Photo above: Henry Futch in 2003. Photos courtesy of Diane Futch.
By Bill Rauch
Henry Futch was just 5 years old when he left Beaufort in 2004.
But the boy and Beaufort went through some tough times together, the kind of tough times that bring out the best in the best.
When Henry was 4 and in Mrs. Clancy’s class at the Sea Island Presbyterian Pre-school, his parents learned he had a rare form of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.
Initially the doctors said the cancer was just in his throat, but then they said it was Stage 3/4 because it was all over the boy’s kidneys too.
Henry’s mom and dad, Diane and Lee Futch, then Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort’s comptroller and a very recently retired squadron commander at MCAS-Beaufort respectively, moved little Henry up to Charleston to the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) to fight the fight. The doctors there said, “We think if he can survive the chemotherapy treatments, he’ll survive the disease.”
The fight to eradicate the 4-year-old boy’s cancer — including sky-high chemo doses and many, many blood transfusions — went on for about six months in late 2002 and early 2003.
“We had always gone to church and prayed before meals,” Diane Futch recalled last week, ”but this strengthened our faith. It brought our lives into perspective. Our faith brought us the strength we needed.”
Beaufort joined in.
One Sunday school class all reached into their pockets and pooled their change, which they gave to Henry’s mom explaining: We know how it is at hospitals, you need lots of change for those vending machines. Others brought covered dishes by, or took treats with them when they went to Charleston to check on Henry and his family.
Col. Harmon Stockwell, MCAS-Beaufort’s commanding officer, cut his comptroller innumerable breaks during this period so that she could be at her son’s bedside.
Henry was hanging in there, the doctors reported.
The Futches lived at Burckmyer Beach and their neighbors there, organized and drilled by that consummate doctor’s wife (and doctor’s mother), Sue Collins, became family.
“I can’t tell you how the community embraced us … supported us,” Henry’s mom said last week. “I cannot imagine going through something like that anywhere else.”
In the midst of his treatments Henry came home for Christmas. He was very weak. But as always, he was upbeat, smiling and optimistic.
Clancy’s husband, Beaufort Police Chief Matt Clancy, who was in 2002 a major with the department, arranged to get a police department uniform for Henry and an official-looking police ID with Henry’s name and photo on it.
With Santa riding shotgun in his PD SUV, the day before Christmas Matt Clancy drove out the Futches’ house at Burckmyer where Santa fitted Henry out with the uniform and ID, and Major Clancy swore in Officer Henry Futch. Then the group went on patrol over to the Lady’s Island Airport where they had arranged for the PD’s plain clothes victim advocate to run a stop sign.
It was up to Officer Futch to decide whether to throw the book at the offender or give him another chance. Characteristically citing the joy of the Christmas season, Henry wrote the stop sign runner a warning.
Then it was back to business in Charleston — but now always in uniform.
Rank, as we all know, has its privileges. The Burger King by MUSC extended to Officer Futch their first responder discount, and the nurses and doctors snapped off salutes to him when they passed him in the corridors.
About six weeks after Christmas the boy turned the corner. The doctors said he was clear, and he’s been clear ever since.
Where is Henry now? On a hunting trip with his dad to mark his graduation last week from the Cedar Creek School in Ruston, La.
Set to report later this month, Henry Futch has accepted an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., where by tradition he will be sworn in by one of his U.S. Marine Corps-retired parents.
Bill Rauch was the mayor of Beaufort from 1999-2008. Email Bill at TheRauchReport@gmail.com.