On the occasion of my late father's 88th birthday, 06-Jan-2015, my Sister, Robin Butler Eliason, posted this photo to Facebook, saying, "All day I've been thinking of my dad who would have been 88 today." Selected comments follow. To see all the comments that were posted to Facebook, see Robin's photo on her Facebook page.
January 7 at 12:43am, Dave Butler: I *knew* it!
January 7 at 2:10pm, John S. Jenkinson: Great guy -- and his home office in Wichita blew my mind! Really opened my eyes to what a 'professor' might be!
January 7 at 9:27pm, Dave Butler: I enjoyed reading your comment, John S. Jenkinson, that Dad's "home office in Wichita blew my mind!" I had not recalled hearing anything like that from you before, though I had wondered to what extent you were influenced by meeting him and seeing how he arrayed the tools of his trade in our home. Some of Dad's colleagues, in New England and probably in Wichita, also had huge libraries in their homes, but Dad's library stood in marked contrast to the collections I saw in the homes of most of my childhood friends. I remember being surprised that there were not more books in your home, given your ravenous appetite for reading. A few months back, I started to write some joking reference to Dad's purportedly huge influence on you, my closest friend in Wichita, and how you emulated him in your career. I think I stopped short of sharing that, believing that I was just guessing. I liked to think that your decision to pursue creative writing, and the teaching of writing, drew some inspiration from Dad's lifelong commitment to those pursuits. But I could think of no concrete evidence of that. Surely the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves that lined two walls of that room, the *thousands* of literary classics on those shelves, must have impressed and inspired you as they did me. Do you remember borrowing or perusing any of those books, whose margins he had filled with penciled notes? I don't remember that you did so, though it seems you probably did. Dad always encouraged visitors to borrow and discuss the works in his library. I used to sit on the couch opposite his enormous desk, under the eyes of his framed photos of Robert Frost speaking with Ted Baird, Dad's boss and mentor at Amherst College, and engage in long conversations with him about literature, art, music, my schooling and everything that was on my mind in our first year in Wichita, when I met you while attending Wichita Brooks public school in the 9th grade, and in the subsequent three years during which I lived much of the time at Taft School, a then-male-only prep school in Watertown, CT. Dad would sit in a formidable chair behind that great desk, from which he looked across the room toward the couch where I sat. I think an oil painting by a former Middlebury neighbor would have hung on the wall behind me. I think the artwork was a canvas by Bruce Muirhead, but maybe it was one of two canvases by Bruce's wife, Elaine, that we all treasured and continue to treasure. A massive manual typewriter often sat on the shelf at his side, a shelf that could be lowered mechanically and slid under the desktop behind a false front that looked like the front of three stacked drawers. I think his desk and chair had belonged to his father, Bernard, who had worked as a lawyer for a bank in Newport, NH, an institution he was credited with saving from ruin, thus preserving the life savings of many in that community. Do you remember sitting on that couch engaging in long conversations with Dad? I don't remember you doing so, but all of us kids and Mom and many others certainly spent many happy hours conversing with him there. Dad *always* had time for us kids, and loved to engage young folks, strangers as well as acquaintances, in conversation. I would find him hard at work in his study, often late at night, and I would plop myself down on that couch and offload whatever I had on my mind. He was never too busy or too tired to put his work aside and spend as much time as I wanted in conversation. When I was away at school, Dad spent many hours every week writing long letters to me, which I cherished, 2 or 3 times a week, usually filling at least 2 or 3 hand-written, double-side pages. Dad was a good listener, a great conversationalist and, if possible, a better writer. And so I would describe my dear lifelong friend. Dad would have been proud to see what you have become, John.
January 9 at 1:45am, John S. Jenkinson: I was always pretty shy and intimidated around him, so I never got into much conversation other than the superficial "how are ya" stuff. Somehow he had faith in me, however, and was responsible for my early entry to WSU (which I subsequently blew very badly). Both he and your mom seemed like geniuses to me (I guess they were!), although I was exposed to Flo a little more than John. John's example spoke "volumes" to me, however, and if I couldn't be a rock star, his route seemed like a worthy one to follow. My own father once told me that he sort of regretted that he hadn't become a teacher (I don't remember how THAT came up) -- and of course any time I got a job I was made a trainer of some sort or another. Finally, some old geezer in a suit riding in my taxicab (he turned out to be the President of Bethel College) gave me the ultimate push to get back in school, so I returned as a 37 year-old freshman and never looked back. By the time I had the good sense and decency to contact the fellow to thank him, he had passed away. I borrowed a few books from your dad, but I think only through you rather than directly. I remember being mystified by a thoroughly hand-annotated copy of _The Waste Lans_. His was an ideal that I had no vision of HOW to attain; it just seemed out of reach for a guy with limited brainpower (and stick-to-it-iveness). And, aside from all of that, and leaving unsaid your OWN powerful influence on me, let's just say what an adorable picture this is!!