Why I think of Jerry Nutter every time I kayak

David Nutter

David Nutter

David Nutter is a friend. A wildman and excellent athlete. He is an all-out devotee to the James River and among many things, he is an avid white-water kayaker.

When I first met him in Spring 2008, he and I were talking during a kickball game.  It didn’t take long for us to figure that we shared love of kayaking and I quickly discovered he obviously had much more experience than me. 

I had only been kayaking for a measure of months at that time. I was explaining how much of a novice I was and that since I had a wife and kids, safety and caution was higher on my list than fun and excitement. 

As we talked, I described to Nutter a horrifying story I had been making myself recall everytime I paddled. It’s of a father and son kayak trip down the James where a father drowned in the Pipeline Rapids in downtown Richmond after rolling and becoming trapped upside down underwater.  The son was quoted in the Richmond Times-Dispatch story that next day:

“I was blessed that day to be doing what I loved to do with my dad,” his son wrote. “I was blessed to be there for him to try to save his beautiful life, but I am cursed because I cannot stop seeing it happen over and over in my head.”

I was working at the newspaper at that time, and on the desk the night that story broke. It was quite moving to me at that time — I cried, thinking of my own young kids and what would happen if it were me in the father’s place. Despite efforts to be safe and wear a helmet and lifejacket, the father still didn’t survive.

I made myself pledge to remember the son’s words and to this day still think of them when I hit the river — or any other slightly risky activity for that matter.

But as I was describing this life lesson of mine to Dave at the kickball game, he matter of factly stated: “Yeah, that was me. That’s my Dad.”

I’m rarely completely speechless, and Dave gave me a couple of minutes to straighten myself out.  I’m sure I turned white.  I was dumbfounded. I had no idea that I was describing Dave’s own story to him. 

He had come to grips with the loss of his father, Jerry A. Nutter, that day on December 29, 2007,  and was able to deal with it head on (read Dave’s version here). That’s Dave — he is hard core, not shy and not one to hide or quit in the face of adversity.  He mourns his father in his own way and honors him by staying in the James doing what they both loved to do, together.

NBC12: Son organizes river cleanup to memorialize father who died kayaking

I will be at Pipeline this Saturday at noon to gather with Dave and many of his family, friends and fellow James River lovers to honor Jerry A. Nutter by spending a few hours cleaning trash and making the James better place for all of us to visit and explore.

This plaque was placed near the spot on a sandy beach below Pipeline Rapids where David Nutter pulled his father Jerry A. Nutter out of the water.

This plaque was placed near the spot on a sandy beach below Pipeline Rapids where David Nutter pulled his father Jerry A. Nutter out of the water. PHOTO: Phil Riggan, Feb. 2008


5 responses to this post.

  1. Hello to every body, it’s my first visit of this website; this blog
    contains remarkable and in fact good information designed for readers.


  2. […] written about my unique angle and the lessons I learned from Mr. Nutter’s death that I think of every time I kayak. Since […]


  3. […] 14, 2009 by Phil Riggan I spent time this Saturday picking up trash with a group in memory of Jerry A. Nutter.  It was great to meet Dave Nutter’s mother, sister and other friends and share a little […]


  4. Posted by Melissa NUTTER Archer on September 11, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    That is a beautiful story. It’s touching to know that my dad’s story touched even those that didn’t know him. My dad was loved by SOOOO many people, but there’s just something to be said when a stranger can talk about his story. Thank you for sharing, it’s comforting to read when I have to live everyday knowing you will never see the dad that I was so close to again on this earth. Glad to hear you will be out there helping us on saturday.

    Thanks again!


  5. Posted by Marsha Frith on September 11, 2009 at 9:38 am

    I’ve heard you tell this story before & it doesn’t get any easier to hear, much less live thru. Dave sounds like a tough, strong individual.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: