Gedney Tuttle not only ran a seminal Minnesota business for more than three decades — the M.A. Gedney pickle company — he was a kind of Renaissance man, as well.
Tuttle, 87, of Orono, died on March 17 four days after suffering a stroke.
Beyond serving as a longtime scion for the state’s signature pickle empire, family and friends say, Tuttle excelled at a vast number of interests and hobbies — from politics to sailing to world travel. He was passions included a number of charitable and civic pursuits.
“He was an extremely curious man,” said Topsy Simonson, a longtime friend and neighbor.
Born in Minneapolis, Tuttle graduated from the Blake School in 1944 and attended Marquette University for two years. He joined the family business in Chaska after graduating from the University of Minnesota in 1948. The M.A. Gedney company was founded by Tuttle’s great-grandfather Mathias Anderson Gedney in 1881, and is one of the oldest food companies in the state, famed for its State Fair line of pickles.
Tuttle spent his entire career at the family business, at first working in field and administrative positions. He ascended to president of the firm in 1967, succeeding his father, Harry A. Tuttle, and retired as CEO in 1998. Tuttle’s tenure was marked by his desire to make the highest-quality product possible, said his son, Carl Tuttle, who is now a vice president for the company.
Tuttle was also instrumental in forming Pickle Packers International, an industry group.
The company was sold to in 2009 to a California company called PMC Global Inc., but still produces pickles in Chaska under the Gedney name, as well as the Del Monte and Cains labels.
Tuttle spent summers sailing and playing tennis and winters skiing, organizing expansive trips the world over, delighting in bringing family and friends together. He was a fixture at the Bryant Lake Yacht Club’s weekly boat race, as well as the Fox and Hounds breakfast club. In between it all, he dabbled in woodworking, cooking and music.
“He was very quiet and unassuming, but he took a great interest in any person he was talking to,” said Fred Zimmerman, a retired University of St. Thomas professor, and member of the Fox and Hounds club.
He and his wife, Emily Anne Tuttle, traveled extensively — just a week before his death the duo was in Cuba, exploring the island’s music and art.
Tuttle was deeply involved in various charitable and civic organizations, including the Citizens League, Dollars for Scholars and the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce. “He was very involved in what was going on in the world,” said his wife Emily.
“He always looked forward to the next day,” said his son Carl. “He was a very positive person, nothing ever got him down.”
Emily Anne [Staples] Tuttle, a former state legislator and member of the Hennepin County Board, first met her future husband at the University of Minnesota’s 1949 homecoming. “My first impression of him was that he was really cute,” she says. They dated a few times, but ultimately married other people.
Their paths crossed about 20 years ago as widow and widower. She wrote Tuttle a condolence note after his second wife, Mary Turner, died in 1993, and he responded.
“I’ve never heard of someone responding to a condolence note,” she said. They went to a movie, and have been together ever since.
“He was a loyal friend and a delightful husband,” his wife said. “I would always joke that I was married to a pickle. He had such a delicious sense of humor.”
In addition to his wife, Tuttle is survived by four sons: Andrew, Carl, Jeff and John; nine grandchildren, and four Staples stepchildren.