Jess Sutton lived through the Great Depression and knew tough times.
When his father died, his mom had hardly any income, said Sutton's son, Scott Sutton of Omaha.
“They lived off of fish and rice, here in Omaha. I don't know how they did it,” he said.
That experience leaves some people permanently fearful and tight-fisted, the younger Sutton said.
Not his dad, however. The senior Sutton, who died in June at age 90, was a longtime Omaha musician and music teacher who was generous with his time, compassionate with his students and supportive to various causes, though he didn't want any recognition for his donations, Scott Sutton said.
So it was appropriate, he said, to honor his father with a memorial donation to The World-Herald's Goodfellows campaign this holiday season.
Goodfellows uses every dollar donated to provide one-time emergency assistance and holiday meal certificates to needy people in the community.
Omahans knew Jess Sutton from his 20-year teaching career in public schools throughout the city, including Central High School, Bryan Junior High and Senior High and numerous elementary schools. He specialized in strings and played the violin in the Omaha Symphony for 25 years.
Many former students contacted the family with memories when he died, said Sutton's widow, Cathie.
Others remembered him as part of the “Strolling Strings” group that performed at Marchio's and Mister C's restaurants, his son said.
He was the son of Omahan Elmer Sutton, an orchestra conductor and musician, and his wife, Mathilda. Jess Sutton served in the Air Force and flew 15 missions during World War II. After the war, he lived in England for a time and returned home to earn a music degree from the University of Nebraska in Lincoln.
For his son, he was an inspiration. “He was a very giving person — a good example to follow,” Scott Sutton said. “He did a lot for kids.”
Cathie Sutton said the Food Bank, the Nebraska Humane Society and the Open Door Mission were among his favorite causes.
Scott Sutton said he plans to expand on his $100 gift to Goodfellows in honor of his dad by volunteering with local organizations. He recently returned to Omaha after spending a number of years teaching English as a second language in Dubai.
He now teaches ESL and composition at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and Metropolitan Community College.
Cathie Sutton said her husband would be pleased with his legacy.
“He would be happy to know that he was remembered.”