Betty Fulton of Laurel and her father John Nutter, 101, of Silver Spring talk about his life at Slye's Barber Shop in Laurel on Thursday, March 14. (Jen Rynda/Baltimore Sun Media Group video)

At 101, John Nutter likes things plain and simple. Which is why his daughter, Betty Fulton, drives him to Slye's Barber Shop on Montgomery Street. Once there, he can get his monthly haircut for $8 while taking in the relaxed, old-style atmosphere.

He would drive himself, he added, but he finally gave that up six years ago at the age of 95 — the same age he quit cutting his own grass. Still, he did manage to go sailing that same year.

Sitting in a rolling walker he refers to as his "Cadillac," the Silver Spring resident joked about his age.

"I sometimes wonder if I'm actually that old," he said. "They tell me I was born in 1911, and that's all I have to go by."


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Nutter's daughter, Betty Fulton, of West Laurel, said that except for the double hearing aids her father wears, he's had no major health problems.

"Just repair work," she said, "mostly from his falls, because he was still going on roofs when he was 80."

Accessibility is a key reason why Nutter regards Fulton, 70, as the favorite of his three daughters, two of whom live in Florida.

"Betty, my middle child, is my favorite," he announced, "because she lives closest to me. I don't want for anything on account of Betty. She was always active around the home. She still cuts my grass."

Fulton said she enjoys playing Scrabble with her father — he wins almost all the time — along with taking him to eat at places like Bottom of the Bay and IHOP in Laurel.

"He took care of me my first 20 years; I can take care of him his last 20. It's a privilege," Fulton said.

A loving father

Looking forward to his 102nd birthday, Fulton reflected on the impact her father has had on the development of her character and how his conduct has informed her own role as a mother and grandmother.

"I try to live up to the way he raised us," she said. "I'd like to be half the parent that he is."

Fulton laughed as she described the close bond with her father.

"I'm the son he never had; I liked the same things he liked."

While her two sisters tended to stay indoors and focus on housework with their mom, Betty was outdoors in the sun, turning the spring soil to plant a garden. "When I was 13, he had a nickname for me: `Sweaty Betty the Grass-Cutting Nutter.' It was funny but embarrassing," she said.

Along with mowing the grass, she was also expected to wash both of the family cars every week. In return he gave her  "two bucks." Fulton said her family would often motor out farm-studded Route 29 to the sleepy crossroads of Burtonsville, where they would stop for ice cream at Seibel's Restaurant with its simple menu and one-room layout. Their junkets would also include swimming at the Laurel pool on lower Main Street.

Family vacations were always fun and memorable. One year, she said, her father piled everyone in their '55 Chevy station wagon and set out on a six-week, cross-country adventure.

"We went out the northern route and came back the southern route so we could see as much as possible," Fulton said. Along with glimpsing the Grand Canyon, the odyssey included driving to Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., the week before it opened.

"We got to look through the gates, which was thrilling," Fulton said.