About 100 relatives and friends of the Butler clan gathered at the family farm on Saturday to dedicate a memorial to five brothers who fought in World War II.
Kathie Butler recently opened the Dolores farm that her family founded more than 90 ago as a public nature center. After the farm’s welcome center was complete, she said she wanted to add an outdoor memorial for her late father and his four World War II veteran brothers, the last of whom died in 2008.
In an emotional ceremony Saturday afternoon, the family dedicated a small monument to the brothers and raised a flag above it bearing five stars – four blue, in honor of veterans Paul, Robert, Wilbur and David Butler; and one gold, in honor of William “Harry” Butler, a bomber pilot who was killed in action.
Butler said her original idea was to raise a flag in front of the welcome center in honor of her father, Paul Butler. But her uncle John, one of Paul’s two surviving siblings and a veteran himself, persuaded her to set up a memorial to all five brothers. Her brother Tom and his son Jon, both engineers, helped build the pentagon-shaped monument, with assistance from designer Farrell Greenlee and other family members. It features a plaque for each brother with information on where he served and when.
After some patriotic music by the Four Corners Community Band and the raising of the flags in front of the visitor center, Butler welcomed the large crowd to her farm and to the memorial.
“I can’t thank you (enough) for coming here and dreaming my big dream with me,” she said.
She gave a brief history of the Butler family, starting with her ancestors’ service in the American Revolution and ending with her grandparents settling in Dolores, where they raised 12 children.
The rest of the ceremony was largely taken up by family members sharing their memories of the five brothers. John Butler reminisced about his older brothers and what might have motivated them during the war.
“I was thinking about why people join the Army and become heroes,” he said. “I think it’s because of the communities they grew up in – friends, family, business people, the church, the school ... that’s what made American heroes.”
The children and grandchildren of each Butler soldier received a photo of him and spoke about his life during and after the war. Several read letters sent to and from the soldiers while they were overseas.
Paul Butler, the oldest, served in the Army from 1941 to 1945. Robert Butler, better known by his middle name, Maurice, was a radar man in the Navy from 1944 to 1946. Wilbur “Dopey” Butler also served in the Navy as a radio man. David “Bud” Butler, who was not quite 18 when he joined the Army, served in the 309th Regiment of the 78th Infantry Division.
The only one with no children or grandchildren present on Saturday was Harry Butler, who was engaged to a woman in Iowa when his bomber was shot down over England in January 1945. Cortez area resident David Butler, who said he’d become “obsessed” with Harry’s legacy, read letters and news articles written by and about him during his service, including details on his plane crash from a waist gunner who survived it.
“I wanted other family members to know what happened,” he said. “He sacrificed his life in service to us and his country, and I’m really glad we have this monument to the five brothers that will help us remember what they all went through.”
More historical artifacts related to the brothers were on display inside the welcome center. Butler also transformed one of her “story walk” trails through the Nature Center woods into a family history.
In addition to the Butler clan, several members of the Montezuma County Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion posts attended the event. They didn’t let a late afternoon shower prevent them from performing a flag ceremony and a rifle salute to finish the dedication.
The Nature Center at Butler Corner, where the memorial is displayed, is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.