Robert (Bob) Emerson Butler, son of Calvin David Butler and Dora Ramsdell Butler, died peacefully at 12:05 pm on November 07, 2020 surrounded by family. Bob was 96 years old. Mr. Butler was born in Salem, Massachusetts on March 15, 1924. He wanted it to be known that he spent only three days there before getting out of town as fast as he could and moving to Maine. Since his mother was terminally ill, they went to Lubec to be with her mother. He was two years old when she died, and he moved to Machais to live with his paternal grandmother, Susie Butler.
Mr. Butler graduated from Machais High School in 1941 and Coburn Classical Institute in 1942.
After completing a year at the University of Maine in pre-med, he enlisted in the service. He was assigned overseas to the 104th Infantry Division and later to the Medical Detachment of the 1272nd Combat Engineer Battalion. He served in France and was on a ship bound for the China Theater when the war ended at the fall of Japan. He liked to show a picture of his ship arriving in New York City Harbor – the first arrivals after the war ended.
Following his return from overseas and prior to his discharge from the service, Mr. Butler married Gertrude McFarland of Bar Harbor: “the best and greatest thing I ever did.” They were married for 63 years. She had been an inspiration for him all of his life, and because of her help she made it possible for him to devote most of his time and energy to his work and interest in education and athletics.
After his discharge from the service Mr. Butler and his wife Gertrude returned to the University of Maine. While there his major changed from pre-med to pre-dental, and he transferred to the University of Pennsylvania Dental School. After the completion of one year he decided that working in people’s mouths was not for him. He enrolled at Springfield College and two years and two summers later he graduated with a BS Degree. The following year he received his MA Degree from the University of Maine and later received his MA Degree in Chemistry from the University of New Hampshire.
Mr. Butler taught and coached basketball and baseball at Berwick High School. In 1952 he came to York where he taught chemistry and biology while serving 25 years as the first Director of Athletics at York High School. Later he became the Assistant Principal and continued to serve as the Athletic Director until he retired in 1983.
The Maine Principals’ Association established tournament play in 1922. His interest in basketball led him to collect and tabulate tournament and seasonal records for interscholastic basketball throughout the state. Bob made contributions to several authors who had written about Maine High School Basketball. Mrs. Butler had started to attend the games with him in the 1960’s and saw 55 games the first week; Bob thought she thought it was great. Mr. and Mrs. Butler worked together to compile the Heal Point Standings for all high school basketball teams in the State of Maine for 41 years, and he compiled and kept tournament records since 1950.
Initially he and his wife compiled the standings long hand with pencil and paper, then they used an adding machine, which later changed to using a computer. At that time he was assisted by his son David because of his much-needed help with technology. Eventually all of the work compiling the standings was automated, and his services were no longer needed. He continued however to keep the tournament records.
Since 1950 Mr. Butler had not missed a Western Maine Class B, C, D tournament basketball game until the passing of his wife Gertrude in February of 2008. They were both very proud to receive the Maine Association of Basketball Coaches Contributor Award recognizing their service for high school athletics and academics. Mr. Butler had also been recognized for outstanding and dedicated service to the Maine Interscholastic Athletics by the Maine Sports Hall of Fame and the Maine Interscholastic Athletic Directors Association. From the Western Maine Board of Basketball Officials, he received the Ollie Berg Memorial Award for outstanding contributions to Maine High School Basketball. He was inducted into the first classes of both The York High School Hall of Fame and The Maine Basketball Hall of Fame, and also into The New England Basketball Hall of Fame.
His 33 years of service to the Southern York Secondary School Association (SYSSA) was recognized through the Robert E. Butler Award, based on athleticism and character and presented each year to the outstanding senior boy and girl in that conference. This award is now being presented by the Western Maine Conference in his name. Upon his retirement Mr. Butler was honored by the York School Department with the naming of the new gymnasium at York High School as the Robert E. Butler Gymnasium. From the Western Maine Board of Basketball Officials, he was awarded the Larry LaBrie Award for his contributions to the Maine Principals’ Association. Mr. LaBrie was a retired Assistant Executive Director of the Maine Principals’ Association.
