Malvern’s Favorite Uncle

You know that great neighbor or uncle you had? The one who was always there when you needed him and never took credit?

Towns have people like that, too. Well, not all towns, but one that I know quite well:  Malvern Borough, PA. 

Established in 1889, Malvern is a small town of about 1.3 square miles and around 3,000 people lying at the end of Philadelphia’s Main Line. It is a blue collar (fast becoming white collar) coda to the train line that first carried Philadelphia’s railroad barons to their summer estates and currently carries their progeny to and from careers in the city.

In 1974, nearly a hundred years later, the IRA started bombing London, the top speed limit across the US was lowered to 55 mph to save gas, and Nixon resigned due to the Watergate scandal. 

Not a great year. 

Except for Malvern. For Malvern it was a great year, because on February 8th of that year Ira Dutter, Jr came to town via St. Petersburg, FL, Wilkes Barre, PA, and Paoli, PA and started working in Malvern’s Public Works Department.  

The Public Works Department of any town maintains sewers, fixes potholes, clears streets of winter snow (no matter how treacherous the weather), maintains parks, and takes care of sudden emergencies. In other words, they keep the town running. 

“Junior”, as Ira Dutter is called by his coworkers, quickly became Malvern’s Public Works Supervisor and held the job for 50 years – through 7 mayors, 5 managers, and who knows how many elected officials. Junior and his  Public Works crew has done it all so smoothly most Malvernites don’t even notice. 

Oh, and in his spare time he became a volunteer firefighter for the Malvern Fire Department, then Chief Engineer, then Chief. Later he became Chief Engineer of Paoli’s Fire Department, then their Chief for 20 years. 

As with your favorite uncle, he is so averse to accolades he wouldn’t be interviewed about his Malvern career for this column. There was even some concern that he may not attend the retirement dinner Malvern threw in his honor (over 100 people attended and lauded and applauded him). 

So I had to go around him and talk to people who worked with him all those years: borough managers and road crew members who know him best. Here’s what they said (anonymously, of course, because, well… accolades):

“Always made sure the job got done…” (Borough Manager)

“A perfectionist. Things had to be exactly right. If you built something and there were two bolts left over that was a problem.” (Road Crew)

“He wowed neighboring towns with his work.”  (Borough Manager)

“Had confidence in you… he showed me the 3-wheel street sweeper, had me hop in with him and drive it about 100 yards – I knew nothing about it. Then he got out and said ‘I’ll see you’ and walked off!” (Road Crew)

“Every time I asked him to do something, his response was always ‘no problem’. Every time!” (Borough Manager)

“Always here…checking street lights, for example, always answers his phone, Never turned people away, did whatever was asked of him.” (Crew member)

“He exceeded expectations. His willingness to take on additional responsibilities is unmatched by anyone.” (Borough Manager)

“His priorities were 1) Sewer, 2) Roads, 3) Parks. Whenever it started snowing, we would be called in and work 8 or 38 hours, whatever was needed.” (Crew member)

“In the middle of the night or whenever, he would be there.” (Crew member)

“The Borough is very fortunate.” (Borough Manager)

Yes, indeed. (Borough Citizen)

(If you like this, pass it on. If you don't, pass it on anyway. Why should you suffer alone?)