When Butch Butts turned 70 — nearly a decade ago — he got a birthday present from his 7-year-old grandson.
And after the Palmyra man died of COVID-19 in February, his family cleaned out his house and discovered those two shiny quarters, held together with a piece of tape and accompanied by a handwritten note: “Jacob gave me on 70th birthday — he got from his piggy bank.”
He was sentimental that way. Saving old birthday cards and Christmas cards. Filling a long table in the living room with photos of his five kids — Tom, Mike, Scott, Jody and Julie, the baby everyone called Punky — and their families.
His obituary called him unique. One of a kind. “Filled with laughter, kindness and love.”
He was a hard worker, said his oldest daughter, Jody Parrott.
“I think he worked full time until he was 76, he just always wanted to be busy.”
Even after he retired from TMCO — assembling gas meters — he was always busy. Helping his kids, helping a neighbor.
“He was very generous,” said his oldest son, Tom. “So willing to help out whenever you had issues.”
And when he lent a hand, he knew what he was doing. Their mom would say: “There’s nothing your dad could not fix.”
Butch and Linda were long divorced but they remained friends. When Butch went out antiquing in search of oil lamps for his collection, he’d pick up a ceramic chicken or a rooster, too, because he knew she liked them.
“He always helped Mom get groceries,” Jody said. “He did so much for all of us.”
Butch loved the Huskers, mounted a big red N on his fence that lit up at night. He was a Chiefs fan and a NASCAR fan, too, who taught his sons how to fix and paint cars in their little garage when they were teenagers.
He liked to fish. He liked to feed the birds. He liked strawberry-rhubarb pie, the kind Jody always made him for his birthday on May 24.
He lived across the street from the town park and when Palmyra started having its Fourth of July festival there, the family would have a cookout in the yard and set up lawn chairs to watch the fireworks.
He kept a candy jar out for the grandkids.
He kept track of everyone’s birthday, kids and all those grandkids, too.
“I can’t even remember that,” his son Scott said. “But Dad remembered them all.”
Butch worked in Texas back in the late ’90s and always kept his fondness for the Lone Star State.
Cowboy hats, cowboy boots, shined and kept in the original boxes.
COVID put him in the hospital Jan. 20 and after he was no longer contagious, all his loved ones were able to come up to his room and stay as long as they liked.
They brought in pictures from that big table in his living room. There was red beer.
“It was a great last four days,” Jody said.
They will bury Albert “Butch” Butts in May in Burlington, Iowa, where he grew up fishing on the Mississippi River, the place he always called home.
The hardworking man fought so hard to recover, but he accepted his fate, his oldest daughter said. His family is working to do the same.
“I just have to remember I’m not the only one who lost a loved one to COVID.”
— Cindy Lange-Kubick
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