UKRAINIAN BAPTIST HERITAGE CENTRE

Rev. Walter Kutcher (February 16, 1925 - January 8th, 1975)

Rev. Walter Kutcher was one of the 13 original charter members of the Ukrainian Evangelical Baptist Church in Toronto, when it organized on May 7, 1950. He served as a minister in the Ukrainian Presbyterian Church from the early 1950s to 1975 in Galahad, Alberta, Irvington, NJ., and in Ontario at Ukrainian and Canadian Presbyterian Churches in Port Carling, Rodney, Hamilton and Oshawa.  

This memorial was written by Peter Tymciw on the 35th Anniversary [January 8th, 2010] of Rev. Walter Kutcher's unexpected promotion to Glory.

A short video memorial was recorded that evening outside Essa Rd. Presbyterian Church.

Essa Road Presbyterian Church, January 8, 2010


Rev. Walter Kutcher (February 16, 1925 - January 8th, 1975)

Thirty-five years ago, in the January-March 1975  issue (Vol. 15., No. 1-3.) of The Ukrainian Christian Herald (Supplement to Evangelical Morning), Rev. Walter Kutcher wrote the following words in his article, TRUST IN THE LORD.

“We are standing now at the beginning of the New Year and you with me wonder what the New Year will bring for us?  We wonder what joys will come along and what difficulties will come?  As human beings, weak, shortsighted and sinful, we realize that we just don’t know.  However, at the same time we realize that because we are God’s chosen children, we can trust Him and this gives you and me comfort, strength and courage to go on!”

His article ends with the following words.  “Today, as we are faced with another crisis: inflation, rising costs, wars, general mistrust, energy crisis, people begin to think, they begin to ask: “Where have we failed?”  “Why don’t we love one another as we should?”  “Why are we so selfish?”  “Why are we so afraid?”  “Why have we neglected God?”  “Why have we neglected to pray?”

“This is a healthy sign!  God wants His people to come back, to repent.  He wants us to see how we failed.  He wants us to hear His voice again.  And happy we are when we hear His voice!  Happy we are when we can put our trust in Him!  Then we become more loving and more faithful, and we can face the unknown future, knowing that God is with us and that He will guide us and protect us! Amen.”

On page 14 in this same magazine, the tragic news of his unexpected death was also reported [in Ukrainian].

It was indeed a new year in 1975, as each year brings, just as it does in 2010.  Rev. Walter Kutcher just recently moved to Barrie and was living at 26 Highcroft Drive and his family had not yet moved from Oshawa to join him.  Rev. Kutcher just ended his ministry in Oshawa as the minister of the Ukrainian Presbyterian Church in Oshawa. On Sunday January 5th, 1975, he delivered his first sermon at Stroud Presbyterian Church.  He was to be inducted into the dual charge of Essa Road and Stroud Presbyterian Church on January 17.  Just a few days later on Wednesday January 8th at approximately 6 pm, Rev. Kutcher crossed Essa Road at Burton Avenue (picture above), and tragically died beneath the wheels of a vehicle within yards of Essa Road Presbyterian Church located at 59 Essa Road, the very church where he probably just came from after a day of ministry, the very church where he had yet to deliver his first sermon. (Barrie Examiner, Thursday January 9th, 1975., page 1)

Just a few days ago, I found the Barrie Examiner article from January 9th, 1975, and realized that I have been driving by this intersection for the past 11 years and never realized the significance of this intersection (Essa Rd. & Burton Ave.) in Rev. Kutcher's life.  It was located just a few buildings away from my previous two Books For Life offices.

A challenge for pastors: may you reflect on these thoughts:

  • 1.     If you knew that this might be your last day of ministry, what would you do?
  • 2.     If this Sunday you are preaching in your church, and it was to be your last sermon as Rev. Kutcher’s was at Stroud Presbyterian Church just a few days before he unexpectedly died, what would your sermon be about?  Why not deliver that sermon this Sunday?
  • 3.     Please read Joel 2:12-19.  Verse 17 says “ Let the priests, who minister before the Lord, weep between the temple porch and the altar.  Let them say, “Spare your people, O Lord.  Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations.  Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?”
  • 4.     Please pray for revival in the City of Barrie.
  • 5.     May this curbside remembrance be more than just that.  May it transfer to other areas in your ministry in the world, to impact eternity. [A challenge from Pastor Lawrence Crews, Calvary Community Church, Shanty Bay, who is currently on his way to India, as he shared these words with me earlier today -  to make a dent in eternity”.]

