Ken Dunlap vividly recalls his first day at Hutton Settlement.
Dunlap’s father had died young at 35, which led his mother to send her five children from their home in Kellogg to a children’s home in Lewiston.
In the year that Dunlap and his siblings lived there, his younger brother died. Shortly after, the siblings were sent to Hutton. It was 1938.
“I was looking at my suitcase and I thought, ‘What is going to happen to me?’ ” Dunlap said. “When you’re an orphaned kid, you never know what’s going to happen to you – it’s out of your control.”
The kids arrived on a Saturday and settled into their new home. The next morning they went to Millwood Presbyterian Church for Sunday school. The teacher there noticed how sad Dunlap was and took him aside. When she asked him what was wrong he replied, “I don’t know anybody,” Dunlap recalled.
“She kind of took me under her wing,” Dunlap said. “She told me, ‘Don’t feel like you’re alone because God loves you.’ ”
Discovering faith helped shape the rest of Dunlap’s life, he said.
“She kind of saved my life in a way, and I’ve always been faith-filled,” Dunlap said.
Life was good for Dunlap at Hutton, but for reasons unknown to him he was sent to live with a foster family for high school.
After high school, he went right into the Marine Corps Reserve with “a bunch of his friends,” Dunlap said. When the Korean War started, they all were called up to active duty.
After serving in the military, he met and married the love of his life, Joanne. They were together for 62 years.
“I am so blessed. She was the best wife in the world,” Dunlap said.
He started working for Skaggs Automotive and eventually became president of the company. He worked there for 42 years.
Dunlap tried his best to stay involved with Hutton Settlement and remembers mentoring kids.
Then life got busy. He became a deacon in the Catholic church and was away every weekend, “burying somebody or marrying somebody,” he said.
Two years ago, his wife got sick and died.
“After she died, I was fine for a while and then I started getting really blue and grieving,” Dunlap said. “I thought, ‘What am I going to do with myself?’ I can’t just shrivel up and die.”
Around then, two of his best friends from his time at Hutton gave him a call to see if he wanted to visit and meet the new executive director, Chud Wendle.
“That started a whole new chapter in my life,” Dunlap said.
He got a tour of his old cottage and knew he had to keep coming back, he said. Now Dunlap is fondly called the “grandpa” of cottage No. 3 by the Hutton staff, kids and house parents.
At their first dinner together, Dunlap left feeling inspired.
“Those kids seemed happy and that really charged me up,” he said.
Now, he comes for dinner twice a month and never misses a birthday celebration.
“They’re just my life and my happiness,” he said of the cottage No. 3 kids.
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