Coleman Tutt, a master Pikesville plumber who was affectionately known as “King Tutt” by his clientele and admired for his ability to keep their plumbing humming, was found dead Feb. 11 in his car in Hampden. The Pikesville resident was 73.
“I believe Coleman suffered a heart attack,” said his wife of 38 years, the former Marian Smith, a retired Northern High School mathematics teacher. “He was on 34th Street and I believe he had gone there to see his friends at Falkenhan’s Hardware Store and say goodbye.”
Said Deborah Falkenhan, a Hampden resident, and a friend of more than 40 years: “You couldn’t find a finer person than Coleman Tutt. He was a gentleman, generous to a fault, and always very calm. He was a friend to everyone and would give you the shirt off his back. He was just a great person.”
Rob Kasper, a longtime client of Mr. Tutt’s, wrote in an email: “Some of his customers referred to him as ‘King Tutt’ because for us he was Baltimore blue collar royalty.
“While most homeowners dread a visit from the plumber, I learned to look forward to Coleman Tutt’s visits. He knew a lot about plumbing and life," wrote Mr. Kasper, a Bolton Hill resident and a former Baltimore Sun reporter and food columnist.
Coleman Tutt, son of James Tutt, a steelworker, and his wife, Esse Rae Tutt, a homemaker, was born, one of 11 siblings, in Brighton, Alabama, a suburb of Birmingham. In 1961, he moved with his family to Far Rockaway in Queens, New York.
After graduating from Far Rockaway High School, where he had played varsity football, Mr. Tutt entered A&T College, now North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University in Greensboro, North Carolina, on a football scholarship. In 1970, he left college and moved to Baltimore, where he took courses at Morgan State University.
Mr. Tutt was working for General Electric Credit Corp., where he received several awards for his work but felt less than fulfilled in his job.
“Coleman wore this three-piece suit with a vest, carried an attache case, had a sign on his desk with his name on it, but he just wasn’t happy,” his wife said. “He liked working with his hands. So, he looked for a career in manual labor and chose plumbing.”
Mr. Tutt began his career working in 1973 with Frank Falkenhan, owner of Falkenhan’s Plumbing, on his plumbing truck, and it was Mr. Falkenhan, who encouraged the young man to take the necessary courses and earn a master plumber’s license, which he achieved in 1982.
In addition to his plumbing business, Mr. Falkenhan also was the owner of Falkenhan’s Hardware Store on Chestnut Avenue and 34th Street.
Mr. Tutt attributed his success to his mentor.
“He always said that he was ‘trained by the best. I learned almost everything that I know about plumbing from Frank Falkenhan,’” Mrs. Tutt said.
“As their relationship grew, Mr. Falkenhan said that ‘Coleman was the son he never had,’” Mrs. Tutt said. “His daughter, Debbie, now owner of Falkenhan’s Hardware Store, said that Coleman was the closest thing to a brother. She called him ‘Bro’ and he called her ‘Sis.’"
Said Ms. Falkenhan: “He’d come into the store and look into my office and say, ‘Hey, Sis, how’s it going?’ I’m going to miss him an awful lot. I was just so used to him coming by. Everybody liked Coleman and there was nothing bad you could say about him."
“I never heard him raise his voice, argue, have a confrontation — always even-tempered — non-judgmental, going to great lengths for his friends, family and customers,” Ms. Falkenhan posted on the Wylie Funeral Home website.
After undergoing back surgery, Mr. Falkenhan made the decision to concentrate on his hardware business and gave, without charge, his plumbing business to Mr. Tutt.
“Thus was born C. Tutt Plumbing & Heating on July 1, 1982,” Mrs. Tutt wrote in a biographical profile of her husband.
“He had a wry sense of humor, employing it to deflate worries of massive repairs. Once for instance when a leaking hot water radiator had me envisioning the prospect of ripping out floorboards and plaster, he stopped the leak with a few powerful turns of Channellock pliers.” Mr. Kasper wrote. “From that visit on he would teasingly wave the pliers at me and simply say ‘Channellocks.’”
Mr. Tutt was just as handy with his geographic knowledge of Baltimore as he was with the Channellocks.
"You didn’t have to tell Coleman how to get to a city address. If you tried you were likely to hear, “I know where that is,'” Mr. Kasper wrote. “He also had strong views on the importance of home maintenance and railed about an instance some years back when the water pipes of a negligent neighbor burst and sent a flood into his home. This kind of neglect, he felt, was unforgiveable.”
He added: “He fixed the pipes in the homes of many staffers of The Sun, whom he knew had scant funds and a scantier understanding of the mysteries of plumbing.”
Mr. Tutt met his future wife in 1981 through a mutual friend when she came home from Hampton, Virginia, where she was living at the time, to visit her family.
“He asked me to marry him the night he met me,” Mrs. Tutt recalled with a laugh. “He was quite the jokester. He got down on his knee, took a piece of paper, wrapped it around my finger, and asked me to marry him. My mother watching this said, ‘That man is strange.’”
After a whirlwind courtship, the couple married six months later. “We got married in June 1982,” Mrs. Tutt said.
Mr. Tutt was a sports fan and especially liked watching golf, football and tennis on TV. He also was an avid golfer and enjoyed playing at area country clubs when invited, his wife said.
He also enjoyed fishing, especially on Eastern Shore charter boats, with seven of his fishing buddies.
“Once having been given a loaf of homemade bread, he reciprocated by presenting me with a freshly-caught rockfish,” Mr. Kasper recalled in his email.
Mr. Tutt was an inveterate writer of letters to the editor, most notably about religion, education and civil rights.
“As a black, I would rather be given a job based on my merit instead of skin color,” he wrote in 1989 in regard to reverse discrimination. “I think a person’s self esteem is damaged when he is hired just because of his skin color.”
A memorial service will be held for Mr. Tutt at 11:30 a.m. Sunday at the Wylie Funeral Home, 9200 Liberty Road, Randallstown.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by two brothers, Ronald Tutt of Far Rockaway, and Luther Tutt of Vance, South Carolina; a sister, Gertie Mae DeBetham of Far Rockaway; and many nieces, nephews and cousins.