One of the first times that I met Colonel Eugene Haynes Butler, an 80 year old retired air force fighter pilot, he said to me: “You know one of the biggest problems with your generation?” I waited for a totally different remark than the one which followed. After a short pause he said with a smile, “That I am not a part of it.” (then laughing his unforgettable laugh)
If you have ever met someone who is full of compassion, humor, and seems always able to make any situation they enter better by being in it – then you might have an idea why it was so easy to love and want to be around Colonel Butler, with his unique combination of being confident (e.g. “the best fighter pilot ever”), colorful (e.g. calling bad drivers on the road “those perverts!”, always adding either “Mr.” before your name or “baby” at the end of your name – for example, “Speak to me Mr. Joey” or “Hi Jeremy-baby”), and compassionate (in too many ways to name). Over the next few years we ended up forming a friendship that has changed me in ways which words can not do justice – who I am because of him is forever changed for the better.
Just try to imagine for a moment having someone walk into your life who then begins to do everything in his power to make you happy and successful, who introduces you to all of his favorite people, who teaches you things about generosity and true friendship through his everyday example, who makes you laugh every day, who convinces you that he would do anything he could for you, who talks about how great of a person you are to everyone he knows (even when they get sick of hearing it), who wants to get to know everything he can about you, and who (even knowing your weaknesses) still would defend your name to the death – all the while making you feel like it is you who is doing him some great favor! And then to see first hand how he was also able to do this for countless others in various degrees without making you feel any less special!
If you can even begin to imagine what that would be like, then you will know why it was so difficult for me to go to the intensive care unit of the hospital on Thursday to see this friend of mine unconscious in a coma and on life support, then within 25 hours watching him peacefully slip away into the next life.
I have the burden and honor of speaking at his funeral this Wednesday, and then trying the rest of my life to somehow live up to his personal example and his belief in me.
One thing he always joked about was his own death, and I have wondered since his passing why he was so fearless of death? Being Easter yesterday, I thought specifically of how he repeatedly said his favorite song of all time was Amazing Grace – and the few times he would open up and share with me his feelings about God (not in a contrived, self-righteous way at all – but with a tone that was totally void of pride yet still confident, grateful, and secure).
For so many reasons, I am not worried about him now – I believe he is in a much better place and that one time in the future I will be able to see him again. It just is so hard to think of life without him for now.
If you ever come to Provo, look around and see if you can find a framed quote posted in several of his favorite places…
“Once in a great while, a certain somebody comes into our lives who mirrors our thoughts, lifts our spirits and brightens our hearts. And all of a sudden, life has new meaning and greater purpose than ever before.” (Marieta Donaldson)
(In honor and memory of Colonel Eugene Haynes Butler, war hero, true friend, and loyal patron of Chuck-a-Rama)
Here is a link to the speech that I gave at his funeral: The poetry of Colonel’s life
Here is the memory video I created in his honor. (If you can’t view it, then click here.)
Here are some pictures from the day of the funeral (click on title to see picture):
Bagpiper Playing Amazing Grace
Clint, I am so saddened to hear this after the fact. I wish I could have come to the hospital to pay last respects. I am sure glad I was able to meet Colonel if only for a few short moments. Thankyou for sharing a such personal portrayal of someone so special to you. Depending on what time the funeral is at on Wednesday I will be there. You are in my prayers.
P.S. Who is Marieta Donaldson? I love that quote and want to read her work. Thanks!
Clint…It is most fitting that you post a photo of you and Colonel Butler at the WWII Memorial in D.C. You also brought him to Ohio to visit the Museum of the United States Air Force. I am certain that he would not have visited either place had you not seen to it that he did. Thank you for insisting that he do that before his “final flight”!
I think he was more than a “loyal patron” of Chuck-a-Rama. I think he was at least part owner of the place. When my wife Sheila and I visited and stayed with the Colonel in 2001, he wanted us to see his favorite movie, “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” We saw the movie three times in five days, he liked it so much. After each viewing, we topped the evening off with a visit to, yep you guessed it….Chuck-a-Rama. It became one of our favorites too.
