Edward Coleman, known to many in Shelburne as “Tut,” died quickly and peacefully last Saturday, Jan. 31 after complications from the flu. He was 89 years old. Dave Justice at the Village Mobile said, “He lived a good life, full of fishing and hunting” but that’s really just the tip of the iceberg about this special elder that will be greatly missed. Kevin Clayton at Village Wine & Coffee offered, “He’s the last of the locals,” meaning the old time Shelburne residents that have been a part of this town for generations. So much history goes with the passing of these elders.
For years everyone loved to sit around the kitchen table at the Coleman’s house and listen to Tut’s stories of the olden days and of his life and shenanigans. It’s a rare thing in this work-a-day world to be able to spend time with elders like this anymore or for them to even remember these stories. But Tut’s memory was very strong even though his legs had grown weak. Tut was a character with his tobacco pipe and his big expressive eyes, his devilish grin, and his voice saying “Jesus Christ” as he laughed about it all.
I was privileged to be his VNA caregiver for the past two years and hear a few of the many colorful stories he loved to share. Such as: when he was a boy he used to sled down Irish Hill from the top of Spear Street all the way to the post office. Or when he was a teenager he and his friends would sneak into the train station after the old men who played cards in there all day left so they could smoke cigarettes and kiss girls. How he remembered seeing the Webb’s fox hunts, and when Harry Webb gave him his “Harley” and Electra Webb kissed him in his kitchen right in front of his wife! Or how while he was on leave in the Navy he’d smuggled cartons of cigarettes that he bought in NYC for only $5 and strap them inside his pant leg to take them back to sell to other sailors. So many stories were passed onto his family and friends that will be cherished and kept alive for the little ones.
Tut worked hard all his life. He was a sailor in the Navy and traveled throughout Europe and the Philippines during WWII. He was a master carpenter who worked on the Ticonderoga and at Shelburne Museum where his wife Janice also worked. He built and repaired many houses in this town, installing many custom made kitchen cabinets, making little toy boxes and wheel barrels for the old Toy Store on Rte 7 (Does anyone still have one?).
He loved to rebuild and fix VWs. Folks from miles around would bring them to him and buy them from him. He loved to hunt and fish and go to camp with family and friends. And yes, Tut loved to drink. CC & Ginger I’m told… he even had his own parking spot and stool at the end of the bar at The Shed, which his nephew Ricky Fisher runs.
There’s something so special about being with an elder like Tut that’s hard to put into words. They are wise and have seen a lot of life. They can read you like a book. They can see the past and the future.
When I asked Tut what he thought about this crazy, modern world we live in, he said something like; “In the olden days everybody cared for and helped each other… now it’s everyone for themselves.”
Tut was luckier than most. He had so much love around him. Thanks to the VNA and Tut’s caring and devoted family and friends he was able to stay in his own home until the end. Tut and I spent three hours together a day. After I finished cleaning the house and other chores we’d sit and watch “The Price is Right” and have some popcorn. As I left he’d say, “Don’t get lost” and “Thank you.” Well, thank you, Uncle Tut!
Rest in peace Tut. Know that you are greatly loved and we will never forget you.