MADISON — Lynn Tuttle’s sonorous voice suited her well.
In song, in advocacy, in teaching and in joyous celebration leading handbell choirs, Lynn’s depth and kindness rang through.
A longtime Rockingham County public school teacher, Lynn had served for nearly three decades as an administrator of Camp Carefree, a Stokesdale wonderland for young people facing an array of rare illnesses.
Friends and family said goodbye to the Madison native last Saturday when she died peacefully at home. She was 66.
And despite struggles with severely diminished health after complications from diabetes and a stroke, Lynn held fast to her roles serving Rockingham County. Indeed, she was exemplary in her ability to push pain to the side and put good works front and center.
From her sick bed, Lynn helped administrate her beloved camp where she enjoyed visiting in recent years, zipping around the property on a motorized scooter after illness robbed her strength.
Because building up the county’s public education system was among her chief goals, Lynn won her place on the Rockingham County School Board in 2015. Whether on walker or in wheelchair, she made her way to school board meetings long after losing the ability to drive, sometimes carpooling with fellow board member Bob Wyatt.
As a childhood chum of Lynn’s younger sister Betsy, I had the good fortune of visiting the Tuttle home often. I remember well how Lynn took time to get to know me by asking me thoughtful questions about my interests, always making me feel recognized. I imagine her camp charges felt that same sense of validation from Lynn.
Inside that vibrant home, I got to hear Lynn sing with her sisters and neighborhood friends, gathered around the living room spinet. It would be one of my first lessons in harmony. In every sense of that word.
The voice of Flavel Collins was another heard singing carols at that very piano.
“Lynn had a servant’s heart, a love of children, and a zest for life,’’ said Collins, director of outreach & development for Hospice of Rockingham County. “These qualities were evidenced by her years of teaching, leading youth groups at church, and especially Camp Carefree. There are likely innumerable adults who, having been taught, counseled, mentored, comforted, and loved by her in their youth, still call her Mama Lynn. If one does well by doing good, Lynn did very well indeed.’’
Last summer, suffering from kidney failure, Lynn made time to visit at Fuzzy’s restaurant where we enjoyed a reunion.
Her focus and passion were clear: she wanted Camp Carefree, which serves about 500 youngsters each summer with free recreation, to live on in good financial health.
As executive director during recent years, she had championed the camp as a vital experience for youths with difficult chronic illnesses, such as hemophilia, cancer, spina bifida and neurological disorders.
“Lynn treated the kids as people with opinions, people with feelings — not just little kids,’’ said Rhonda Rodenbough, a longtime friend and camp treasurer. “She let them know that their feelings were very important.’’
She was a gifted promoter of Carefree, too, Rodenbough explained.
“She was great at telling stories and bringing things to life for people, so they could understand how much that camp means to our campers and counselors,’’ said Rodenbough, noting Lynn penned almost every camp song, including a humorous ditty, “Black Socks,’’ a campers' favorite.
And Lynn’s voice on the other end of a phone meant empathy and understanding, Rodenbough said.
“She was someone you could always count on. She had a kind of positivity. She could talk you off the ledge in five seconds. She had a love of life and a love of people, and she helped you see that things were not all that bad.’’
Susie C. Spear is Editor of RockinghamNow. She can be reached at 743-333-4101 and on Twitter @SusieSpear_RCN.
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