Teton County is a small place, both geographically and in population. That means that when something awful happens to someone here, the pain, the sorrow and the grief ripple out, touching so many people from family, to friends to acquaintances to business and professional associates and more. This year has been brutal, and just when everyone thinks it cannot get worse, it does. The little community of Dutton has been particularly touched by tragedy this year. In May, a Dutton mom, Courtney Loney, 38, and her 10-year-old daughter, Emma, died when their motorhome veered off the road and struck a tree on a California highway. Loney’s 12-year-old son, Mason Rose, survived the wreck. Emma and Mason both attended Dutton Elementary School.
Now, beloved coach and teacher Mr. Brent Hitchcock, 55, has been killed in a two-vehicle collision on Highway 200 southwest of Simms. Dutton/Brady School Superintendent Erica Allen released an email informing staff and school families of this tragic loss.
“Brent’s kind heart and willingness to work for the greater good was exemplified in a recent email in which he and I were working on his class schedule for next year,” Allen said. “His response to one of my questions was, ‘I’m happy to do whatever is best for our school.’”
Allen said Hitchcock spent the majority of his life committed to teaching and coaching students. “From agriculture to math classes, FFA to coaching track and most other sports, Brent’s favorite discussions were anything to do with sports or his family,” she said.
There is no way to take away the pain of Mr. Hitchcock’s death for his family, his co-workers and his students. May they be consoled by the knowledge that many, many people share their grief, and that Mr. Hitchcock’s children, grandchild and all his students carry a little bit of him in their hearts forever. The lessons he taught to them in the classroom or on the field or court will be with them all their lives.
May they also be consoled by the overwhelming outpouring of support from their community. Teton County is the kind of place where mere acquaintances will take the time to purchase a sympathy card, write it out and send it, letting the bereaved know that they are in so many people’s hearts. Teton County is the kind of place where cooks are even now baking cookies and pies, assembling lasagnas that can be frozen, ordering meat and cheese trays and will soon be dropping these things off for Mr. Hitchcock’s family. Flowers will be sent, phone calls, emails, texts, Facebook posts and more will surround his family with love and concern. These actions won’t take the grief away, but they will show Mr. Hitchcock’s family just how beloved he was.
No one ever wants to lose a loved one to a tragedy, but this happens all the time. In fact, more than 100 people die every day in the United states from motor vehicle crashes. Another 1,660 people die every day from cancer. About 14 people a day die in workplace accidents. Tragedy strikes all the time. That is why Teton County residents are so blessed to live in a community where every person is noticed and every person is valued. This is a place where happy events like weddings and the birth of new babies and the openings of new businesses are all celebrated. This is a place where the loss of one life is always noticed.
There is a lot of wrongness and hurt happening in the United States in 2020, and it would be all too easy to write humanity off (especially if you partake in the vitriol of social media and television 24/7 cable news programs). But times like this are exactly when people should look around them and make a conscious effort to find the good things, which are still here, quietly going on as they always have. The outpouring of support for a family in need is just one example of how kind and generous people can be. There are countless other examples: people donating to benefits for the sick and the injured; the local volunteers who deliver Meals on Wheels to the elderly; the youth groups that pick up trash and help folks clean their yards; the talented men, women and children who are sewing masks to give away. Really, the list goes on and on.
So please, don’t let the bad outweigh the good. Take time today to spread a little kindness in your circle of influence. Maybe that will mean sending someone in Dutton a sympathy card. Maybe that will mean donating to the local food pantry or animal shelter. Maybe it will mean spending a few bucks with a local business. Whatever the action, know that your positivity and your willingness to reach out will bring a smile to someone’s face or ease someone’s pain. That, folks, is what it means to live in Teton County.