Butler, Dave Part I - II - III

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                                                      DAVE BUTLER
                                     Friends recall Dave Butler as a lover of words,
                                                good friend, great teacher
                                                    By Doug Underhill


The sudden death of sports lover and writer Dave Butler on Sunday was a blow to his family, his friends and to his community. He was a tireless promoter of his community, whether it was through his teaching or his writing. His efforts earned him an induction to the Chatham Sports Wall of Fame in the builder category.

Butler had many friends who remembered him well. One was Carl Burns. Burns was a teacher and English department head at James M. Hill until he retired in 1988. Burns was a colleague of Butler’s for many years. They taught together and spent many hours debating sports through early morning pre-class chats and through lunch hours.

“Dave was one of the best English teachers in the province and a very good friend. He’d always call or drop in when I was in the hospital. We shared a great rapport and exchange of ideas. He was always on top of every situation and knew his material very well. All of his students will be feeling badly about the news of his passing. His death will certainly leave a hole in their lives. The community is losing an icon,” said Burns.

Burns said he missed Butler’s columns in the papers. “I miss his columns in the papers. He certainly had a talent for writing and showed great wit,” said Burns.

Burns explained how Butler would challenge his students. “Dave would always drop ideas on how to research a topic. He’d get them interested, but wouldn’t give them the answer. He’d make them want to know and then have to look it up themselves. He would set them on the track to find the answers and tell them where to look, but they’d have to do the research themselves. A lot of teachers don’t have that skill. He will certainly be missed,” said Burns.

Joe Breen grew up with Butler, went to college with him, and played on many of the same sports teams with him. Later they were teaching colleagues and long-time friends. “In his youth, Dave was an excellent student and athlete. He was a fine teacher, and a fine man,” said Breen.

John Lordon also grew up in the same neighbourhood as Butler, went to college with him, and played on the same hockey and football teams. They have been lifelong friends, chatting almost weekly. Lordon was asked to give the eulogy at Butler’s funeral.

“Dave was one of my closest boyhood friends growing up. We later had different lives, but were always in touch. It was not unusual for me to find a letter from him in my mailbox in the morning. He was an early riser and loved to write letters. He wrote most of his life. It was ironic and almost eerie to see one of his letters in the Telegraph Journal the day after his death. He was still communicating after he had died”, said Lordon.

Lordon remembered Butler and his love of reading and literature. “Dave was a voracious reader and collector of books. He was a scholar in all aspects. My daughter, Pauline, was an English major and she would call home looking for information on topics and how to approach them. I’d call Dave and he would offer a framework of how to approach the topic, references to look up and generally how to approach the topic. He did that for many of his students and teachers who were taking courses,” said Lordon.

Lordon remembers one book Butler gave to him. “It was called Wordstruck by Robert MacNeil. The title sums up David Butler. He was word struck,” said Lordon.

Lordon spoke of how Butler supported his community. “Dave was a tireless promoter of this community. He promoted Miramichi kids, Miramichi athletes and the Miramichi in general. And he was a sincere promoter. He loved to see Miramichiers succeed and celebrated that in his writing. He was recognized by his community by his induction into the Chatham Wall of Fame in the builder category,” said Lordon.

Lordon, like many who knew Butler, will always remember his laugh. “He had a very distinct laugh. You could hear him for miles, and he loved to laugh.”

Lordon reminisced about his boyhood days with Butler. “We had a wonderful boyhood in the pre-TV era. We were part of the Henderson St./Howard St. gang. We’d always be playing road hockey or flag football or bothering the neighbours. There were a lot of broken windows and false fire-alarms. I believe there were more false alarms in our area than the rest of Chatham together. I can remember climbing trees and watching the fire-truck coming. Of course we would never pull them”, said Lordon.

“I also remember the boxing matches in Neil ‘Nipper’ O’Brien’s. We’d use the big 16-ounce gloves, so no one got hurt, but there were always a few bloody noses, and I remember the nights we’d go swimming off the wharf. We amused ourselves and we read a lot,” said Lordon.

Lordon remembered a complete set of the works of Charles Dickens in particular. “We had a complete set of Dickens in our living room. Davie and I read the whole set. We spent many a winter’s night there reading. Those are fine memories.”

David Cadogan also knew Butler well. Butler wrote for his papers over theyears. “Dave Butler was one of the more multi-talented people I’ve known. He was very good in sports, writing, teaching, and scholarship. He was a voracious reader. As recently as last week, I received a message from him about an article in the New Yorker. At the top of his form, Dave was one of the funniest writers I have ever read,” said Cadogan.

Well-known writer, Ray Fraser, now lives in Fredericton. He grew up with Butler and remembers him fondly. “I knew Dave from early boyhood. We started Grade 1 together at St. Michael’s Academy and remained constant friends throughout the years. We played sports together, swapped books and ideas, did some boisterous partying, and had common interest in writing,” said Fraser. “Dave always loved sports and in his time was an outstanding hockey player, a defenceman in the style of the great Doug Harvey, and in my opinion should be recognized on the Wall of Fame as a player as well as a builder. He was a solid football player as well, in the era of Vance Toner’s redoubtable STU Tommies.”

