Yale University

In Memoriam

John N. Butler

Below are an obituary for John Butler and a remembrance by his Yale classmate Bob Bulkeley.


The Greenfield (MA) Recorder

May 8, 2014

John Butler
1964 graduation

MYSTIC, Conn. - John Newell Butler, 75, of Mystic, died May 6, 2014. He was the son of Richard Hartwell Butler and Elizabeth Newell Butler.

He is survived by his wife, Joan; his brothers, Richard, Robert and Henry, and his two children, Robert and Katharine. He is also survived by his daughter-in-law, Lisa Sullivan Butler, and his son-in-law, Thomas Wideman, and five grandchildren, John Butler, Ashley Butler, Claire Butler, Nathaniel Wideman and Thomas Wideman.

John graduated from the Kingswood School in West Hartford and Yale University. He served in the U.S. Army from 1959 to 1962.

John worked for many years as an educator and was Assistant Headmaster at the Rumsey Hall School in Washington, Conn., and Headmaster at both the Bement School in Deerfield, Mass. and the Hillside School in Marlborough, Mass. He is fondly remembered by his many former students as a kind and steadfast mentor and friend.

After moving to Connecticut in 1989, John worked with a variety of local organizations, including Project Oceanology, the Salvation Army of New Haven, and the Archdiocese of Norwich.

John devoted his life to being an active member of his community with numerous commitments to charitable organizations and a deep mission for helping people. In 1993, John worked with other community leaders to create the Mystic River Park on the former Cottrell property in downtown Mystic. This beautiful public park is enjoyed by many today. In recent years, he served with great dedication The WARM Shelter in Westerly, The Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut, and Mystic Rotary. John received the 2011 Kluepfel Community Service Award for his involvement with WARM and The Community Foundation.

John had many hobbies and interests including a passion for trains, a love of theater, folk music, opera, and gourmet cooking. He was a devoted fan of the New York Yankees and the New York Giants. John was a tremendous reader and an accomplished writer, including writing his own fiction and publishing his own monthly newsletter, The Pearl Street Gazette. He was also very fond of long drives and enjoyed getting lost on small country roads.

He will be greatly missed by his family and friends.

Calling hours will be held from 2 to 5 p.m. on Sunday, May 11, at Byles Memorial Home, 99 Huntington St.,  New London.

In lieu of flowers, please send donations in his memory to St. Mary Star of the Sea Church,  10 Huntington St., New London, CT, 06320. Please visit www.Byles.com to sign the guestbook or to share a memory.

Remembrance by Bob Bulkeley '64

May 25, 2014

John’s heart was even greater than his mind, which was extraordinary to say the least.

As a scrawny 9th-grade lacrosse player at Kingswood School, I appreciated John's taking me under his wing rather than delivering the destruction he was capable of in scrimmages. He was a large senior bound for Yale.

John’s brilliance translated itself into academic excellence, episodically. He dropped out of the Class of 1961 because of a horrid sophomore academic performance and went to Germany with the Army. Happily he returned to Yale, joining the Class of 1964 for his last two years. At that point, a real friendship between us began and lasted until the end.

Many intellectual discussions transpired in our last two years in Pierson College.  I vividly recall his inviting me into his room to listen to Schubert’s Quintet in C which he had just discovered. On one occasion, a case of study beer accompanied us to East Rock to prepare for comps our senior year.

On another day, John shouldered a case coming back from Tilly’s when some thugs tried to run us over behind Pierson. We objected and four toughs jumped out of the car to beat us up. John prepared to crown the first with the case and they took off. Just as in lacrosse years before, John was a good protective friend! (In later life we were both enjoying lives of sobriety.)

He became a ranking scholar and went to Yale Law School only to drop out and drive a taxi in New Haven for the balance of the year.

His compassion for others, a very deep thoughtfulness and kindness, and a winning smile made him a natural for a career in education. Starting at Rumsey Hall School in Washington, CT, his many abilities were quickly recognized and he soon became Assistant Headmaster. Headmasterships followed at Bement and the Hillside School in Massachusetts.

My career in education strengthened the affinity we had for each other. We were ushers in each other’s weddings. John and his wife Joan both guided me in my salad days.

Distance and the busyness of work kept us apart, but not out of touch, for a long time with infrequent visits. In the fall of 2011, I was able to visit in Mystic. By that time John was dealing valiantly with the Parkinson’s that ultimately took his life. A few hours of conversation and a wonderful dinner at a local restaurant concluded our last visit. I remember him with great fondness.