Geraldine “Gerry” Hutchins, center, was presented with a plaque in June to honor the 50 years she has greeted patrons at the Greely High School pool. Pete Bingham, left, Cumberland’s recreation director, and Glenn Hutchins, Gerry’s father, were among those on hand to honor her.

CUMBERLAND — Pete Bingham fondly recalled his trips to the Greely High School pool as a kid in the 1970s, and the friendly face that would greet him each time he arrived.

He later moved away, but when he returned 20 years later to become Cumberland’s recreation director, he was pleased to see Geraldine Hutchins still there, still smiling.

And last year, when he realized Hutchins had worked at the pool for almost its entire 50-year existence, Bingham figured it was time she received some recognition.

Hutchins was honored June 21 with a plaque that will hang in the pool, and her family came from near an far to help honor her. Her father, Glenn Hutchins, and brothers Kyle and Jay Hutchins, were all inducted last year into the Maine Sports Hall of Fame; the main playing field at Greely is named after Glenn, who coached soccer, girls’ basketball and baseball, and taught history. His sons were Greely soccer stars who ultimately played at the professional level.

Hutchins, a youthful 67, was born with microcephaly, a condition where a baby’s brain does not develop properly and results in a head that’s smaller than normal. When she reached fourth grade, her parents took her out of school, feeling it wasn’t benefiting their daughter. They opted for a different, experiential type of education.

“We just took her everywhere. Washington, New York. (We) socialized her,” Glenn recalled June 26 in an interview alongside Hutchins, Bingham and Aquatics Director Rob Hale. “I think people who have special ed … can make their way if they just do it.”

He was recreation director in 1968, when the Greely pool opened. Hutchins, a teenager at the time, became a receptionist there, using the social skills she’d learned to smoothly converse with patrons and forge a myriad of friendships.

“I love working with the people from the pool,” she said. “They’re really good people to me. … When they don’t have anything to do, they come out and talk to me.”

Hutchins lives within walking distance of her father, a widower, in Cumberland. When not watching Orioles baseball games, and knitting and braiding rugs, she works three to five days a week, depending on the time of year.

When she arrives at the school, she happily adheres to “Lombardi Time” – a nod to famed football coach Vince Lombardi, who expected his players to be 15 minutes early or be considered late.

She said she was surprised to learn she’d be receiving the plaque, which honors her for having “greeted countless thousands of swimmers with her warm & welcoming smile as they come to enjoy the Greely Pool.” It adds that Hutchins is “the true ambassador of the pool,” and thanks her for “her passion, commitment and dedication to the communities of Cumberland & North Yarmouth.”

Hutchins was scheduled to receive the plaque last December, but her father’s lengthy hospitalization following an injury pushed the event to this June. And when it happened, there was a large crew of family and friends on hand – which was fitting, given all the games Hutchins attended over the decades to cheer on her brothers, who now live out of state. When one of them received a most valuable player award, he even had Hutchins get up to accept it.

“This was her own,” Glenn said. “So all of her brothers wanted to make sure they were here to support her, like she supported them.”

“I really thought I was in here talking about the pool, the summer program,” to orient newcomers, “but it wasn’t that way,” Hutchins said with a laugh. “I feel really good, because I have the support of everybody.”

Bingham said he realized that it was time to recognize Hutchins for her service at the pool when her father and brothers were inducted in the Maine Sports Hall of Fame. It was a way to celebrate the pool’s half-century anniversary, too, he said. And like Gerry’s brothers, who flew into town to support her accomplishment, Bingham was paying Hutchins back for many happy childhood memories.

“My first introduction to Gerry was giving her my 50 cents (to) swim for two hours,” Bingham recalled. “… She was just awesome. Everybody loved Gerry. It was more of a freewheeling community in those days, in the sense that you just told your folks you were getting on your bike, or they’d drop you off at swim lessons. And the lifeguards and Gerry were kind of your surrogate parents for a couple hours.”

She’d instruct him and others to leave their shoes out on the pavement, and make sure they took a shower before jumping in.

“We figure there’s roughly four generations of kids that have come through” and known Hutchins, Bingham said. “She’s touched a lot of people.”

Hale was another one of those ’70s kids who fondly remember being greeted by Hutchins. Her boss now, he joked that she was late for work. She assured him she was plenty early. Lombardi early.

“Gerry’s old school; loyal, dedicated,” Hale said. “Her heart’s into the job.”

Turning to her with a smile, he noted, “we go way back.”

“Yeah, we do go way back,” she replied.


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