I too have my flag at half staff. All flags in this great country should be at half staff in his memory, and on wed-nesday there should be a “missing man” formation flown over the cemetery in Logan! Colonel Butler was a Great American Patriot, leader, and mentor. He will be remembered and missed a great deal!
Thanks for your comments, they mean a lot to me. A good friend from England came to visit the US for the first time last year and stayed with us for two weeks. She was sad when she found out, but said this: “I didn’t envy anything that America had. Except I did wish we had the Colonel. I don’t pity you a bit for your loss, I just feel jealous he was in your country instead of mine. You shouldn’t be grieving; you should be counting your lucky stars that you ever had him for so long! If he ever came to England, I would never let him go home.”
Thank you for putting that video together Clint. It was so fun to see him when he was younger in his fighter pilot days, and thanks for your words borne out of love for someone who was so special to so many of us.
I have now posted the speech I gave at Colonel’s funeral, and a video that I created in remembrance of him.
Colonel, there is no way I could ever repay you for your kindness, but I only hope to somehow try to live a life which honors your faith in me.
Your tribute of Eugene was very touching. My wife and I both feel that there is no finer person to walk the earth next to our Savior than Eugene. I only wish that I could have had more time with the Colonel. Would you please contact me offline so that we may reminisce about or dear friend.
What a great man. I love the Colonel, he always made me smile and feel good about who I was. He will be missed, but I believe that he is happy where he is (and I’m betting that’s Chuck-O-Rama 😉 Take care!
What a great tribute to Eugene. We miss him already:(
I loved your talk and the slideshow. I want to get a copy of Brett’s talk if you have it. You are in our prayers. Keep in touch!
This is a great site Clint! Uncle Eugene would be happy. I will forward it to my brothers and sisters.
I’m still working on the photos that I took at the funeral and will send them ASAP. My computer was down for a while.
I miss the Colonel very much. For a long time he has been one of my heroes. His confidence + His ability to make people feel special + Love = Someone truly great. I too was at his funeral, and I really appreciated everyone who spoke.
THANK YOU FOR SHARING THIS WITH US. MY UNCLE WAS A VERY SPECIAL PERSON IN MYLIFE.
I HOPE TO MEET YOU ONE DAY.
Hello, I want to say thank you for the kind video you put together of Uncle Eugene.Our Father (James Gordon Butler) loved his lil brother very much.I am sure he is glad to see him again.
He was a big part of our lives. I remember his visits from the time I was a little girl. A very special man. He always would say to me, “Laura Kay, do you still love me?” and I would always reply “Of course” Then i would get a big smile and a great big Uncle Eugene hug. He will be greatly missed by many.
I wasn’t able to come to the services, so I really appreciate the blog and pictures. Thank You and take care.
Laura Kay Butler Boles
I always new him as ‘SCREAMIN EAGLE.’ So
when my sister Janey corrected me I let
it stand. Thank you for the many wonderful things you did for my dear Uncle…especially the trips. He loved you dearly and could only proclaim your
goodness. He said any young lady would do well to ‘catch’ you. He was your best advertisement you know 🙂
There are not words to express my love
for Eugene Haynes Butler…my Uncle,
Friend, 2nd Father, Example and Mentor.
Life was to short a time to have him. How grateful I am for the Gospel of Jesus Christ that proclaims the eternal
unity of families and the Resurrection.
I look forward to the Family Reunion we
will have one day. He has’slipped the surly bonds’ of mortality and entered his Heavenly Father’s presence and is
about His Father’s business. Have you
ever known Eugene Haynes Butler to stand still?!
Thank you so much for this wonderful
tribute to a man worthy of our undying
love. Thank you for being you Clint-
Uncle Eugene said that you were a young
man without peer, unselfish, loyal and
a true disciple of Christ. Some day perhaps we will have the opportunity of
meeting and sharing our appreciation of
Colonel Eugene Haynes Butler..A MAN AMONG MEN.