Fraser also appreciated Butler’s sense of humour. “He had an excellent sense of humour. He was one of the best raconteurs I ever had the pleasure of listening to, and could take this gift to the printed page where he was a spirited colourful writer. “I saw a letter by him in Monday’s Telegraph-Journal, and I think it’s fitting that like Alden Nowlan, he was writing right up to the end,” said Fraser.


Source: Miramichi Leader – August 22, 2003

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PART II

                                                            DAVE BUTLER
                                        Language lover, teacher, Dave Butler is dead at 62
                                                         By Doug Underhill


The Miramichi was saddened Monday to learn of the sudden death of M. David Butler. Butler, 62, died of kidney failure (acute renal failure) late Sunday at Miramichi Regional Hospital.

Butler is survived by two children, John and Sue; granddaughter, Megan, his mother Phyllis Butler and his brother Donald and sister Maureen. He was married to Margaret (Neathway) Butler.

And although it may seem trivial to say, he leaves behind his dog “Zak”. Dave and Zak were a common sight, walking together daily.

Butler had not been feeling well of late and admitted himself into the hospital late last week. He was alert and talking to the family early Sunday. He had agreed to begin writing a regular column to the Leader this fall if his health improved.

Butler was well known in the community. He was born in Chatham on April 6, 1941, and lived in Saint John for a period before returning to Chatham. He attended St. Thomas University in Chatham and was the valedictorian for the last graduating class before the university moved to Fredericton in 1964.

Butler was a teacher for most of his life. He taught his first year in Black’s Harbour, N.B. and then returned to Chatham where he taught at St. Thomas High and later James M Hill until he retired in 1995.

He was well respected by colleagues and was noted for his voracious reading and his eye for detail. He was certainly one of the better English teachers in the province.

He wrote many good critical reviews and papers on many aspects of English and literature.

Butler loved, defended English

He had also been a well-known columnist for the MiramichiLeader/Weekend and the Moncton Times & Transcript and The Telegraph Journal. He covered sports and wrote columns and letters on many of the social and political issues of the day. He was noted for a unique turn of phrase and subtle humour. A couple of his articles were even picked up by the Montreal Gazette. He also freelanced for many Maritime magazines.

Butler played and loved sports. He captained a Chatham Juvenile hockey team to the Maritime title and played for St. Thomas Tommies hockey team while in college, including the year they won the Maritime title. He was also a centerman in football for the Tommies.

Greg Morris knew Butler well, both as a teaching colleague and from a sporting perspective.

“Dave was a great scholar and a great educator. He was English Department head for many years. He was an excellent defenceman in hockey and a very good centerman in football. In the hey day of the Chatham Ironmen in the 1970s, he was one of our greatest allies. And he was a great friend. We talked three or four times a week right up until he died. He will be missed by many,” said Morris.

Butler coached many sports and was a great supporter of the Miramichi sporting community. He would often serve as colour man for radio and hockey broadcasts when Miramichi teams were playing away. He was a fixture at most sporting events along the river. He always loved a good laugh and was a friend to many.

M. David Butler as he liked to sign his name, or “Dave” or “Butts” or “Bard Butler” as he often referred to himself, will be greatly missed by all who knew him as an educator, friend and writer.

David Butler left his mark on the Miramichi community and will be greatly missed.

Butler will be waked at Adams Funeral Home with arrangementsto be announced.

(Doug Underhill was a longtime friend and colleague of Dave Butler.)


Source: Miramichi Leader – August 19, 2003

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PART III

                                              HOW TO REMEMBER DAVID BUTLER?
                                              McKenna Fires Starter Pistol
                                                    By David Cadogan


A vivid Miramichi citizen, David Butler, died Sunday night. Since then, reporters, who all knew David, and friends have been talking about how to tell people about this remarkable man. The problem is that there are some diseases we still don't like to talk about.

In addition to being a good athlete, exciting teacher, voracious scholar and brilliant writer, David suffered from the disease of alcoholism. It often seems that vicious and humiliating affliction cripples the best and brightest among us. It is especially cruel because it robs its victims not only of their health, but also their dignity, their friends, and often their families. Even if the family is not broken, it is deeply scarred. Anyone not susceptible is just plain lucky. People who knew David well wonder if his drinking and his hunger to be reassured of his obvious brilliance and talent were somehow related. In spite of his curse, David Butler made an amazing success of his life. His students admired and respected him so much that they covered for him when he wasn't fit to perform. That was because he kept them off balance with hilarious, mystifying, irreverent and inspiring lessons. His assignments often dominated dinner table discussion in his student's homes.

