8/8/2019 10:40:00 AM A colorful life: The work of the 'Paint Lady' graces many local homes
Betty Tuttle poses with her trays full of index cards — “recipes: for hundreds of specific paint colors that she has custom-mixed over the years. The “paint lady” is retiring after more than 50 years in the business. (Tom Compton photo)
For some having your job become your life it is a curse, but for others, like Betty Tuttle, it has been a blessing that will be hard to give up.
Finally, after more than 50 years in the paint business, Betty Tuttle, 80, "The Paint Lady," has decided to give up her job at Neihaus Home Center in Robinson.
"It will be very difficult to give up," Betty said. "I love my job. I love people. I will miss them all."
When Betty was a young woman she painted houses and other things for local residents. She would buy her paint at the Pittsburgh Paint Store in Robinson. When the owner's wife died, Betty asked if he needed help in the store. Of course he said yes, and she worked there for 16 years until it closed.
After the Pittsburgh store closed, Betty went to work for what was then Big Buck Lumber, and 32 years later she is begrudgingly giving it up.
While lots of artists paint, painting is an art. From picking the colors, wall prep, brushes and rollers, to finish and cleanup, Betty has been the go-to person for hundreds of homeowners and contractors over the years.
"I am self taught, and learned as I went," Betty said. "I would also read the cans."
Betty explained that it starts with what someone is wanting to paint - a room, house, fence, or cabinet door like the one left on her desk with a simple note, "Need to match these colors."
"I like good paint," she said. "Some times it is best to start with a good primer if you don't know what you are painting over."
In the old days paints came in oil and latex (water) base. Over the years technology has allowed water based latex, enamel and acrylic paints to give the same coverage and finish as oils, and they are more environmentally friendly.
Technology has also changed in how paint is matched and mixed. Computers can scan and color match a paint chip to a near-exact match, where in the old days you would have to match the color to an existing color card, and add tint in small amounts to get it just right. When you finished, it was written down on an index card for future use.
Betty has a lot of index cards - several card trays full. "One tray was missing one day, and one of the girls in interior design said she was trying to computerize them. Betty told her that was fine, but they could do that after she left. "I was afraid they might get a number off," Betty said.
Paint colors are coded with letters and numbers corresponding to tint colors and amounts, getting a number off would change the color.
Betty also has a file of painting contractors. Some who work for apartment companies my want the same paint colors all the time, or a home owner may want to repaint a room the same color after 20 years.
During the summer, busy season, Betty often mixes 20 to 25 gallons of paint a day. She also has to order and restock the shelves. A few years ago Betty thought she might have to give up the paint business when she was diagnosed with a severe illness, but no, she beat it and was back at work after just a few months.
Betty will miss the people the most. For those too young to remember, Betty's mother owned a restaurant at Gordon Junction, and she grew up there, waiting on customers and talking with people. "I love people and being around them," Betty said.
Finding a replacement will not be easy. "I am sure they will have a million questions," Betty said, who plans to come back as needed to help out. "The probably won't pay me, though. It will be different."