Crossed the Bar
December 11, 2020
more info and photos
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
www.coastguardmuseum.org 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
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
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
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,
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.
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
The years do pass relentlessly.
Fair winds and following old friend.