December 10,2020, 86, Bucklesberry
Just before dawn on Thursday, December 10, the master carpenter welcomed Chester Randolph Hooten home to a house not made with human hands, eternal in the heavens. Faith became reality as he took the hand of his Lord and entered into paradise. Chester was born on January 22, 1934 in Pitt County to the late Jesse Pettigrew and Faye Dawson Hooten.
Growing up as the child of a sharecropper, Chester learned early on the meaning of hard work and the value of a dollar. Evenings and days away from school were spent chopping corn, cropping tobacco, picking cotton, or tending to the garden. A day off meant spending time at the swimming pool at Emma Webb or watching movies in the theatres in downtown Kinston. He could take a quarter and fill his entire day with fun.
At the age of 17, Chester became a treasured part of the Sutton family when he wed his beloved wife, Ruth Ellen. Working alongside his father-in-law, Wesley, and brother-in-law, Allen, they tilled the land and produced a bounty that supported three households and created a lasting bond of love and friendship. Always willing to try something new, he was the first in the area to utilize the Ferris Wheel Harvester, the automatic tobacco harvester, and bulk barns. From chicken houses to hog houses, Chester expanded his operations and worked from sun up to sun down doing what he loved.
As a jack of all trades, there wasn’t much at which Chester wouldn’t try his hand. Whether building chicken houses, shelters, or additions to his home, he was sure to tackle most of the work himself. If he needed a new implement for farming and couldn’t find what he wanted, he’d invent it. Many miles were traveled on his homemade dune buggy, dozens of eggs washed on his egg washer, and bushels of cucumbers were picked on his cucumber harvester.
Of all his talents, perhaps Chester was known best for his woodworking. As a self-taught carpenter, he mastered the trade and filled many homes with quality wood furniture. A front porch swing, bedroom suites, dining room tables, kitchen cabinets, gun safes, and trash cans were a few of many pieces he was able to produce that will last for ages to come. There’s no telling how many broken chairs and family heirlooms were brought to him that he restored to perfection for their owners.
There were two things you could count on when seeing Chester out and about: he was usually working and was most likely barefoot. With a whistle on his lips and a spring in his step, Chester lived to work. After retiring from farming, he continued daily work by raising produce for the local Piggly Wigglys. For years, he was their chief supplier of corn, cucumbers, watermelons, and sweet potatoes during their growing season. Wintertime was spent working in the shop or chopping wood to heat his home. For the last fifteen years, he contracted with Goldsboro Milling Company to maintain the grass for several hog farms, working until November this year.
Chester was a firm believer that Sunday was a day of rest. No work was to be done unless the “ox was in the ditch”. After attending church, many fine meals were enjoyed gathered around the dining room table with him at the head. Sunday afternoon was nap time, often followed by a trip to the river on his bicycle, walking, or riding on his Gator. Watching the water flow downstream and listening to the birds in the trees was Chester’s way of relishing in the beauty of God’s creation. About 15 years ago, a dream of his was realized when he placed a cabin right on the river to enjoy with his friends and family. Named after his late daughter, Karen Sue, “Karen’s Bend” brought much peace and contentment to him.
Chester was truly the backbone of his family. He was a master at fixing the broken, advising the bewildered, and assisting the needy. He raised his children, nurtured his grandchildren, and spoiled his great-grands. He would do anything for his family, and extended this kindness to members of his community, never asking for praise or reward. His actions speak volumes to his love of neighbor and love of his Savior.
As a man of deep faith, Chester worshipped at Hickory Grove United Methodist Church throughout his life in Bucklesberry. He started each morning reading his Bible and daily devotional in The Upper Room. A meal was never eaten without taking time to say grace, and bedtime was delayed until he spent time kneeling in prayer. Although usually quiet in his spiritual walk, there is no question about his love for his Lord.
A service to remember and honor Chester’s life will be held by the graveside on Saturday, December 12, 2020 at 2:00 p.m. in the Sutton Family Cemetery on Sutton-Hooten Road, La Grange.
Left to cherish the family ties instilled by Chester are his loving and devoted wife of 69 years, Ruth Ellen Sutton Hooten; his children, Phyllis Hooten Phillips and husband, Charles, Sandra Hooten Cromer, and Chester Bryan Hooten and wife, Amy; son-in-law, Barry Fulcher; seven grandchildren, Joshua Mewborn and wife, Kari, Jaimie Mewborn Kelly and husband, Jason, Jacob Mewborn and wife Laura Beth, Timothy Fulcher and wife, Brooke, McKayla Hooten Harlos and husband, Josh, Lauren Hooten Hughes and husband, Chris, and Micah Hooten and wife, Emily; six great-grandchildren, Jonah Mewborn, Drew Mewborn, Levi Mewborn, Chester Reid Fulcher, Ellen Mewborn, and Addie Jo Fulcher; a brother, Charles Hooten, and many loved nieces and nephews.
In addition to his parents, Chester was embraced at the gates of Heaven by his daughter, Karen Sue Hooten Fulcher, siblings, Doris Hooten and J.P. Hooten, and sisters- and brother-in-law that he loved as his own, Blanche Whittington, Sue Faulkner, Billie McPherson, and Allen Sutton.
Online condolences may be expressed at www.rousefh.com. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Hickory Grove United Methodist Church, c/o Stanley Sutton, 1832 Sutton Shortcut Road, La Grange, NC 28551. Arrangements are entrusted to Rouse Funeral Home, La Grange.