School administrations went extra mile after extra mile to try to keep his inspiring performance alive in the classrooms. Reporters for competing media helped fill in the blanks for him when he was in trouble. That was because he always helped them when they didn't know where to start on a story.

                                                       Sports and art

The sporting community, always in his debt, made his reporting as easy as they could. He not only promoted their efforts, he was always supportive and, unlike some sports commentators, he knew what he was talking about. Students in drama and the other arts got and treasured the same support and intelligent commentary.

It is difficult to explain just how important David Butler was to this newspaper and its’ readers in the late 70s. He was the foundation of its sports coverage, chief book reviewer for local authors, and most amusing columnist on a wide variety of subjects. Some of those columns were classics. I particularly remember one he wrote about rink rats and the rink manager. It was so vivid it turned the reader into a kid again and put him out in the winter dark with his gear bag hooked over his hockey stick. Another was a parody imagining an entire CBC TV fall program schedule.

Perhaps the most telling comment I can make about Butler's writing has to do with a piece he didn't write. In "Playboy" magazine one month, there was a humourous article written by David Butler. At first I was ecstatic to think our David had sold a piece to the highest paying magazine in the world. I read it and came back to earth. "David didn't write this," I said. "It isn't nearly good enough to be David." On his scholarship, I once tossed off a silly line I'd read in Mad magazine when I was a boy. Butler casually named the author of what was, unbeknownst to me, a piece of Victorian literature.

He seemed to read every idea being expressed in all the major magazines. His last letter to me contained an article from the New Yorker very complimentary to Canada. He expressed his gratification that Rick MacLean was returning to the Leader. He claimed to be feeling well and he was certainly thinking clearly. His sardonic appreciation of Miramichi lunacy came through in one anecdote. He spoke of being at a public function outdoors where various establishment figures spoke. "Only on the Miramichi," wrote David, describing how one of the local characters yelled out to a female speaker, "Show us your tits!"

We can wonder but never know what David might have accomplished without his demons. We can be certain that his impact on Miramichi readers and students will continue to ripple out for years and generations to come.


Source: Miramichi Weekend – August 22, 2003


PART IV

                                                        Deo Gratias
                                                    By Father Broderick


It is 12:30 a.m., sleep has eluded me; I sense more than hear someone near my door; then comes the almost inaudible sound of someone dropping a letter into my mailbox. I peek through the curtains and leaving the driveway I see Murray David Butler with his faithful dog, Zak. David has more than once declared "Zak is 57 pounds of solid canine muscle and bone; he never seeks trouble, but he never slinks from any other mutt, large or small."

In the morning there will be a hand written letter of three or more pages. Letters have been arriving at my door each week for a number years. The letter may contain nothing more than day-to-day events: mention• of his mother Phyllis, who is always referred to by her maiden name. There may be typical remarks a proud father might say concerning daughter Sue and son John. His faithful caretaker, Taz, and wife are from time to time complimented for their work, for the good meals, etc. Mention is sometimes made about carpenter and painting work that is being done to his home "by a bunch of crazy Irishmen", David's way of saying he appreciates their presence. Frequently he encloses a copy of a magazine article or an editorial. David is always appreciative. The letter always ends with a Latin phrase like Dominus vobiscum or benedicamus Domino.

The use of Latin phrases often led David to reminisce about the days of his childhood when he, John Lordon, Bob McCallum, and others took on the weekly task of serving the 7 a.m. mass at the convent. For David, the snow was so much deeper, the wind howled more fiercely, and the temperature fell far below anything experienced today. The Latin answers for mass, he proudly stated, were taught him by his father - a veteran altar server of many years. After David recalled such memories, I might meet Sister Fitzpatrick and hear her say "I had a nice letter from David Butler. He talked about the days I taught him. He was always appreciative. He was a bright boy".

Trading books took place, mostly one way from David. Once I gave him a copy of The Return of The Prodigal Son, by Henri Houwen. Shortly afterward David obtained and had framed a large painting of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt; it hangs in his parlor.

Thomas Aquinas claims that every age produces individuals worthy of the title Magnifencia. Magnifencia is not easily translated. Perhaps 'loftiness of thought' comes close. David Butler falls into that category. He loved sacred scripture, Shakespeare, many plays, including Murder in the Cathedral, A Man For All Season, Saint Joan - all the wonderful things that come forth from the minds of individual women and men, he knew and cherished. 'The glory of God is man (woman) fully alive' says it all.

On a Thursday evening I phone David. He stated he was unwell and hoping to see the doctor. The next day I learned he had entered hospital. I visited him. We talked. His sense of humor never left him. David acknowledged death was near. I read part of the story of the prodigal son. We prayed. It was a privilege to give him the Last Rites of the church. At his request, we recited Psalm 23, The Lord is My Shepherd.

As David frequently ended a letter, I'll just say: 'Deo gratias'.


Source: Miramichi Leader – September 09, 2003

This text is available for use under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. For more information, select the following link: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/

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