Mr. Butler and his wife served as tour guides to Europe. She went with Vern Davenport and adults eight times during the month of February, and he went during April with students. Needless to say, he went to the tournament during February.
Upon retirement, Bob and Gertrude traveled extensively in their motor home from Newfoundland to Alaska and from Maine to California and Florida. Anyone who knew Mr. Butler realized that his love for his students, education, and athletics was second only to the love for his family. His mother had died when she was twenty-four and his father died at the age of forty-five. He was raised by his grandmother who died when “Bobby” was eighteen. His brother Kenneth died while in his twenties. Having experienced such great loss made keeping his family close of paramount importance. He and Gertrude made certain that they would not miss any of their children’s or grandchildren’s sporting events and activities, and they planned their vacations to make this possible.
Bob was a member of The National Education Association, The Maine Teachers Association, and The Maine Principals Association. He was a former member of the Masonic Lodge in South Berwick and the York Golf and Tennis Club and a former trustee of the York Public Library. Upon his retirement in 1983, he and his son Robert taught drivers’ education at York High School for 17 years.
Mr. Butler was predeceased by his wife of 63 years Gertrude, who passed away on February 20, 2008 while attending the Western Maine Tournament, his son-in-law Ronald E. Avery, who passed on March 16, 2020, his brother Kenneth Butler, his aunt and uncle Marian and Pennell Worcester, his sisters-in-law, Linda Palfrey, Adelma Richardson, and Statie Foster, and his brother-in-law Chauncey McFarland Jr. He is survived by three children: Robert, Jr. and his wife Delight, Wanda-Lee Avery, and David and his wife Crystal. All three of his children married and settled in York. Each of his children and all of his grandchildren graduated from York High School. He felt it was his good fortune to be able to attend all of their in school and out of school activities. They felt that they were being parents a second time around. He leaves his nine grandchildren that he and Gertrude thought the world of and treated as their own and eighteen great grandchildren: Calvin Butler, his wife Kathy and their children Braden and Brynn; Lloyd Butler and his partner Julie and his children Simon and Robin; Carissa, her husband Liam Quinlan and their children Marshall and Preston; Ronald Avery, Jr., his wife Elizabeth and their children Lincoln, Daphne, and Tobin; Brandon Avery, his wife Johnna and their children Nya and Ronin; Ryan Avery, his children Myles and Della and their mother Melissa, Ryan’s partner Rebekkah, and her children Tatum and Eli; Jared Avery, his wife Angela and their children Owen, Addisyn, and Quinn; Nicholas Butler, his wife Tiffany and their children Tyler and Eleanor; Jessica and her husband Adam Alexander. He also leaves his sister-in-law Helena Butler of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, a nephew Kenneth and a niece Robin, a cousin Pennell Worcester of Naples. Additionally, he leaves Gertrude’s’ nieces and nephews, Julia Crafts, Linda Olsen, James and Chauncey McFarland, and Kevin Foster.
Someone once asked Mr. Butler how does one know if they are successful. He replied that success was finding work that you liked, something that had hope for the future, and someone to love. He felt he had found the first two In York and that he had brought the third one with him.
Calling hours will be held at the Lucas & Eaton Funeral Home, 91 Long Sands Rd., York, Maine on Saturday, November 14 from 1:00 to 3:00 pm and from 5:00 to 7:00 pm. Due to COVID-19, private funeral services will be held at the Lucas & Eaton Funeral Home on Sunday, November 15, at 1:00 pm. Following the service, the funeral procession will drive along York Beach to the Nubble and then back to the high school. His final visits to two of his favorite places. Plans are to arrive at the high school at 2:30 should anyone want to stand in the parking lot to show their respect. Following that, burial will be at the First Parish Cemetery in York Village.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made towards a scholarship fund. Please make checks payable to Robert E. Butler and send them to Jeff Chase, 8 Snowbird Lane York, Maine 03909.
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