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Thursday, Dec. 9, 2004 06:35 pm

Legacy

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Marc Chagall, Serigraph, 1950s, from the Trutter Museum Collection

Philip and Mary Kathyrn Trutter traveled all over the world -- 10 trips to 100 countries -- and collected amazing pieces of art, jewelry, and artifacts from the many places they visited. They filled every inch of their home -- tabletops, walls, cabinets -- with these pieces. And today their memory lives on in the museum honoring them, the Philip and Kathryn Trutter Museum, located at Lincoln Land Community College.

Right now the museum is featuring an exhibit of 70 pieces showcasing the Trutters' travels to the Far East. Christine Ramirez-Campbell, the museum coordinator, and Karen Sanders, executive director of the Lincoln Land Community College Foundation, proudly show off the highlights of the exhibit: a signed lithograph by Salvador Dali, a signed Marc Chagall, and Philip Trutter's favorite piece, an ornamental knife from Tibet that always lay on his desk. Historically important items include a cast-bronze pot from the Chinese Zhou Dynasty (1100-771B.C.) and a water jug from Peru's Late Intermediate Period (1000-1450 A.D.).

An intricately designed kimono, a large head of Buddha from the Yuan Dynasty (1280-1368 A.D.), and a 19th-century wedding headdress from Uzbekistan, worn by five generations, stand out as exemplary pieces. Photos, Philip Trutter's architectural drawings, vases, and many other items round out the exhibit.

Philip and Mary Kathryn (Kitty) Trutter lived in Kitty's family home, a small brick bungalow on Vine Street. Philip, an architect, never designed a more elaborate house for his family, spending his money instead on his true passion, travel.

Born here in 1913, Trutter graduated from Springfield High School in 1931 and attended Springfield College in Illinois until 1933, when he went to the University of Illinois to study architecture. He returned to Springfield and began his architecture career with Trutter, Deal and Deal, which later became Trutter, Cooley and Toberman.

His architecture fills every corner of Springfield. In the 1950s he designed Griffin High School, Hope School, the West Branch of the Lincoln Library, and Washington, Grant, Jefferson, and Franklin middle Schools. He designed the city's municipal building, the first remodeling of Capital Airport, the John Hay Homes, and the expansion on the Springfield Art Association. In addition to his wonderful building designs, he was known for being an excellent storyteller.

He married Kathryn Wilms in 1943. She, too, had graduated from SHS, after which she attended both Monticello College and the University of Iowa.

The Trutters were prominent in Springfield, belonging to St. Agnes Church, the Illini Country Club, the Sangamo Club, and the Island Bay Yacht Club. Philip served as a board member of the Dana-Thomas House. They had twin daughters, Marilyn and Carolyn.

And with a love of lifelong learning, the Trutters traveled extensively. It was not just a trip to see the highlights and take the typical tourist photos. They believed in immersing themselves in a culture, spending time in one area, learning the ways of the people, taking photos that captured the culture, and even meeting the influential leaders of the towns they visited. They called themselves ambassadors, not just tourists, and they always planned the trips themselves instead of using travel agents. In the 1940s and '50s, such an approach was adventurous, to say the least. Wherever they went, they collected artifacts and unusual samples of art. Sometimes, when returning home, they carried these souvenirs on their laps.

The museum houses the many speeches Kitty wrote about their travels, in-depth journals documenting the sights, the people, and the activities she and her husband pursued. In one from 1957, titled "Land of the Pyramids" (in the Yucatan), Kitty describes how Philip took her out on the town for her birthday. They discovered a private club where guards were checking invitations. Philip pulled out his Illini Country Club card, which did the trick. They were allowed in and ended up dancing until 5 a.m., leaving finally with the party still in full swing.

Lincoln Land officials are proud of the Trutter collection, which came with a $1.5 million bequest (two-thirds to establish and maintain a museum, one-third to fund a scholarship for incoming health-care students). Philip became interested in Lincoln Land in the mid-1980s after he took a printmaking class from now-retired professor Jack Madura.

After Philip died at the age of 87 in 2000, LLCC received the money, decided to use part of the conference center for the museum, and opened the Trutter gallery in June of this year.

Culling the 750 artifacts, 8,000 slides, 50 rolls of film, and family photos to decide on the first exhibit took some time. But if this first showing indicates what is to come, we can look forward to many years of great exhibits.

In the future, a committee will determine what items to showcase. The exhibits will be coordinated with Lincoln Land's many courses and serve as a learning museum for students. The possibilities seem endless -- there is an extensive collection of coins and currency, jewelry (some designed by Philip himself, one a silver ring with a rotating inner band etched with animal figures). An entire file cabinet stores the many travel brochures from the various countries visited by the Trutters. Their photos alone could fill an entire museum. And the jigsaw puzzles Philip designed for his wife would make another unique exhibit. Kitty loved doing puzzles, and Philip declared that he could make better ones than those she bought. He did so, hiding in each one a cat to honor Kitty.

Ramirez-Campbell and Sanders both smile when talking about Kitty, "the love of Philip's life," Karen says. After Kitty died in 1977 at the age of 64, Philip stopped his travels.

"The desire was just gone after his travel companion was gone," Ramirez-Campbell says.

The Trutter Museum is open 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday. For more information, call 217-786-4510. 

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