Thomas Mason Tuttle, 81, beloved husband, father, grandfather and friend, died peacefully surrounded by his loving family Friday, Jan. 15, 2021.
He is survived by his wife of 53 years, Elizabeth Jane Galloway Tuttle; sons, Thomas M. Tuttle II (Holly) of Syracuse and Michael G. Tuttle (Erin) of Indianapolis; daughters, Terri K. Tuttle of Indianapolis and Jennifer Tuttle Blattler (Thomas) of Las Vegas, Nev.; grandchildren, Ashley B. Williams (Andrew) of Salt Lake City, Utah, Lauren N. Tait of Fort Wayne, Grace E. Tuttle of Indianapolis and Michael L. Tuttle of Indianapolis; and brother, Carl R. Tuttle Jr. of Dallas, Texas.
Born in Indianapolis Feb. 18, 1939, he was the son of the late Carl Richard and Velma Mason Tuttle. Mr. Tuttle attended Gulfport Military Academy in Gulfport, Miss., Howe Military School in Howe, Ind., and graduated in 1957 from Florida Military Academy in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. In 1958, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and proudly served his country at Camp Pendleton, Calif. Upon his discharge in 1961, he attended Indiana University in Indianapolis.
Mr. Tuttle was a lifelong summer resident of Lake Wawasee in Syracuse, where his roots ran deep. His family history began there in 1909 when his grandfather, Richard B. Tuttle, built one of the earliest cottages. In “Early Wawasee Days,” Eli Lilly wrote: “Mr. Dick Tuttle, the great fisherman, was a comparatively ‘early settler.’”
As a teenager, Mr. Tuttle excelled at waterskiing. He belonged to the Wawasee Ski Club, Indiana Water Ski Association and American Water Ski Association, and skied competitively in officially sanctioned water ski meets throughout the Midwest. In the late 1950s, he was inducted into the Century Club for exceeding the 100-foot mark in ski jumping. Later, he became Midwest Regional Champion with a jump of 123 feet; the same year, the world record holder jumped 125 feet. During his years of competition, he was the recipient of numerous trophies and awards. Mr. Tuttle went on to ski professionally for Dick Pope Jr. at Cypress Gardens in Winter Haven, Fla., and the Tommy Bartlett Ski Show in Wisconsin Dells, Wis.
In the early 1970s, Mr. Tuttle and his family became year-round residents of Lake Wawasee, as his parents had done before him. He owned, managed and greatly improved the family business, South Shore Golf Club; it opened in 1929 and was developed by his late father and grandfather, early pioneers of the lake’s development. They were part of a delegation of Syracuse Chamber of Commerce members who journeyed to Indianapolis and successfully lobbied the legislature to widen and improve SR 13 for easier golf course and lake access.
The creation and ownership of golf courses spanned four generations of Tuttle men, beginning with his grandfather’s early development of Willowbrook Golf Course in Indianapolis. This was followed by his father’s involvement in South Shore Golf Club, and his own development of The Links at Eagle Glen in Columbia City in the mid-1990s. The cycle continued when his sons participated in the development and management of both of Mr. Tuttle’s golf courses, clubhouses, restaurants and event centers.
It was a ritual for Wawasee property owners (lakers) to gather at the South Shore for drinks and dinner upon their arrival Friday nights. Mr. Tuttle was a regular and popular fixture who loved “drinking mash and talking trash” with his customers. Being “the life of the party” was a role he truly relished. He was a gifted storyteller and often embellished his anecdotes for the sake of the story. Tales of his childhood exploits were legendary and he delighted in telling them.
He exemplified living life to the fullest and will be remembered for his charm, wit and irreverence. He was a charismatic person sought out for his unique sense of humor and uncanny ability to make people laugh. But Mr. Tuttle also had a serious side — there was a pattern of caring that followed him throughout his life, and he was known to many as a faithful and true friend. He was always the first one there when his friends were in trouble or grieving and in need of comfort.
Mr. Tuttle’s career embraced banking, golf course and restaurant ownership, real estate and various other entrepreneurial ventures. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, he owned and operated three restaurant/cocktail lounges where he developed his love of creative cooking: The Green Onion, The III Phases and The Northeastwood Lounge. He also was an advisor to Bob Netolicky in his development of Neto’s in the Meadows, an exciting Indiana Pacers hangout.
In 1968, he became an owner, director and executive committee member of the State Bank of Syracuse; additionally, he served as president of its holding company, First Charter Financial Corporation. With several other investors, Mr. Tuttle purchased a majority interest in the Albion National Bank in 1973. He became president, CEO and trust officer in 1976 while also serving as a director of Second Charter Financial Corporation, its holding company.
Mr. Tuttle moved his family to Deerfield Beach, Fla., in 1978 where he temporarily assumed the duties of general manager of the Clubs of Deer Creek; he did so for his dear friend, the late Frank McKinney Jr., whom he had known for many years through their mutual involvement at Wawasee.
