Roads for new subdivisions, basements for new homes and ponds dug around town were the construction jobs handled by Gale Hutchens Excavating.
Nelda and Gale Hutchens
Hutchens and his 10 employees operated backhoes, bulldozers and scrapers to clear trees and debris and to move dirt and rock from one place to another.
Begun in 1954, it also was a business operated with a resolve by Hutchens and his wife Nelda to honor God.
“Both of us were raised up in the church and when we got married in 1951, we always put the church first and we’ve always tithed,” Hutchens said. “I didn’t think we could when we first started, but we did.”
In their business, “I’ve seen times that there was something due, and my wife said we’ve haven’t got it [to pay the bill], and I said, ‘Well, let’s send it,’ and the next day there was a check [from a customer] that came in that more than covered it.
“You just can’t out-give God. We’ve always put him first,” said Hutchens, who stepped away from the excavating business several years ago in his late 70s – but not his commitment to his church, Tabernacle Baptist in Decatur, Ill.
Hutchens, who spends several winter months in Florida, leads a half-dozen men “who are really good” at taking care of Tabernacle Baptist’s facilities and property, including a new pond. “I want to get a pavilion up one of these days,” he added.
Over the years, “I would never work on Sunday and my customers knew that,” Hutchens said.
Gale Hutchens, with his wife Nelda, aimed to "put the church first" throughout the week amid the rigors of their excavation business.
Many nights at the supper table “a lot of times I had the phone on my ear” for company business. But “on Wednesday nights when we had prayer meeting … nobody would call me because they knew I was going to be in church.”
Hutchens grew up on a farm but found a fascination with excavating at an early age.
“Our neighbor, when he got out of the Army back in 1944, 1945, he bought some equipment. His farm joined ours, and I worked for him when I was 12 years old – and I soon knew what I wanted to do.
“I loved to farm, but I liked excavation, I liked that equipment, and that’s what I did.”
Nevertheless, the advice of Hutchens’ father has had a lasting impact. “My dad always told me, ‘If you put God first, others second and yourself last, you’ll make it.’”