Buena Vista said goodbye to one of its own Sunday as the funeral of U.S. Marine Corps Pfc. Christopher B. Hutchings was held at Buena Vista High School.
The service was in the same gym where Hutchings competed as a Demon and earned four trips to the state wrestling championships.
Hutchings, 19, was found dead in his Camp Pendleton, California, barracks Feb. 5.
The cause of death is under investigation by Naval Criminal Investigation Services.
Hutchings’ casket was escorted from Salida to Buena Vista for the service by a procession of local first responder vehicles.
Several groups of Chaffee County residents stood along the route with American flags.
When the procession arrived at Buena Vista High School, a Marine honor guard escorted Hutchings’ flag-draped casket into the high school gym as members of Buena Vista and Salida posts of Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion and Marine Corps League lined the walk.
Friends, family and former team- and classmates waited on the bleachers where only a little over year ago many cheered Hutchings’ prowess on the wresting mat.
Family and close friends were escorted to seats in the middle of the gym for the service, which was officiated by the Rev. Zach Bearss of ClearView Community Church.
Two photo tributes stood on a nearby table and Hutchings’ motocross dirt bike was also on display.
The Buena Vista High School choir performed “I Believe,” “I Will Be Your Standing Stone” and “No One Is Alone” under the direction of BVHS music teacher Tanner Ohara, accompanied by Liz Riley on piano.
Speakers included fellow Demon wrestler Caleb Camp, who told the mourners he felt like Hutchings was urging him on as he wrestled for the Class 2A championship in his weight class at last weekend’s state wrestling championships.
Camp said the pair had been wrestling together since they were toddlers in Salida Youth Wrestling through their days as teammates in high school and had gone from “just teammates over the years to brothers.”
He said Hutchings was always one to laugh at his own jokes and had a unique smile and laugh.
“He was the guy I wanted to be like,” Camp said.
Fellow BHVS cross country team member Molly McMurry said Hutchings was the glue for the cross-country team.
She said he always encouraged her to run a little faster and worry a little less.
“Chris’ genuine joy for life was a blessing,” she said.
McMurry said Hutchings knew the value of true friendship and cared deeply for his friends and family.
BVHS wrestling coach Jared Todd said he was thankful he was able to be part of Hutchings’ life as well as those of Hutchings’ brothers, Carlos and Isaac, and father, Spencer.
Craig Cardwell shared video of Hutchings helping out at the Cardwell mining claim on Mount Antero.
He said, referring to the crowd that turned out for the service, that Hutchings was a rich man.
“This young man was loved,” Cardwell said.
A slide show of photos of Hutchings wrestling, running, motocross racing, hunting and hanging out with his family was shown, after which Bearss gave the eulogy.
He said Chris and his two brothers wrestled early with some major challenges as small children before they were adopted by Spencer Hutchings.
With that experience in his background, he said Hutchings developed a fearless streak and a courageous heart.
Those qualities led to the military, especially the Marines, Bearss said.
He said when Hutchings was home in December for Christmas, he had grown, not only physically, but in courage, character and decision making.
He still loved to get people laughing, Bearss said.
At the end of the service, the Marines performed the flag ceremony, accompanied by a gun salute performed outside the opened gym doors and the playing of “Taps.”
The flag was presented to Hutchings’ father, and the casket was then carried out of the gym by the Marine honor guard and given a police escort out of town back to Salida, where Lewis and Glenn Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
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