Carol Butler Milner
Thank you for this lovely site. I just happened upon it and feel sad all over again. I miss him so much. Thank you for being such a good friend to him. With the love and trust he showed you, you could easily have abused and taken advantage of his kind and generous nature. You lived true to his trust in you and you don’t know how much comfort that has given all of us. Thank You
Thank you Judy and everyone – your words mean a lot to me. He left a deep imprint on my life which continues to inspire me to want to be better.
Uncle Eugene was an example of dignity, honor and patriotism to me. He loved the
USAF…he loved flying. He would call and
we would talk for a few hours…the very
last time I heard from him was just about
2 days before he left us for good in mortality. He was clear and coherent and
deeply aware of those he loved. He looked
forward to seeing his family in the eternal
realms and longed to be with them all. I
knew there was a marvelous reunion just
waiting for him. We talked of family and
God and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and how much we both
believed in it..the Gospel, the Doctrine,
the Priesthood and the eternal family we
belonged to. I know with all of my heart
that I will see him again and that death
will not be able to part us again. Now he
is with Clara Jane, his beloved wife and
Haynes his dear son. He is rejoicing and
praying for each of his children yet here
in mortality. That they may so live that
they can all be together again for eternity.
To my dear cousins, THANK YOU for sharing
your Father with me all these many years. I
love each one of you and you are dear to my
heart. How blessed we all have been. How
blessed we yet are! So what remains? Each
of us must do our best and live worthy of
the promises of God..FAMILIES CAN BE TOGETHER FOREVER! He knew it and lived
accordingly. We must too.
He often told me that if he hadn’t been born
a Butler, he would have loved to have been
born a Haynes. He had great respect for his
mother’s father, Charles Wesley Haynes. As
for me, I loved our Grandmother, Maimee Burrus Haynes and have been told often how
much like her I am in build and temperment.
Maybe that is why Uncle Eugene and I were
partners in laughter and genealogy! Missed
That really sad news for us. He was such nice guy. We only met once and shared a meal with Him and Clint at Chuck a Rama Salt Lake City. So good to know we have a life after this.
Thank you SO SO SO much!! I cried and remembered and laughed and cried and remembered and loved and felt SO MUCH HAPPINESS! What a privelage to know Eugene H. Butler I am SO proud!!
Shay Carl Butler!!!!!
Clint-I am Eugene’s half-sister, living in Texas. I am sorry I have been so long in sending my comments, but was in an automobile accident & was laid up for awhile. I was unable to attend the funeral. However, my brothers, Bill & Paul were there. We were not raised in the same household as Eugene & his siblings. The first time I remember seeing him & his brother James Gordon was when they came to my folk’s house in Roswell, NM about 12 yrs. old. Then, in later years, He visited my folks often & it was always a pleasure to visit with him & his family. We all admired him so much for the success he accomplished to spite his hard upbringing. I remember his laugh & his smile. He loved my husband, Marshall Ivey & wanted to take him up in a plane, but Marshall backed out. Eugene always said he thought I didn’t want him to go. That was in 1956 & I really don’t remember. But, he liked to kid me about it. He was truly a wonderful person. He loved our mother & her chocolate pies. He is truly missed by lots of people.
Hey Clint thank you for posting this wonderful message about Grandpa. We all miss him alot in California and hope to see all of you again soon. 🙂
What a great tribute to a great man. I had the privilege of living in Eugene’s home from 1998 – 2000. I was a returned missionary/college student trying to find my way through those years.
Eugene was one of the only friends I had when I first arrived in Provo from Arizona. We had many late night talks about his military experience and of course he always had something to say about the President of the US during that time. I get a chuckle just thinking about it now:-)
Eugene is one of the kindest men I have ever met. It was obvious by the many visitors and friends he had coming to his home. I don’t believe I have ever met someone who had so many “best friends”. Or, at least Eugene helped them to believe that.
