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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Bill Butler, 1952-2013




My brother-in-law, William Eugene Butler, was found dead in his home December 21. An autopsy showed that he had a heart attack. He had been helping his neighbors shovel their driveways.

As I was shoveling snow this week, I remembered what Bill had said, that if you shovel it before you drive on it, you don't pack it down. So far this year I've had partial success.

Bill knew how to make a double heart shape by driving a certain way in the snow. Of course, then you pack it down, but that's ok.

Bill was a retired police officer. Before he was in law enforcement, he worked at the Hennepin County Home School. He helped me recover my bicycle after it was stolen the day of the Roseville tornado in 1981. We put up reward posters, and he took me to the home of the perpetrator where I identified the bike so the Roseville police would have probable cause. It is the same bike I ride today.

Bill introduced us to the Ironman 100K bike ride, and that was a family event for us in the early 80's.

One day some young kids threw some eggs at our house. Before the eggs had dried or we even knew what had happened, they were at our front door to apologize. Bill had spotted them, followed them to the corner store, got them to tell the truth, and arranged for them to clean up the mess.

When my father died in 1982, it was Bill who was the calming presence and kept the to-do list.

He was my emergency contact. He drove me home after I had surgery for a deviated septum. He drove Mom to the dentist, even after he and my sister were separated. He visited her when she was in transitional care. He took her to see Scott. He took Mom to see the Blue Angels air show. He took us to the Carlton Celebrity Room.

He travelled to Iowa to observe the RAGBRAI bike ride there, and was good to my grandmother Evelyn Harper. When Spencer and I visited Evelyn for the last time in 2005, Bill gave me several ideas for interesting side trips, including the caves along the Minnesota-Iowa border, and the scenic Mississippi River valley along the Wisconsin border.

Bill had an artistic side. He made creative maps, and in recent years managed to wear a Santa hat in his driver's license photo. He made a lot of videos of his daughters growing up, and we were watching some of those this year.

Mom kept a Diet Coke for him in the corner of the refrigerator. The last time he visited was late summer or early fall as I recall. He offered to take Mom to visit her brother in Iowa, but she wasn't up to it with the logistics of the oxygen. He told me he had visited with Ray Widstrand. Ray was a former boyfriend of Bill's daughter, and survived a beating after trying to walk through a gang fight. To me that was Bill, there for people going through difficulty.

I will miss him.

7 Comments:

At Wed Dec 25, 03:50:00 PM CST, Anonymous Laurie O. said...

Beautiful tribute, Tom. Bill was a great guy. I had no idea he had offered to bring Marilyn down to visit Dad. I feel so sad for all of you.

 
At Sat Dec 28, 11:41:00 AM CST, Anonymous Deb Rankin-Moore said...

I feel as if I knew the guy - sounds like a good man. So sorry for the loss for all of the Cleland family.

 
At Sat Dec 28, 12:13:00 PM CST, Anonymous Kate Larson said...

Bill was tireless in his commitment to his community. He often did lawn care for elderly in his neighborhood, no payment required. If he saw a need, and he always seemed to be on alert (the police officer in him) he was there helping out. I know his neighborhood will suffer his loss

 
At Sat Dec 28, 02:33:00 PM CST, Blogger martin fallon said...

In the Army, Bill was stationed near Frankfort, Germany, where he was able to visit my sister.
I was impressed when Bill was named after me. As we all know, he was a great guy.
We will miss him. Bill Butler ("Big Bill").

 
At Tue Dec 31, 04:29:00 PM CST, Blogger Anna Erickson said...

I am sickened to hear that Bill had diedI was a manager at apartment complex where I got to know him as a police officerhe was a great man and will be missed

 
At Thu Jan 09, 03:21:00 PM CST, Blogger Frank Podrebarac said...

Well said Tom. I am saddened to hear of his loss. He was a great brother-in-law. Always there to help and to have fun and be a guiding force. From air shows to haunted woods and bon fires, he was always there. Not sure how many flyers for Blue Angels videos we put on windshields but we always had fun.

Rest in peace Bill - I am better for having known you.

 
At Fri Jan 10, 09:37:00 AM CST, Blogger Tom Cleland said...

Thank you all for your comments.

 

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