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A good life: Hiker who died in fall loved the Colorado outdoors

May 19, 2017 Updated: May 20, 2017 at 7:32 am
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Elmer Kutila at about age 40. (Photo courtesy of Peggy Kutila.)

Peggy Kutila used to call her husband the 2,000-year-old man because he never seemed to age.

Elmer, 87, was an avid skier and skydiver when they met, and after 48 years of marriage, he was just as healthy, blond and drawn to the outdoors as he had ever been.

Elmer Kutila at about age 51. (Photo courtesy of Peggy Kutila.) 

He was on his daily hike when he fell to his death Wednesday in Bear Creek Regional Park.

"It's just a shock, because even though he was 87 years old, he was real healthy," said his 75-year-old widow. "I couldn't believe that he would fall or something like that."

His body was found shortly before 7 p.m. on a trail off the 1000 block of Gold Camp Road on the west side of the park, Colorado Springs police said. He fell an unknown distance and landed about 60 yards west of the road. Police haven't said what caused him to fall.

Elmer Kutila at about age 50. (Photo courtesy of Peggy Kutila.) 

Their dog accompanied him on his hikes, Peggy said. Although she was more than a decade younger, "I wouldn't go on those hikes because they were too hard," she admitted, laughing.

The couple moved to Colorado more than 30 years ago.

"Colorado's such a beautiful place, and that's why Elmer wanted to be here and hike here and climb the mountains," Peggy said. "He took really good care about that. He collected trash, he helped make the trails better, and he was just a good guy. He was a damn good guy."

Originally from California, they were transferred to Rochester, N.Y., when he was working for Xerox. But Elmer felt drawn to Colorado and its highest peaks.

"He said, 'Let's just leave New York and go to Colorado. I want to climb the fourteeners.' I think he did all but three of them," she said. "We just came out here without jobs and just stayed here."

They were never rich, but they made it work, she said. And up until the day he died, Elmer hiked for hours every day.

Elmer and Peggy Kutila's dog, Nesta, who stayed with Elmer after he fell in Bear Creek Regional Park. (Photo courtesy of Peggy Kutila.) 

A late spring snowstorm that moved into the area Wednesday might have kept anyone from finding his body, she said, if it wasn't for the couple's dog.

Nesta, 15 years old and deaf, stayed with Elmer after he fell and alerted another hiker.

"She did not leave his side up at the mountain - that's what's so amazing - until somebody else came along, I guess (with) another dog," Peggy said, her voice trembling. "She ran down, and the guy that saw her said he thought it was kind of strange that she came down a couple of times, so he finally followed her up and Elmer's body was up there."

"She's been depressed all day," Peggy said. "She's going to miss those hikes with Elmer, that's for sure. It's a sad thing, but Elmer had a good life."

Sitting on the couch next to her dog, Peggy paused and said quietly, "I told her she was a hero dog. She knows - You're a good dog, Nesta."

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Contact Ellie Mulder: 636-0198

Twitter: @lemarie

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