La Jolla Centenarians: Heart in England, Home in La Jolla. Bird Rock resident awaits his 100th birthday
Editor’s Note: As part of La Jolla Light’s 100th publishing anniversary this year, we are featuring interviews with fellow centenarians throughout 2013. If you know a La Jollan who is 100 years old, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (858) 875-5950.
By Ashley Mackin
Alfred Scutt may have lived more than half of his 100-years in La Jolla, but its clear when speaking with him that his heart belongs to his homeland of England. Much of the life of the centenarian, who will officially hit the 100 mark on March 18, is influenced by the United Kingdom.
It was in England that he married his wife and mother of his children, Grace, now deceased. It was the English influence the couple had in mind when they decorated their Bird Rock home. It was their history with the church they attended in England that led them to continue their church participation in La Jolla. It is examples of English architecture that Scutt likes to paint for his home.
A love story
Al and Grace married just before World War II. One year into their marriage, Scutt was deployed to Iraq in the Royal Air Force medical core. Though he had many adventures in travel, medicine and military camaraderie, Scutt said his one regret in life is the three years he spent away from Grace.
In the years following his return, Scutt was constantly reminded that his wife wanted to move to La Jolla. Her sister and parents lived in San Diego, so she visited often. “All I heard was, ‘I would love to live in La Jolla’, she would say, ‘the Cove is beautiful,’ ” he recalled.
Since war-torn England “wasn’t looking so good,” Scutt said he finally agreed and moved the family to La Jolla in 1956.
It was here they found and rented their small Bird Rock home, which Al — even as a renter — completely renovated. Grace wanted the home to look “more English-y” Scutt said, so they decorated the home to remind them of their former house. After years of renting, the owner of the home decided to sell it. He also decided the rent the Scutt’s had already paid was enough, and told them the house was theirs!
It was partially his experience in redoing the residence that encouraged Scutt to work at Mary Star of the Sea in Oceanside. He was contracted to paint the inside and outside of the church (he even advertised his services in early editions of La Jolla Light), and later attended with his family. His family has a history of maintaining the grounds of churches in England, including helping a Duke of Norfolk.
Scutt continued his services, conducting the Mary Star of the Sea church choir for 14 years. His choir experience began in England, where he sang in a church choir from age 5. He continues his love of music today, playing the organ in his home. Above the organ are photos of his children — Keith, Helen and Robert. Throughout the house are photos of his four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Additionally, Scutt’s own art in the form of paintings, needlework and pen-and- ink sketches depicting architecture and gardens, maintain the British décor the Scutts set out to have.
Acknowledging that he “hated leaving England,” Scutt said over time, he has developed a wonderful life and family. “The biggest prize that any man can have is a loving family, and I’ve got that.”
It was during the move to America that Scutt was able to teach his children the lessons they hold to today.
Son Keith explained, “Perhaps the greatest motto he conveyed to us children was that in America, whatever dream you may have can happen in your life. My father is not a risk-taker or gambler, but for him to move his family from England to California was a gamble that paid off for all of us.”
From growing up with gas lamps and no electricity to watching a 3-year-old play with a cell phone, Scutt has seen plenty of changes in the world, but he said La Jolla hasn’t changed much … mostly just the streets, the stores and the crowds.
“La Jolla’s not really changed, it’s just too busy. I think this place is a godsend, I really do,” he said.
As for the reasons behind his longevity, Scutt just smiled and said, “I got on alright, I guess. I’ve had a good life. I haven’t got a lot of money or anything like that … but I’m a lucky guy.”
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