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Sullivan County Remembers Wilt as a 'Gentleman'

Barbara Bedell & Justin Rodriguez
October 13, 1999

Monticello--Wilt Chamberlain was no stranger to Sullivan County. He was 17 when he started working as a bellhop for Milton and Helen Kutsher, owners of Kutsher's Country Club in Monticello.

"We were very close and we referred to him as my fourth child,'' Helen Kutsher said yesterday. She was filled with emotion having learned the basketball icon had died. "I'm devastated,'' she said. "He was here in August for the Maurice Stokes Memorial. He came every year. This was the 41st anniversary of the fund, which Milton started for charity.

Local fans flocked to Chamberlain at the Stokes game. Former Knicks forward Anthony Mason and Indiana Pacers forward Al Harrington played in the game, but Chamberlain got the most attention.

Chamberlain spent nearly 30 minutes signing autographs and speaking with fans. He took pictures with many others.

"Wilt was an unusual human being," Helen Kutsher said. "I knew he wasn't feeling well when he was here last but you never think how bad not feeling well could be. He was loving to the people he cared for. He was very regular. I never felt he thought he was above us. We go back a long time. He was family.''

Kutsher's always had a special spot in Chamberlain's heart. He grew up in Philadelphia and went to the University of Kansas, but always found time to visit the resort in the summer.

Chamberlain would come to know many people in Sullivan County. "He was always very nice,'' said George Cooke, a Monticello resident who watched Chamberlain play at Kutsher's in the 1950s. "He was a gentleman. You would always see him around. And he was nice to everyone.''