By Stan Maddux
VALPARAISO, Ind. – An Indiana woman lost her battle with cancer, but she lives on in the hearts of a community that shelled out a record price for her 10-year-old son’s hog.
Ashlee Duttlinger, 39, waged a five-year battle with colon cancer. Her final six weeks were spent at home under hospice care.
She lived long enough long enough to watch her son Hudson show his reserve grand champion pig. Duttlinger made it to the fairgrounds with help from members of her family and other loved ones.
She died on July 31 less than 24 hours after the fair was over.
“She said the whole time ‘I just want to make it to the fair. I’m going to see Hudson show again.’ If that doesn’t speak to the human will, I don’t know what does,” said her friend Haleigh Schoon of Lafayette.
Duttlinger also lived long enough to learn that her community rallied around her family to ensure her sons would be able to go to college.
During the livestock auction at the fair, Hudson’s hog brought in $102,000 via donations vs. live bidding.
So many people wanted to give that contributions continued to pour in until reaching $126,000.
“It was a world record price for a gilt,” said Jonathan Kraft, a professional auctioneer and friend of the family who helped orchestrate the fundraising effort.
Kraft said a typical hog sells at auction for six to seven dollars a pound, but this one came to $420 a pound. He said the previous world record price for a gilt was $95,000 in Missouri.
Typically, farm animals sold during fairs wind up in butcher shops. In this case, Kraft said the hundreds of financial contributors decided, collectively, to have the pig returned to the hobby farm of the surviving family members near Wanatah.
“It was a pretty awesome experience. He’ll get to breed it and have some little pigs next spring,” he said.
Kraft said the money is going into a scholarship fund to help Ashlee Duttlinger’s son Hudson, and her other son, Brooks, 8, through college.
“Everyone in the community loved her,” he said.
Schoon said her best friend was always the first one to reach out to people needing help and the last one to leave no matter what the cause.
She believes the response to the fund raiser was from her many acts of selflessness.
“She legitimately was just the most generous spirit you ever met. It’s the perfect illustration of people just wanting to give her what she’s always given them,” she said.
“Even in her final days, she was still fighting and wanting to help out,” Kraft said.
Schoon feels the frenzy of giving was also a way for the community to show there was no need for Duttlinger to worry about her children or husband, Eric.
“I think it was almost in a bigger way a gesture for Ashlee so she could see that these guys are loved. We’re going to make sure they’re OK after you’re gone,” she said.
Schoon and Duttlinger met while showing livestock in the Porter County 4-H program and in recent years remained in close touch with each other. Schoon also helped get her to the fairgrounds to see her son with his hog one last time in the show arena.
“There just isn’t enough words in the world to describe how much I loved her and how wonderful she was. She never wanted to be the center of attention and never wanted people to worry about her. Her people came first.”