Art Butler
Crossed the Bar
December 11, 2020

Back to Memorials

Updated:  12/15/2020
Submit more info and photos here


Funeral Home:!/Obituary

Obit for Art written by his daughters    (pdf copy)

On a cold winter day nearly 73 years ago, Arthur Robb Butler was born to Ralph Otis Butler, III (deceased) and Alice Mae Butler. In what can only be considered an homage to his beloved United States Coast Guard Academy Class (USCGA ‘72) he peacefully cast off for his eternal haven, 72 years and three hundred fifty plus days later.

The third of seven children, Art had a happy and busy childhood. He was an Eagle Scout, a Marysville High School graduate, a football player, and a devoted brother to all. After years of helping his father with milk deliveries and running a dairy, Art gained a lifetime love of ice cream rivaled only by his love of the sea. After two years at Michigan State University, Art heeded the siren’s call to attend the Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut. “The Bear,” as he was known there, played football, likely got in some escapades (which he kept hidden from his daughters), and woo’d the love his life, Carolyn Kay Fordham, from the Academy’s hallowed halls. After a very public proposal to a very private person, Art somehow convinced the most beautiful and intelligent woman in the world to join in his adventures in 1972.

Their adventures took them from Michigan to Italy, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Maryland. Along the way their family grew by leaps and bounds: both literally with the births of “his girls” Kristin and Megan, and figuratively with the countless life-long friends, sons, and daughters he informally adopted. After twenty years of service, CDR Arthur Butler retired from the Coast Guard and moved to his home port of Plymouth, MI.

Over the past nearly three decades, Art has poured his life into his community and his family. He has served as President of the Rotary Club of Plymouth, on the board of Directors of the Plymouth United Way, as President of the Church Council at Risen Christ Lutheran Church, and as legal council for numerous other organizations that were near and dear to him. Art remained a practicing attorney in the State of Michigan until his illness. Art was also able to watch his family grow with the addition of five grandchildren and a son-in-law. He also informally adopted a few more daughters, and acted as favorite uncle to many nieces and nephews of multiple generations.

As is befitting of such a great man, Art’s crew is large. His first mate and beautiful bride of 48 years, Carolyn Kay Butler, is left waving from the shore beside his daughters, Col Kristin KB McCall, USAF, Kristin’s husband Lt Col Jonathan McCall, USAF, and their children Duncan Arthur, Áine Kay, and Meara Elizabeth, and Megan Marie Butler Schlanser, and her son Adam Rodney and daughter Jaclyn Read. Art is also survived by his mother, Alice Mae Rankin Butler, his brother Ralph Otis Butler IV and wife Elizabeth, his sister Barbara Lansing and husband Jack, sister Beverly Davis and husband Glenn, brother Brinton Butler, sister Lorraine Pillow, brother George Butler and wife Teri, his sister-in-law Barbara Troupos and husband Pete, and his sister-in-law Debra Behmlander and husband Daniel. His deckhands include 26 beloved nieces and nephews and nearly 40 great nieces and nephews. The second watch of crewmates left ashore includes, among others, his brothers in blue especially CDR Carl Smith, the cadets he adopted including CDR Mike Raber and his family, his exchange student, Staffan, his Midshipmen: Laura, Kelvin, Steve, Jack, and Amy; and his adopted daughters Megan Ivey and Kathryn Swan.

While many join us in grieving that he must make this part of his sea voyage alone, we rejoice that he is called home to stand watch by the ultimate Captain and our savior and is able to watch over us from above.

A service celebrating his life will be held at Risen Christ Lutheran Church on Wednesday, December 16, 2020 at 1 pm. Visitation will be held at Vermeulen Funeral Home on Monday from 6 pm to 9 pm, Tuesday from 1 pm to 4 pm and 6 pm to 9 pm. Final respects may also be paid at Risen Christ Lutheran Church from 12 pm to 1 pm. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the National Coast Guard Museum Association at or the Plymouth Rotary Foundation at P.O. Box 5401 Plymouth, MI 48170.

Arthur R. Butler
    Marysville, Michigan   (Source: 72 Year Book)

 Subject: [Objee72] - Art Butler
From: Carl Smith
To: Class of 72
Date: 12/11/2020, 1:07 pm

Art’s Passing

  Our brother in blue has crossed the bar after a long battle with lymphoma. John Boggs will now have a lawyer to argue his dubious case before Saint Peter.   Art was the Academy cadet training guy on the 1979 cadet cruise in Taney, when I was ops boss.  We had a great cruise, got a drug bust, made fun portcalls and all, but the best part was having Art as a shipmate.