“There will come one day a personal and direct touch from God when every tear and perplexity, every oppression and distress, every suffering and pain, and wrong and injustice will have a complete and ample and overwhelming explanation.” – Oswald Chambers – Shade of His Hand

Before emigrating to Canada in January 1949, Rev. Kutcher studied to be a doctor in Germany. Although these plans never materialized, God had other plans for Rev. Kutcher as he attended Toronto Bible College and the University of Toronto, Knox College, and prepared for ministry in the Presbyterian Church of Canada.  Today, all three of his sons are doctors. 

Rev. Walter Kutcher's youngest son, also named Walter, moved to Barrie several years ago, and has been serving the residents of the City of Barrie as a Gastroenterologist doctor.  On January 10, 2010, Peter had an opportunity to reconnect with Dr. Kutcher by telephone. In a conversation with one of Peter's immediate neighbors during Janaury 2010,  Peter found out that his neighbor's wife's doctor was Dr. Walter Kutcher.  The legacy of Rev. Kutcher's life still carries on in Barrie today, in a physical, healing way.

His middle son, Dr. Victor Kutcher, B.Sc., M.B.A., D.D.S., D.Perio., is a Periodontist and runs his practice in Stoney Creek, Ontario. 

His oldest son, Dr. Stan Kutcher, is a local, national and internationally renowned expert in Mental Health.  He is a doctor, teacher and a father.  He holds the Sun Life Financial Chair in Adolescent Health at Dalhousie University and the IWK Health Centre, where he and his team strive to improve the experiences of young people living with mental illness.  He recently served as an Associate Dean at Dalhousie University, where he served as Chair of the Department of Pyschiatry and led in the development of the Life Sciences Development Association, the Brain Repair Centre, and the International Health Office.   Since September 2009, Dr. Stan Kutcher is also the Liberal MP Candidate for Halifax, Nova, Scotia.  More information on his life and family can be found at www.stankutcher.ca/about-stan/

Although Rev. Kutcher's earthly life ended just before his 50th birthday, his plans of becoming a doctor were delayed by one generation and his plans were reproduced in the lives of his three sons.

Rev. Kutcher's spiritual legacy did not stop there.  His nephew, Mark Osborne, a professional hockey player who played in the NHL for 14 seasons [Detroit, New York, Toronto and Winnipeg], became a Christian as a result of Rev. Kutcher's death and for many years has served with Hockey Ministries International. 

[From the book BREAKAWAY by Al Janssen, Here's Life Publishers, 1985, page 113-115]

“Mark grew up in a home where Christian principles were practiced, but he didn’t make a personal commitment to Christ until he was fourteen years old. It happened when my uncle died.  [Rev. Walter Kutcher was Mark’s uncle]. That was the first time I’d been exposed to death.  Shortly after that, I was listening to the Sunday morning sermon – that was unusual for me – and I realized that I believed in God and Jesus Christ.  I even believed that He came down from heaven, died on a cross and rose again from the dead.  But it wasn’t personal.  That morning I confessed my sins and asked Jesus Christ to come into my heart.”  While the decision was sincere, Mark doesn’t feel he started to grow spiritually until he left home to play junior hockey. Homesick and lonely, trying to be a Christian in the midst of negative peer pressure, he had to lean on God.  “I wanted to be part of the team, but I wasn’t going to give up my moral convictions.  That’s the way it still is for me.”

“Through the years, I’ve learned more about myself by knowing God.  I’ve learned to think about others as more important than myself.  The Bible tells us not to be selfish but to have an attitude like Jesus Christ.  He was God, but He humbled Himself, became a man, and died for us.  What I try to do is take the focus off me and draw it to Christ.”  One way he does that is through Christian Athlete Hockey Camps in the summer.  The camps are run by Hockey Ministries International.  Mark’s face lights up as he thinks about the kids he’s worked with.  “There was a boy in New Brunswick – his parents were separated, his dad was an alcoholic.  It was exciting to watch God break down his barriers as we prayed together and he received Christ.  I think another highlight is when you come back after a year and you see how the kids have grown.  That’s a big encouragement to me, seeing God change people’s lives.”  [B-7911 / pg 114-115]

As a young boy, early one Sunday morning, Peter remembers taking the bus to Hamilton with his two brothers, where his older brother Mike with his guitar, and his brother Paul, sang in Rev. Kutcher's church in Hamilton.  Peter remembers Rev. Kutcher getting him to stand on a chair, because he was hidden behind the pulpit.  The spiritual connection with Rev. Kutcher started years earlier, when Peter's family emigrated to Canada from Germany in November 1962, and all of their earthly possessions [approximately 10 green and brown wooden trunks] were sent to the address of Rev. Kutcher's wife's parents, Mr. & Mrs. Paul Osypowich, whose family helped countless families when they came to Canada from Germany. 