Thank you Clint for a beautiful tribute. I believe I had the privilege of meeting you on one of your trips with Eugene. I am sad to discover his passing but I am confident that he is well taken care of.
-Damon Porter (Arizona)
Hello Clint 🙂
Today, I typed my father’s name just to
see what I might find… and amazingly
this site came up. I am so glad that you
have kept it up and added to it. I didn’t realize how much having Uncle Eugene to talk to had helped me not to be totaly lost at the passing of my own
dear father. Today, it hit like a ton of
bricks…that they are both no longer here in mortality with me. But I also
found considerable peace as the tears flowed freely from my heart. I was able
to mourn the loss of two of the three
men I love the most. How the Gospel of
Jesus Christ brings peace! Like you, I
am trying to live up to their trust and
confidence in me. I am pressing forward.
On Sundays, when as Primary President I
find myself standing before the little
children, I think of what both my Father
and dear Uncle could share with them. The life’s experiences, the joys & sorrows, the hope, trust, faith and
knowlege they have gained. WHAT A REUNION MUST BE GOING ON on the other
side of the veil! In your slide show
I saw pictures of Uncle Eugene and some
of his family I had never seen before.
Thank you so much! From sunny California,
SCREAMIN EAGLE, SEE YOU SOON 🙂
God speed brother
Even now I sometimes find myself sitting outside his house. I don’t know how I get there, but I know the way so well. I went up the other night and picked up all the apples out of his and Cecille’s gutters, and I thought about how he always said he was going to poison the trees so they wouldn’t grow anymore apples, but yet he always picked up all those stupid apples. Then I cried.
2010 has dawned bright, forceful and yet
free! I am sure the good Lord is stepping up the pace of time as a week
seems only like about 2-3 days anymore.
There is so much that needs to be done
and as I stated, it seems that there is
so little time to do it all in. Recently
I have been reading through a former manual for college aged students. It is
called, ‘LIVING PROPHETS FOR A LIVING
CHURCH.” It was published by the Church
education system. The counsel is so wise
and declaritive in it. As I have studied
it I found myself reminiscing about the
great conversations Uncle Eugene and I so often found ourselves in. He was a wise man. If you ever get a chance to
read it I know you will reflect on just
where the Church is today and how near
to Christ’s 2nd Coming we truly are. I
am sure that you will appreciate it’s
contents. I know my uncle would 😉
I hope that life has given you many sweet experiences since our loss…Uncle
Eugene said that there is a time for everything under the heavens…but admonished me to press forward in faith.
We just never know what God has in mind
to bless us with or to teach us or to
refine us with. I hope your life is sweet…From the Milner Family to you…
God speed little brother.
I served under Colonel Butler at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona and again at Tuy Hoa, Vietnam where we flew more than a few combat missions together. We each received Distinguished Flying Crosses for a mission he led with me hanging on as his wing man. It was a wild ride against a determined enemy and the colonel was as courageous as he was competent.Every human should aspire to fly through this life as his wingman
I visited his home when he was stationed in Del Rio Texas. His family had great love for everyone. He was truly a great man with a big heart.
My uncle Eugene always took interest in my life. I always enjoyed and tried to apply his “pearls of wisdom.” I miss him. Thank you for this site.
Warm regard to the Butler family –
I was station at Tuy Hoa AFB Republic of Viet Nam on the South China Sea in 1968-69 and knew Col. Butler. Not as a pilot of the F-100 Super Saber in the 31st Tactical Fighter Wing but as my first Branch President in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Baptized August of 1968 I arrived at Tuy Hoa’s 31st Field Maintenance Squadron in September as a two striper Airman 1st Class. Discovered the Branch and that Col. Butler was the Branch President. The story told is that Col. Butler arranged that the base chapel would get air conditioning if the LDS personnel could have access on Sunday for Sacrament and Sunday School and Priesthood on Wednesday night. Not sure when the Colonel left Viet Nam. While there the Branch attended conference in Na Trang, Viet Nam with Bruce R. McConkie presiding.
Regard Memorial Day 2015