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Crash Victim ‘Had a Beautiful Smile and Was a Beautiful Soul’

Patience Hutt, of Hartland, Vt., in an undated photograph. Hutt was killed in a three-vehicle accident on Route 4 in Hartford, Vt., on May 9, 2013. (Family photograph)

Patience Hutt, of Hartland, Vt., in an undated photograph. Hutt was killed in a three-vehicle accident on Route 4 in Hartford, Vt., on May 9, 2013. (Family photograph)

Hartland — Patience Hutt was the second of four children. She loved her animals and her kids, had a naturally cheery disposition and brought light to everyone’s lives.

On Thursday, the 40-year-old Hartland woman died after her Subaru collided with a horse trailer on a curve on Route 4 in Quechee.

Police yesterday continued efforts to determine how the fatal collision occurred, Hartford Public Safety Director Steve Locke said. A Vermont State Police accident reconstruction team was leading the inquiry, assisted by Hartford police. But, as of late afternoon, they had reached no conclusions, Locke said.

In the interim, all family and friends can do is reflect on a fruitful life that was cut short too early.

“I can’t speak enough about the kind of person she was,” Holly O’Brien, an old friend, said. “She was a wonderful mother, a close friend and a good employee.”

O’Brien, a co-owner at the South Woodstock Country Store, said Hutt worked for her on-and-off for about three to four years, and pitched in during exceptionally busy lunch hours.

“She was the nicest person,” O’Brien said, “had the warmest heart, had a beautiful smile and was a beautiful soul.

“Why does this kind of thing happen to good people?”

Yesterday, Hutt’s father, Hal Issente, stood near a row of flowering bushes outside his family’s home in Hartland and grappled with the same question.

“It’s not right,” he said. “She went too soon, too soon.”

Issente, 65, always knew his daughter as “a very happy person.”

“She was totally good,” he said. “Luckily, as her father, I can say I never said a mean thing to her. ... Not that you could, or ever needed to.”

In the front yard, Issente, barefoot, looked up at the black-and-red shingled home filled with memories.

“This used to be an old, run-down camp,” he explained. “My father bought it for $5,000.”

The windows were open. A potted plant hung from a rusty pole, and the buzz of mosquitoes filled the humid air. At the bottom of the hill behind the house was a small pond.

Issente and his wife, Wify, moved in three months after Hutt was born , he said.

The house didn’t have electricity at the time, and as a child, Hutt would swim in the pond behind the house, explore the dirt roads and play with the family pets: a cat named Tilly; a dog that was half-huskie, half-Irish setter; and, for a while, some rabbits and goats.

Hutt especially loved the animals, Issente said.

“She went to sleep every night with stuffed toys and animals,” he recalled, his eyes shaking behind his gold-rimmed glasses. “She had a certain way to line them up and everything. There was almost no room to sleep in the bed.”

He paused, his voice trailing off, and fixed eyes fixed on the tall pine trees ringing the pond.

“I think we counted them once,” he said, coming back to the image of his daughter as a little girl tucked into her bed at night. “There were about 100.

“She would scoot into bed, and they would be all around her.”

One was a monkey, with Velcro straps on its arms and legs, he said. She would wrap it around her and squeeze it tight. It was one of her favorites.

“Once, we washed it,” Issente said as he rolled and unrolled a piece of paper, “and it shrank and the Velcro didn’t work. I can remember her crying because she could no longer hug it.”

Hutt graduated from Woodstock Union High School in the early 1990s, Principal Greg Schillinger said, where she currently has a son in the 10th grade.

After Hutt grew up, she married Harold Hutt, channeling her deep compassion into something else: Four children — a daughter, 21; a son, 19; another son, 15; and the youngest daughter, 13, Issente said.

“She didn’t have hobbies,” Issente explained. “She had her children, and she would do anything for them.”

Hutt “was an emotionally kind person,” he said. If someone got home late and was hungry, she would fire up the stove and cook them a meal. If somebody needed a ride, she would drive them.

“She would do all of this,” Hutt’s father said, “and she’d be cheerful the entire time.”

In addition to part-time work at the South Woodstock Country Store, Hutt worked with a Woodstock landscaper, Issente said.

Issente saw his daughter off yesterday on her last day at work.

He recalled she was in a hurry because she had to start at 8 a.m.

He had just checked the air pressure in the tires. One looked low, he said, but it ended up being fine. Just to be safe, he made sure the oil was good to go, too.

The last words the father spoke to his daughter were: “I don’t do this for myself. I’m just checking your tires to make sure everything’s OK.”

He said she looked back at him “fondly, like he was her father and loved her,” but that was the last time he would see her.

When Hutt collided with the horse trailer, she was on the way to pick up one of her son’s from a driver’s education class, Issente said.

“It’s too bad she had to go so early,” he said, sniffling. A light rain started to fall, pinging the shingles on the roof. “Everyone’s going to miss her from now on.”

As Issente watched the rain, he shared his favorite memory of Hutt.

“We were parked on the side of the street in Woodstock and Patience was hanging her head out the window,” he said. “Two old ladies were walking down the street and literally gasped when they saw her. They said, ‘This is the most beautiful child we’ve ever seen.’ And they’d lived a long time.”

“I always remember that,” he said. He quieted and stared at the ground. Rain drops plopped onto the surface of the pond, as if they were tears for Patience. “I knew she was always beautiful. I was lucky to be her father.”

Staff writer Mark Davis contributed to this report. Zack Peterson can be reached at 603-727-3211.

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