, home repair, and all the things that Jack took care of. Greatness officially came on January 26, 1992 when her first great grandchild John (Jack) Thomas Walker was born. Others soon followed.


At this time Ella’s children often gathered on Saturday morning to visit and help.  These times came to be called “The Meeting.” Errands were run, checkbooks were balanced, jars were opened, light bulbs were changed, and gossip was exchanged. Mom Mom usually made something good to eat. It was a happy time.


In addition to her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, Ella was able to enjoy time with her sons-in-law Paul Schwarz and Keith Parker and her daughters-in-law Anne and Roslyn. She was able to do some traveling as well. In January 1993 she went on a ski trip to Breckenridge, Colorado with the families of Ann, Janet, and John. She did not ski but participated in all of the festivities and took care of one-year-old Jack.


In November 1994 John, Anne, Ella, and Anne’s mother made a trip to the island of Cozumel, Mexico. Ella was then eighty years old. When the group arrived a hurricane was headed directly at Cozumel but veered away at the last minute. It was a wonderful trip. In spite of the family’s heavy participation in water sports, Ella never learned to swim. She was, however, finally able to enjoy the warm waters of the Caribbean. She also took a tour of ancient Mayan ruins where she fell and was very slightly injured. She said later “Please don’t take me to the ruins again.” The foursome rented an open-air jeep and was able to see the island well  - even if not in great comfort. It was often a bumpy ride.


As she entered her eighties Ella’s health and strength slowly began to deteriorate. There were several trips to the emergency room where she complained of severe weakness but nothing serious was found and the episode was chalked up to old age.  Old age and infirmity were also taking a toll on her siblings, John (d1981), Bill (d1995), Jim (d1995), Mary Louise (d1996), Charles (d1996), and finally Pete (d1998). By fall 1998 Ella and Bob were the last of the Connor siblings.


In August of Ella was hospitalized again with, what was thought to be at the time, an intestinal blockage. When this did not respond to treatment, surgery was necessary. The surgery repaired the blockage but revealed non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. It was thought that the surgery had removed all of the malignancy and would take care of the severe weakness. While she was hospitalized her brother Pete died of liver cancer. She was able to watch the funeral service on tape from her hospital room.


Recovery from the surgery was slow. She was in the recovery room for a very long time while doctors tried to stabilize her blood pressure. Eventually the family was allowed into the recovery room because Ella was the only patient there. In spite of her situation she was able to ask if she was “on the roof.” This was in reference to a family joke in which being “on the roof” was a euphemism for being deceased.  After she was released from the hospital she stayed for a while with her daughter Janet. She was able to go home by late September.


By October the cancer had returned. This was a cruel surprise because she appeared to be making good progress. She was persuaded by her family to undergo try chemotherapy. She was able to tolerate it fairly well and it appeared to be working.


The chemotherapy was at least a partial success. By Thanksgiving Ella felt well enough for a major celebration. She rented a penthouse on the Kansas City Country Club Plaza for a few nights and the family was able to gather for Thanksgiving dinner and then a front row seat for the Plaza Christmas Lights event. Ella was able take short walks around the Plaza and do some Christmas shopping.


Right before Thanksgiving (November 13, 1998) a great granddaughter Elizabeth Grace Hutchinson was born. There were now two EGHs in the family. Ella was never particularly fond of her first name and definitely did not like Gertrude - Elizabeth Grace was close enough.


In early February 1999 Ella entered the hospital again with severe weakness. A biopsy revealed that the cancer had returned and would almost certainly take her life. After some palliative treatment she returned home and hospice care was arranged. The family gathered for last goodbyes. This was not a happy time for the family but Ella did find a way to extract some enjoyment from the situation. The house was abuzz with children and grandchildren visiting and great grandchildren underfoot. Her granddaughter Jane was able to take a week off work to help and Janet’s friend Terri Amend (a nurse) was also a great comfort and help. Family and friends were able to provide nearly all of Ella’s care with only advice and equipment (oxygen) supplied by hospice. After only a few days at home Ella died peacefully in her sleep at 2:48 AM on February 16, 1991. All of her children were present.


Ella’s funeral was on February 19, 1999. She was buried in Calvary Cemetery in Wichita, Kansas. She was 84 years old.


As of December 2006 Ella and Jack have four children, nine grandchildren, and seventeen great grandchildren. Only her brother Bob (age 90) remained of her siblings. Ella and Jack’s paths to greatness started slowly but finished strong. Their commitment to their family and the Catholic Church never wavered.


Jack’s character is best summed up by his work ethic. Even with the great depression, aircraft industry layoffs, and other financial setbacks he was never out of a job for more than a few days. He put everything he had into providing for his family. He worked hard. Even though he was able to enjoy retirement he was not really comfortable without somewhere to go each morning. His closest friends were Tom Buser, Paul Grove, and his basketball buddies from the YMCA.


Ella was able to find something funny in almost any situation. It showed up in the recovery room and in the reading of her Will - with commentaries on who got what of her things. This made her fun to be around and talk about. She was able to enjoy the independence of her last phase of life and she liked to understand how things worked. She was social person and liked to get dressed up and go to church or out to eat. She loved holidays. She loved her friends Ginny Grove, Pat Ballard, Perky Buser, Mid Helgerson, Mary Alice Dondlinger, and Marge Potts. She came a long way from the shy little girl who either cried or threw up at the slightest provocation.