Finding A Purpose At The Falmouth Service Center

Gary Mutti prepared a meal in the new professional kitchen of the Falmouth Service Center on Tuesday, which would not be remarkable but for the fact that a year ago at this time he was in a coma.

Gary Mutti is his real name and he did not want to change it for this story. "I've got nothing to be ashamed of," he said. What he has is a life story that would be hard to believe if it were not true.

He looks a bit older than his 55 years, but that is to be expected after the abuse he put himself through for 40 years. His coma was caused by alcohol abuse so severe it damaged his pancreas. He was diagnosed with pancreatitis in 2008, but continued to drink alcohol.

His wife of 10 years, Carolyne, died of an opiate overdose in July 2011, and Mr. Mutti kept drinking. "I was more or less on a suicide mission," he said.

On November 19 last year, he was preparing to come to Falmouth to help his brother, chef David Mutti, make the annual Thanksgiving meal for hundreds at the Navigator when his pancreas failed.

An ambulance took him to the hospital, where he lapsed into a coma. Doctors brought him back twice after his heart stopped, he was given last rites, and his family was told to say good-bye, but he held on.

He woke up after a month still hallucinating from the high ammonia levels in his blood from his failed pancreas. He hallucinated that his arms were tied with telephone cords. He thought he was being imprisoned and he tried to escape from the hospital by yelling fire.

After the hallucinations stopped, he asked his mother if they were still all set to go to the Cape for Thanksgiving. No, she told him, you missed that by a month. He still has no memories of that time. "It's just away," he said. "You wake up and you miss time."

Mr. Mutti is clearly thriving at the Falmouth Service Center. "I've never seen a community with so much heart, with so much caring," he said.

"They helped me by offering this opportunity to help," he said.

But the date that he lapsed into a coma is also the day he stopped drinking. He has now been sober for over a year. "It truly, truly changed my life," he said.

Today, Mr. Mutti looks strong. His face is bright and animated. His voice is gruff, but often bounces into a raspy chuckle.

He spends most of his time with his brother David, who was the chef at Liam Maguire's for years. They work in the kitchen at the Falmouth Service Center making food for others.

The addition of the new kitchen at the Falmouth Service Center as part of a major renovation has given Mr. Mutti and others an opportunity to give back at the same time they are receiving help. "Dave and I brainstorm all the time about ideas for meals," he said. "It's given me a purpose and an opportunity to use my time and my talents."

The Mutti brothers prepare the monthly Falmouth Eats Together community feast which started in October. Mr. Mutti is clearly thriving at the Falmouth Service Center. "I've never seen a community with so much heart, with so much caring," he said.

"They helped me by offering this opportunity to help," he said.

It is appropriate that he spends so much time in the kitchen because he has worked in the restaurant business since he was a teenager. "I loved the restaurant business, but it's not conducive to a happy home life," he said.

All donations to The Enterprise Community Fund go directly to the service center. Contributions are tax-deductible under the service center's nonprofit tax status and may be dropped off at the newspaper office or mailed to The Enterprise, 50 Depot Avenue, Falmouth, MA 02540.

Mr. Mutti grew up in Marlborough, the youngest of four children. "I'm the baby," he said. He was an athlete when he was younger and loved hockey. "I loved the feeling of a good hit," he said with a laugh, "whether I was the recipient or the provider." He is disgusted by the NHL lockout and the players and owners arguing over obscene amounts of money.

He recently moved into his own place in the Falmouth Housing Authority development on Rose Morin Lane and is adjusting to life there. The damage he did to his body still catches up to him, he said. "I feel like an old man, when I leave here. I go home and take a nap because I'm so beat," he said. He is a brittle diabetic, which requires six shots a day.

On Mr. Mutti's arms are four tattoos, a smiley face smoking a cigar, a joker, a tribute to his wife Carolyne, and a Harley-Davidson shield. He owns a motorcycle, but has not ridden it in a long time. Now that he has recovered he plans to ride it again.

"You can solve the problems of the world when you're on a bike," he said.

Falmouth Service Center Executive Director Brenda B. Swain said the new kitchen can be a training ground for clients so they learn skills to help get them back on their feet. Mr. Mutti already has the skills and is teaching them to others.

The Falmouth Service Center, at 611 Gifford Street, is a community food pantry and also offers help with food stamps and fuel assistance applications, clothing, small household goods, and referral and resource information to residents of Falmouth and Mashpee.

This story first appeared in the November 30, 2012 edition of The Enterprise, kicking off the community fund series.

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