Page 16 - Scene Magazine 46-02 February 2021
P. 16

 TRIBUTE TO MARY GILRUTH BUTLER
 Sandy Calderone,
Mary Butler, Frances Thornton,
Martin Ashley, and Elizabeth Neumeyer
Architect Randy Case discovered her background as his daughter was in Jim’s Suzuki program. He and Phil Shultz, city planning director, were discussing how to do a survey to, “Create historic districts to spur on preservation projects in Battle Creek.” Overhearing them, Randy said Mary asked a very insightful question. “We instantly knew that she knew what we were talking about.” As a result, she directed the historical commission survey in Battle Creek.
Diane (Thornton) Buckley’s mother, Frances Thornton, was a local historian and Diane, sister Kathy, and brother Kurt followed her interest in history. Diane said, “I had the privilege of carrying on some
of my mother’s passion by becoming the first professional director of the Historical Society of Battle Creek (HSBC) in the late 1980s [which] led me to Mary Butler as I felt we needed a better collection plan... Her brilliant mind and her knowledge
of handling collections became a cornerstone for HSBC to protect and grow these treasures. [She was] tirelessly working on preserving our history and educating those around her about that history.” Another director of the HSBC, Linda Holderbaum, observed this, “We all know Mary was a walking encyclopedia of Battle Creek history and always more than willing to share what information
she had. When working on a project or a potential one, you could tell the moment you mentioned it that the wheels were turning in her head. She always had information or ideas to share that led you to, ‘think outside the box.’ ”
16 SCENE 4602 I EDUCATION ISSUE
Eleanor Boston worked as secretary and later volunteer for the HSBC. She recalls, “Working at the HSBC with Mary was one of the joys of my life. She had a delightful sense of humor combined with her historical and archival knowledge that made working with her such a pleasure... Battle Creek was very fortunate to
have Mary sharing her knowledge and skills with the community...” Mary’s conversations with Eleanor brings up another skill of Mary’s, which was to persuade other people to write about their history. In the first issue of Heritage Battle Creek (Fall, 1991, Vol. 1), she helped Eleanor and her sister Marian write a history of their Chilson family farm on Porter and
Raymond Road
before the Kellogg
Plant was there.
Jana Davis was a long-
time volunteer and grant worker at
the HSBC. Jana said, “Mary
was so much more than just
a coworker. She was a mentor, a friend and a mother figure to me. I learned so much from her research, writing, and the absolute dedication to making sure the entire story is told... The last major project we did together was the ‘History Around Us’ series... local history booklets for 2nd grade. I have the honor to use them to introduce history to my son and I know she will be so proud to know that another generation is going to be hooked on local history.”
When it comes to generations, Mary also worked with young people in junior history clubs and outside of history. Sarah Hubbard pointed out that, “Mary was
a brilliant person who did so much for
our community. I have happy memories
of Mary through the Suzuki program and Girl Scouts.” Indeed,
Mary’s grand- daughter
Alex could be counted
on to be with her.
The funniest generational story I have of
Mary is that little ones saw Jim and
were sure he was Santa and Mary was Mrs. Santa.
They played along with the kids and it is
quite a vision.
PHOTO COURTESY OF KURT THORNTON
 

































































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