    His gentlemanly ways, warm humor, and enthusiasm for life in general made it a great summer.  We stayed in close contact over the succeeding years, and occasionally sailed together on our own boats, which were special times.  
Art had great success in many facets of his life, especially his family.  He was smart enough marry Carolyn right after graduation and they had two daughters, who are both very accomplished, classy ladies.  He was very proud of all the Butler ladies, and rightly so.  Many years ago, he talked about getting water samples from Hawaii and Alaska and using that water to baptize the grandchildren in the family.  I joined the effort and the collection grew to include water from all the oceans except the Arctic.  That mixture of water from around the world is now at his church.  

    For over two decades, the custom on my boat was (1) get underway, (2) sails up, (3) engine shut down, and (4) call Art.  It was more fun in the fall and spring when his boat was out of the water for the Michigan winter, and I could tweak the gentle bear who was my cherished friend.  

   When Art bought his big powerboat last year, I immediately volunteered to help deliver it from Pittsburgh to his homeport in Monroe, Michigan.   We went down the Ohio River for almost 1000 miles before being stopped by a Biblical flood in the Midwest.  We left the boat in Kentucky and Art went off to attend to some family business.  Then he fell ill.  I got the boat to his homeport, but Art only got to spent ten days on the new boat.

   Over the next year and a half, we talked daily, and I visited about once a month.  Through it all, he kept up an attitude of beating this disease.  He had a couple of up and downs, but always wanted to forge ahead.  He often said that after swab summer, we can get through anything, which has served us all well over our adult lives.   We had some good laughs, and some sad moments over this time, but I am glad to have able to support my friend through this final stage of his good life.

   When we were young and hard chargers, it would have been inconceivable that a sea lawyer and a crusty old sea captain would end our calls with “I love you, my brother,” but that’s what we did.  I shed more tears this week than I have in decades.  I am fortunate to have known Art and had such a great friend.

There will be a memorial service in Plymouth, Michigan next week.  Art wanted to be buried in Arlington.  As dates become available, I will put out the word.

12/12/20 - Facebook post by Art's daughter, Megan

From: Michael Gentile - CGA70
Sent: Saturday, December 12, 2020 11:14 AM

  I wish to add that Art Butler was on the Michgan State football team under Duffy Daugherty that played Notre Dame under Ara Parsigian for the National Championship.  Notre Dame ran out the clock rather than go for the win. Neither Daugherty's not Art's style.  He left MSU to attend CGA after that historic game.  That is how important being in the Guard was to Art.
  On our cruise to Europe in summer 1969 I was standing in uniform in the main square in downtown Copenhagen, and I saw a guy, fairly large guy, was sitting on a step in an MSU sweatshirt.  I started walking over to see where he was from.  He spotted me and started walking toward  me.  The first words out of his mouth were, "Are from the Coast Guard Academy?"   I was stunned.  Nobody ever knew who we were.  They either thought we were Navy or the local police.  The fellow then asked, "Do you know Art Butler?" I said yes.  He said he played football with Art at MSU.   Unfortunately for this meeting, Art was not on our cruise.  He was on Machinaw headed to Grand Haven, where he would meet Carolyn his future bride of 48 years. What a small world for this big man.
  One of my fondest memories is Art and Jack Murray, also 72, appearing in my doorway to throw me in the shower on my birthday Feb 1969.   No light was coming in through the doorway.  Rather than struggle with them and end up a wishbone, I took each by the hand and let them escort me to the shower.   Luckily it was study hour and I was not in my wool blues.Over the years we were stationed together twice in Cleveland and DC. We rebuilt my girlfriend's car in Cleveland Ohio on New Year's Day in his unheated garage.  The man literally lifted the 4 cyliner engine out of car by himself.  We had no winch and he dropped the new, used engine, in by himself .  Caorlyn and my friend ran hot chocolate to us in relays.  Of course, Carolyn and Art invited us after all of that to the New Year's eve party for the neighor hood.  Better friends, no one could hope to have.

    The years do pass relentlessly.  Fair winds and following old friend.
   Stay safe.