In the early 1980s at Deer Creek, Mr. Tuttle founded and chaired the LPGA Whirlpool Golf Classic benefitting the American Cancer Society, the Guinness Book of World Records Tennis Telethon benefitting the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and the Lynda Carter Maybelline Classic, a WTA tennis tournament benefitting the Maureen Connolly Brinker Foundation. He hosted the annual Kosciusko County American Cancer Society Tournament at South Shore Golf Club for many years and was recognized several times in the 1990s with Awards of Appreciation for Pioneering Leadership in the Fight Against Cancer. In 2012, he was honored for his dedication and service at the Kosciusko County Cancer Care Fund Gala as a “Hero for the Cause.”
Mr. Tuttle became a community leader at a young age and remained civic-minded for the rest of his life. His involvement included the Indianapolis Jaycees, where he served on the board of directors and received several awards including the Key Man Award and Outstanding First Year Member. He was elected to the Wawasee Preparatory School Board of Directors and President’s Advisory Council and served as chairman of the Spink Gala Fundraiser for a number of years.
In 1974, he launched the Eli Lilly Gratitude Committee and solicited support for a special commemorative presentation honoring Mr. Lilly’s outstanding contributions to the Lake Wawasee Community; this recognition was near and dear to Mr. Tuttle’s heart as the two men shared a deep and abiding love for Wawasee. He spurred the creation of the Wawasee Property Owners Association Fireworks Fund and was co-founder of the first Fourth of July Fireworks display on Lake Wawasee; it continues to be one of the most celebrated and spectacular shows in the state.
Through his son, Michael, he became active in Little League as a tee ball coach and team sponsor, once coaching a championship team. Mr. Tuttle was a 32nd degree Mason and a member of the Syracuse Masonic Lodge 454 F&AM. He belonged to the Scottish Rite Cathedral and Mizpah Temple in Fort Wayne and the Kosciusko County Shrine Club. He was also an active member of the Syracuse-Wawasee Chamber of Commerce.
In Syracuse, Mr. Tuttle breathed life and love into his many projects for the betterment of the community and revitalization of downtown. As a charter member of the Syracuse Community Development Corporation, he sprearheaded the building of Pickwick Place — a large, downtown commercial center housing shops, offices and a restaurant — to replace a burned-out portion of the business district. A square with gardens and gazebo was available to the public.
Under his supervision, an authentic 1830s Greek Revival home was restored for use as a downtown office building with community rooms available for use by clubs and organizations. He was instrumental in the establishment of the Syracuse-Wawasee Historical Museum to be located above the State Bank of Syracuse and actively participated in the procurement of historic acquisitions.
Among Mr. Tuttle’s proudest achievements were the following: Wawasee Village Drive-In Bank, the first branch bank in the area, which boasted a lobby-gallery displaying Ken Harkless oil paintings of early Wawasee landmarks for all to enjoy; Fish Hatchery Branch Bank, the second branch of the State Bank of Syracuse built overlooking Lake Wawasee and housing a bronze bust of Chief Wawasee commissioned by Eli Lilly as a gift to the community; his contemporary lake home, which focused on the adaptive reuse of materials from demolished 19th and early 20th Century buildings, including the original barn on the farm that became South Shore Golf Club; and the early 1990s rebuilding of the South Shore Clubhouse after the original 1929 building burned to the ground.
Mr. Tuttle was a member of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church and sat on the board of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police motorcycle drill team. Early on, he was the sole member of the American Business Club from Kosciusko County; he later served on the board of directors and was the only four-time winner of the Thunder Mug Poker Tournament. His former memberships include the Columbia Club, Woodstock Club, Lambs Club, Indiana Society of Chicago and Indiana Sheriff’s Association.
Mr. Tuttle was the consummate host whose pleasure and privilege it was to co-chair “A Salute to Chris Schenkel” in Indianapolis Aug. 21, 1993 — the event was a celebration of Mr. Schenkel’s 70th birthday and 50 years in broadcasting and was attended by numerous celebrities including sports and broadcast legends from all over the country.
The two met in 1970 when Mr. Schenkel moved his family to Lake Tippecanoe in Leesburg and bought a house from the State Bank of Syracuse; they remained close friends and travel companions until Mr. Schenkel’s death in 2005. Two other favorite hosting gigs were the annual WPOA pancake breakfast in the South Shore Pavilion and the infamous Dirty Dozen Annual Invitational. He also organized and hosted numerous campaign fundraisers for the Republican Party, including then-Senator Dan Quayle, Senator Dan Coats and Mayor Greg Ballard.
Mr. Tuttle spent countless enjoyable hours on the shores of Lake Wawasee. As a young man, he was an avid golfer, tennis player, snowmobiler and pilot. His favorite hobbies were cooking, playing pinochle, poker and gin rummy and watching NFL football and auto racing. He adored his wife, his children and their families, his grandchildren and a beloved toy poodle named Slash, who became his frequent companion upon his retirement and return to Indianapolis. His love, loyalty, devotion and support for family and friends will be sorely missed.
In light of COVID-19 restrictions, funeral services were held at Crown Hill Cemetery for immediate family. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Wawasee Area Conservancy Foundation, P.O. Box 548, Syracuse, IN 46567, or the charity of your choice. Please visit www.leppertmortuary.com to sign the guestbook.