In Memoriam: Flora S. Tutiakoff

Aug 18, 2017

Flora Strickland Tutiakoff died on May 26, 2017 at the VNA Respite House in Colchester, Vermont. She was born Flora Beecher Strickland in New Haven, CT on July 14, 1920, to Olive May Mann and Daniel Walter Strickland.  Flora’s father was a Congregational minister who was a chaplain and captain in World War I, became a state senator in Connecticut, and over time had parishes in Yalesville, CT; Fort Myers, FL; and Waitsfield and Franklin, VT. In Flora’s late teens, her family moved to Moretown, VT. Flora studied music at the Juilliard Conservatory of Music in New York City, specializing on the harp under the renowned Marcel Grandjany.  She joined the Vermont Symphony Orchestra; in later years she played while Robert Frost shared his poetry in the Middlebury, VT area.  

In Moretown, Flora met Robert Freeman Fulton, who also was to become a minister.  Robert and Flora married in 1942.  They had four children, John Strickland, Scott Edward, Sarah Elizabeth, and Andrew Beecher Fulton.  The years of their marriage, joint work in the Methodist Church, and increasingly diverse community work, brought them to many fascinating parts of the country.  Flora experienced wonderful places and people (“Moments rightly placed” - as artist, author, historian, and dear friend Ray Hudson might put it).  After the war and Robert’s divinity school, they started their journey in Yalesville, CT, followed by Middlebury and St. Albans, VT; Schenectady and Green Island, NY; Frakes, KY; Anchorage and Unalaska, AK; Indiana, PA; and Stillwater and Morristown, NJ. Flora’s dedication to service to others evolved from Methodist parish work to overseeing a settlement school in rural Kentucky, assisting a community in the Aleutian Islands to develop healthcare and other services, co-directing a small residential alternative high school in rural New Jersey, and coordinating a group home for teenage girls in Morristown, NJ.

In 1975, after so many uprootings and goodbyes, Flora realized she wanted to reconnect with one of the places she had left behind. She separated from her husband, and returned to Unalaska, an island community on the far side of the world that had spoken to her heart in the early 1970s.  Flora became a social worker for the state of Alaska, attending to the safety of children across a vast region that included the Aleutian Islands (a chain extending westward 1,200 miles from Alaska toward Russia) and the Pribilof Islands. Flora lived and worked there for nearly 20 years, helping native children at risk remain in their communities, and whenever possible, with Aleut families. She embraced and was hugged back by the Aleut community in Unalaska/Dutch Harbor.  She joined the Church of the Holy Ascension (the Russian Orthodox church in Unalaska), sang with their choir, learned to chant services in Slavonic, learned some Aleut for special services, and eventually became a Reader in the church (very rare for a woman to be in this role). A godson used to call her “Amen Flora” when he was a kid.  In 1977, Flora married Philemon Michael Tutiakoff, an Aleut native and respected patriarch of the community. Mr. Tutiakoff, who died in 1985, provided key testimony to Congress that resulted in reparation and a formal apology to Aleuts in the wake of internment of over 800 native people into inhumane conditions during WWII.

Flora enjoyed the wild beauty of the Aleutians, walking the Bering Sea beaches, picking wildflowers and salmonberries, and having tea with dear friends.  A couple of years after moving back to Alaska Flora began annual month-long visits with her family in Vermont. In 1994 she retired, returning to Vermont. She settled first in Montpelier, and eventually at the family homestead in Moretown.  In the mid-1990s she helped found the St Jacob of Alaska Mission in Montpelier. In 2001 this church found a home in Northfield, VT when a building was purchased there.

Flora had a long life, and was blessed with good health, an inclination to see the positives in life, and a loving family.  She dearly loved her little dog, Acha (an Aleut word that roughly translates as ‘very good friend’), even when he repeatedly ate her hearing aids and eyeglasses.  She taught her children and others around her how to love and respect others, and to laugh. Flora had survived her husband Philemon; her parents; two younger sisters, Elizabeth Binz (of Sarasota, FL), Audrey White (of Ft. Myers, FL); and her great-granddaughter Ruthie. She is survived by her four children: John Strickland Fulton and partner Sharon A. Cutler (Moretown, VT), Scott Edward Fulton and his wife Elizabeth Lenore Leto-Fulton (Somerville, MA), Sarah Elizabeth Holland (Moretown, VT), and Andrew Beecher Fulton and his wife India Rachel Tresselt (Westford, VT); her eight grandchildren (Derek and wife Gladys, Jayson, Addie Rose and husband Dan, Matthew, Flora, Loren, Connor, and Asa) and three great-grandchildren (Savannah, Pace, and Olive) who all made her sparkle. She leaves many beloved nieces and nephews; three step great-grandchildren; a cousin; and dear friends and extended family including Ray Holland and Tracy Drury, and Ray and Shelly Hudson.  Her beloved Tutiakoff family and many other dear friends from Unalaska will miss her. She was the matriarch (“matushka”) of St. Jacob of Alaska, and is greatly missed by that community.

Her family is very grateful for the care she received at UVM Medical Center, in particular the palliative care team, excellent staff at VNA Respite House, and of course the wonderful people at Mayo Residential Care in Northfield where Flora lived contentedly for her last 16 months. In remembrance, those who wish are welcome to send donations to support St. Jacob of Alaska (PO Box 353, Northfield Falls, VT 05664).