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By Jess Utz 

"Gem in the Coulee – John Huston" Part 2

Jess Shut Up


I decided that at least once a week I would dig up a gem of a person in the Grand Coulee area and write about him or her, someone that might do pretty cool things or have an amazing heart that might go unnoticed. Here is part two on the local gem named John Huston, who regularly is sent to disaster areas and just got called by FEMA to Oklahoma after the latest tornado.

John is a servant of God, in his words, and just wants to do what he feels the Lord called him to do when he was a teen.

“Helping people, that’s what I get out of it, that’s why I do it,” said John.

He was serious, maybe the most serious I had ever seen him. And he has been a servant, the proof is in the many contacts he has made over the years that still stay in contact with him.

Both co-workers and victims have become friends of Mr. Jell-O. A name a coworker gave him because of his always-laid-back, positive attitude. He has gotten gifts and phone calls not only from fellow workers and community members but from hotel staff as well. When his latest hotel heard his wife, Cathy, was coming for a visit, they surprised them both by placing towels folded into the shape of swans, and with chocolates, fudge and a “Welcome, Mrs. Houston” on the bed in their room. John was just as surprised as Cathy.

When I asked John the toughest part about these missions, I expected to hear about nightmares or a heart wrenching story of a death in one of these life-altering events. But instead I got something more obvious.

“Time away from Cathy and family,” he said, “missing birthdays, Christmas, New Years and grandkids’ sporting events is painful, but this was a joint venture. Cathy knew she would be on her own; she would have to deal with home problems, drama and everything else, and she is OK with that.”

There are a few little girls that are not OK with it. His granddaughters Wensdae and Penelope summed up how the rest of his family feels. The girls made their “Papoo” a card showing all the times they had missed him the most and then placed all the things they were going to do together since he was back on the card. They also stated that he was not leaving again; things are back to normal now. Well, until the next storm.

That storm hit May 19 in Oklahoma, where a tornado leveled 30 square miles of homes and businesses.

Johns advice for today’s kids: “Try and plan your lives to help yourself and to succeed in life. The biggest gift you can give yourself and others is a servant’s heart; try and help others as much as you help yourself. Help others to achieve their goals, and in turn, you will help yourself.

“And you may not think that you have the right parents or that they are not doing right by you or making the right decisions, but give them a break; they are human. And always honor your mother and father.”

John’s favorite part of the Grand Coulee Dam area is the “small town atmosphere,” he said. “I love when I take my grandchildren places and I wave and say hi to everyone, and they ask if I know everyone in town, and I say, ‘Yes, and even if I don’t, I pretend I do.’ Also, the slower pace of life and it’s not far from anywhere or anything you want to do; we have the best of all worlds right here.”

Its great knowing that such an honorable man lives among us in Coulee Country. I am proud to dwell beside you. Stay safe, my friend.

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