Rev. Walter Kutcher was one of the 13 original charter members of the Ukrainian Evangelical Baptist Church in Toronto, when it organized on May 7, 1950. He just came from the Ukrainian Bible Institute in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, along with John Prokopiak and Walter Ostapchuk, who also became charter members (picture below).  He was also selected to be part of the church's first committee which consisted of 6 members.  Rev. Kutcher's future wife, Ria, and her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Osypowich, became original members, 14, 15, and 16. [ See Ukrainian Baptist Heritage Centre, a ministry of PETER TYMCIW MINISTRIES  www.UBHC.camp7.org ]

Top row, left to right, Walter Ostapchuk, John Prokopiak and Walter Kutcher (center), arriving in Toronto, first week of May 1950. 

While Peter was a member of the Living Hope Singers from 1978-1985, his group sang each year at the Ukrainian Presbyterian Church in Oshawa, where Rev. Kutcher pastored just before he came to Barrie in January 1975.

Later during the summer of 1986, when Peter returned from his first semester at Winnipeg Bible College, he was asked to come to the home of Mrs. Osypowich, where Rev. Kutcher's wife, Ria, passed on several boxes of Rev.Kutcher's books and papers. One of the New Testament commentaries in this collection, [William Barclay's Daily Study Bible], was used in Peter's sermon preparation while he was a Student Pastor at Roseau River Baptist Church in 1986-1987.

In August 2009, Peter was able to interview Mrs. Ria Kutcher-Gyra and Mrs. Nora Osborne [who was married to Ria's brother, Alex]  who both lost their husbands unexpectedly while they were in their 40s. The interview discussed the memories that Ria had of her parents involvement in the start and history of the Ukrainian Baptist Church in Toronto.

Peter Tymciw, Ria Kutcher Gyra, and Nora Osborne, August 2009 at OCELA, Ukrainian Bible Camp, Peterborough, Ontario

During OPEN DOORS BARRIE in September, 2010, Peter visited St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Barrie, [47 Owen St.] to see the completed renovation work that was in process during OPEN DOORS BARRIE, September 2009. This time, he met their pastor, Dr. Rick Horst, and found out that while Dr. Horst was a youth attending his Presbyterian Church in Hamilton, their church was supporting the Ukrainian work of Rev. Kutcher while he was in Hamilton, and knew Rev. Kutcher. A picture was needed to mark this occasion, for Peter's research on a booklet that he has been preparing on the life of Rev. Kutcher.

Peter Tymciw and Dr. Rick Horst, St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, Barrie, Ontario, September 2010 - OPEN DOORS BARRIE

A heart-felt article written in Ukrainian [soon to be translated into English] by Michael Podworniak remembering the life of Rev. Walter Kutcher, was published in the March-April 1975 issue of the Christian Herald.  Mr. Podworniak was one of the greatest writers and poets in the Ukrainian Baptist Church. He emigrated to Canada from Germany along with Rev. Kutcher, and stayed in touch with him over the years, and many times at the Ukrainian Bible Camp in Peterbourough, their last conversation being during the summer of 1974, of which Mr. Podworniak writes about in his article. They discussed their joys, struggles, ministry and writings, as Rev. Kutcher wrote several books in Ukrainian as well.   [Rev. Kutcher's picture at the top of this section was copied from this article.]


TEN YEARS LATER

Visiting Ria Kutcher Gyra on Saturday August 10, 2019


What a privilege to be able to visit Ria at her home along with my wife and sister-in-law as we sang several songs from our Ukrainian hymnal from our Toronto UEBC where Ria, along with her parents, Paul and Maria Osypowich became original members in 1950, members # 14, 15 and 16.  This picture taken 69 years after the TUEBC started on May 7, 1950, with Ria possibly being the only surviving member of the 24 original members from 1950.

 

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