By Nancy Rineman
Atlantic News, Thursday, June 12, 2003
HAMPTON — It was an emotional Joe Kutt who accepted this year's Citizen of the Year Award from the Hampton Rotary Club Tuesday morning.
The owner of Joe's Meat Shoppe in North Hampton, Kutt was recognized by Rotarians as a model representative of the motto of Rotarians worldwide: "Service above self."
Kutt, accompanied by his wife, Nancy, and daughter Jennifer and her husband, Portsmouth Fire Chief Christopher LeClair, was honored at the Rotary's weekly breakfast meeting at the Ashworth Hotel for his countless contributions to the Hampton and North Hampton community, as well as for his excellence in the business he has shared with his wife for 34 of their 35 years of marriage.
Ralph Fatello, Commander of American Legion Post #35 in Hampton, told Rotary members of the impact that Kutt has had in so many areas.
"If you know Joe," Fatello began, "you know the kind of person he is. You know the kind of husband he is. You know the kind of father he is."
"If you know Joe, you know about Joe's Meat Shoppe," Fatello continued. Fatello said Joe's Meat Shoppe could have been a subject of one of artist Norman Rockwell's paintings.
"It is a slice of America," Fatello said of Kutt's Atlantic Avenue store. "It is America — Joe is America."
Fatello spoke of the love and respect people of the Seacoast have for Kutt, and of Kutt's commitment to the Legion, where he served 10 years as Commander before Fatello assumed that position two years ago.
"I'm Commander on paper but Joe will always be the Commander of the Legion," Fatello said.
Rotarian Robert Casassa also shared his thoughts on this year's Citizen of the Year. He said the events of this year have put a spotlight on someone who is ordinarily a behind-the-scenes individual. Casassa spoke of Kutt's excellence in business as being a true benefit to the North Hampton community.
"In business, Joe's Meat Shoppe is a throwback," Casassa said. The current trend of customers bagging and scanning his or her own groceries with no personal contact is not what happens at Joe's, Casassa pointed out, as knowing chuckles rippled through the room.
"Joe's will celebrate its 20th anniversary next year," Casassa said, adding that to no one's surprise, Joe's Meat Shoppe opened for business on the 4th of July in 1984. Casassa said he had even gone so far as to research the historical data of the building Joe's occupies, and that Samuel Dow's last name means "dedicated to family."
"There is only one Joe Kutt," Casassa said. "He is an active supporter of students, as well as a supporter of police and firefighters." Casassa said Kutt creates a sense of community as well, recalling a conversation he had had years ago with a North Hampton resident who was moving. Casassa said the individual said he was "going to miss going to Joe's," because people actually stop and talk there, and experience a sense of connection and a sense of community rare in today's world of cell phones and the Internet.
Casassa said Kutt has been instrumental in fostering affection between the Hamptons, and he has worked hard to ensure that young members of the community are always recognized for their accomplishments.
In accepting his award from Casassa and receiving congratulations from Rotary President John Adams, Kutt expressed his feelings regarding the morning's event.
"I want to thank my wife, Nancy, and daughter, Jennifer, for all their love and support and sacrifice," Kutt said in a voice choked with emotion. "I want to thank everybody for this award. It's a great honor to be chosen Citizen of the Year by your peers, and I want to thank you very much."
Kutt said the Seacoast Visiting Nurse Association is the organization he has chosen to receive the Rotary donation in his honor. Kutt said the VNA helped him and his family through the difficult 10 weeks of his recuperation from heart surgery in February, 2001.
And then it was back to business as usual for Joe Kutt and his family, a family that also includes four very special grandchildren. Kutt said he particularly enjoys the knowledge that his is one of very few meat shops left in the area that still carries "hanging beef." He enjoys the lost art of meat cutting and talking to his customers and employees. His daughter was recently made a partner in the business with her parents, while the Kutt's son, Nathan, is someone they can all visit in Naples, Florida, where he is a corporate banking lawyer.