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John Hutson, land preservationist, dies

Maryland Environmental Trust easement program manager worked with families to preserve their land.

John Hutson, a longtime Maryland land preservationist who worked to protect rural and agricultural land, died of cancer Nov. 22 at his Franklin, Tenn., home.

The former Arnold resident was 62.

Born in Long Beach, Calif., and raised in Bethesda, he was the son of John J. Hutson, a Coast Guard officer, and Doris Everett, who also served in the Coast Guard during World War II.

A 1974 graduate of Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, he earned a degree in forest management at North Carolina State University.

Mr. Hutson joined the Peace Corps and served three years in Guatemala. In 1984, he joined the Maryland Department of Agriculture at the Charles County Soil Conservation District.

In 1989, he moved to the Maryland Environmental Trust.

At the time of his retirement in 2014, Mr. Hutson was an easement planner and program manager. According to colleagues at the Environmental Trust, he had worked with 265 families to voluntarily protect 43,500 acres of farms, forests and historic properties.

"John was a great listener and he cared deeply for the land, and as deeply about the people associated with it," said Robert Etgen, executive of the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy. "Permanent decisions for family land are difficult. Having a comfortable and calming voice in the room was one of John's greatest skills in the conservation world."

Mr. Hutson later worked with the Scenic Rivers Land Trust in Anne Arundel County and the Land Preservation Trust in Baltimore County — again helping protect agricultural and rural properties.

"My father loved the land and the people he worked with," said his daughter, Erin Meola of Columbus, Ohio.

"He taught me what it meant to really enjoy what you do to make a living," she said. "He loved walking the properties and taking photos. He loved talking to all the different people involved and learning the farm history. He was known as a true champion of the land."

Family members said Mr. Hutson was an enthusiastic birder and had recently recorded the sighting of an indigo bunting along a Tennessee trail.

"John was honest and friendly and had a rapport with people," said Ann H. Jones, director of the Land Trust Alliance. "This was why he was so good with landowners."

Mr. Hutson played saxophone in high school and college and never gave up the instrument. He also enjoyed playing bass guitar.

Mr. Hutson, who was divorced from his first wife, was the subject of a 2000 Baltimore Sun article about fathers who had sole legal custody of their children.

"He knows few other men who have made his choice, and sometimes grows tired of having to explain his lifestyle to strangers," The Sun article said.

"Women are generally supportive and curious. Men often don't know what to say to me," Mr. Hutson said in the article.

He said he had no regrets. "You have to accept reality. Divorce happens," Mr. Hutson said. "It's not realistic to turn things back to the '50s. Those days are gone."

He met his second wife, April Carter, a former Anne Arundel County Medical Center systems analyst, while on a 40-mile bike ride in and around Oxon Hill.

"Along the way, he gave me the history of the pieces of property we passed," she said.

The two were married for 13 years.

His daughter, Ms. Meola, a student of veterinary medicine at Ohio State University, said: "He was an incredible father. He made me into a kind and caring person."

Plans for a memorial ceremony to be held next year are incomplete.

In addition to his daughter and wife, survivors include two sons, Thomas Hutson of Baltimore and Aiden Hutson of Franklin, Tenn.

NOTE: An earlier version of this article had an incorrect age for Mr. Hutson. It has been corrected here.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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