Just prior to Thanksgiving here in Grass Valley, retired U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant Victor E. Schutt passed away. Dad was 92. Our family would like to share with you (as Paul Harvey often so eloquently phrased it …) “the rest of the story.”
Commencing preparations for Dad’s burial, Mom (who turned 90 recently and was married to Dad for 67 wonderful years) began entertaining a wild idea — she wondered if it were possible to bury Dad in a snappy U.S. Marine “Dress Blue” uniform, which they each had always admired, but which Dad, during his lifetime, never had a chance to wear.
Three short days before the funeral, we were still frantically searching. Dad was to be buried at Sacramento Valley National Cemetery in Dixon with full military honors, and Mom really wanted those dress blues! That same day, we finalized details with the good folks at Hooper & Weaver Mortuary, and they were able to arrange for a minister to officiate at Dad’s service in Dixon. This is a man we had never met.
That evening, Pastor Jeff Alaways called to introduce himself and to inquire as to specific family wishes for the service. At the close of our conversation, I mentioned to Jeff how unsuccessful we’d been in trying to locate a uniform. Jeff’s immediate reply, “I think I might have an idea.”
Encouraging, or a long shot? Well, the very next day Jeff called to say he had a dress blue uniform in his possession, and he was soon knocking at our door to deliver the full dress blues — pants and all! Mom’s reaction? “Gorgeous!” Yes, it was such an enormous relief … but how in the world did Jeff locate this?
Well, it turns out that Jeff is a retired Nevada County sheriff. He and his (also retired) sheriff’s department partner, Ron Smith, were well acquainted with an elderly gentleman living in North San Juan who was also a retired U.S. Marine.
But they hadn’t spoken to this man in 23 years! We later learned his name — Mr. Bill Steele. Bill was also 92 years of age, also a veteran of the battle of Iwo Jima, and he also landed on the island only hours prior to Dad’s landing with his troops! Bill landed at Green Beach; Dad landed nearby at Yellow Beach. They each survived the war, but they never met!
And add this important piece, to our family equally significant … it turns out Bill and Victor are each well known as very outspoken, straight-shooting, proud vets, the type who don’t back down from anyone and who are more than willing to offer their varied opinions on life in the Good Ol’ USA!
Perfect. When they went to pick up the uniform, Bill immediately remembered Jeff Alaways and Ron Smith from their days with the sheriff’s department! As they entered his home, right away he called out to them by the names they were (mostly) affectionately known by back in the day — “Mutt & Jeff”! Mr. Steele then related how it truly would be an honor for a fellow Iwo Jima Marine to wear his uniform, especially since his own personal plan includes cremation.
Once in our possession, our family pondered whether to make changes to the uniform jacket. The military rank was slightly different and the jacket sported paratrooper insignias, which Dad was never involved with. Well, no way! We were so overcome by Mr. Steele’s kind nature and generous spirit in offering this gift, it was obvious that we should alter absolutely nothing. This was an ideal way for one Marine to honor another. And vice versa!
The family of Victor E. Schutt gratefully wishes to thank Mutt & Jeff, two great people.
And God bless you, Mr. Steele. Semper fi, Marine!
Roger, Carole, Kimberly, Mary and Wendy Schutt live in Grass Valley.