Billy Earl Butts went to his heavenly home on Sept. 3, 2019 after a long and wonderful life and a short battle with cancer. We were able to celebrate his 90th birthday early (Sept. 1) with many family members in attendance. What a wonderful afternoon it was for all of us, especially Billy.
Billy Earl Butts was born in Altus, Oklahoma on Sept. 12, 1929, to Archie Benjamin and Esta (Phillips) Butts. He grew up and went to school in Texas and Oklahoma, graduating from Bogota, Texas, high school in 1947. He was the valedictorian of his class and received a scholarship ($100) to attend Paris Junior College. After two years at Paris he transferred to Sam Houston State Teachers College in Huntsville, Texas. In the spring of 1950 Billy completed his Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Education degree. He decided he needed a Teacher’s Certificate, so he took two more semesters of college, finally finishing his schooling in the spring of 1951. Upon graduation Billy secured his first professional job, teaching Vocational Agriculture in Wolf Point, Montana, with an annual salary of $3,800. His dad loaned him money to buy a 1950 Chevrolet Fleetline and his brother Dorman loaned him money to get started in Montana. Billy took a more lucrative job working on a seismograph crew for U.S. Geophysical. The proper title of his position was “doodle-bugger.” In 1954, while working near Beaver, Oklahoma, Billy met a young woman who really caught his eye and his heart. A very short time later he and Marianne Gregory were married on Aug. 5, 1954, in Culbertson, Nebraska. They lived many places during their almost 40 years together, including Tucson, Arizona, Fort Washakie, Wyoming, Lame Deer, Browning, Billings, Ashland and Crow Agency, Montana, Fairbanks and North Pole, Alaska, finally settling in Fromberg, Montana, for retirement. Billy worked about 35 years for the federal government (19 with Bureau of Indian Affairs and 16 with Bureau of Land Management). He and Marianne were active members of several different congregations of the United Methodist Church. Before Marianne died in 1994, she made Billy promise that he would find a suitable woman to marry and spend life with. A very short time later Billy courted and married Carol L. Nicholson on Sept. 10, 1994. They were married for 20 years when Carol passed away in 2015. On April 6, 2018, he married Eileen Irene George and shortly thereafter they moved to Clarkston, Wash-ington, to be closer to her family.
Billy was preceded in death by his parents;, all his siblings, Ben, Geraldine, Dorman (Clifford), Kenneth, Raymond, Ima Jean, and James; and his sisters-in-law, Betty Maxine, Betty Ruth and Jeri. He was also preceded in death by his first wife Marianne Gregory Butts and his second wife Carol L. Nicholson.
He is survived by his current wife, Eileen George; his brother-in-law, Claude Reynolds, two sisters-in-law, Jeanette Butts and Nancy Butts; his five children with Marianne, Ima Jean Heron (Marty) of Kalispell, Christina Marie Baker of Blaine, Washington, Gregory Earl Butts (Karla) of Kalispell, Susan Kay Boyer (Doug) of Santaquin, Utah, and Richard Franklin Butts (Phil) of Seattle; and Carol Nicolson’s daughter Tracy Morsching (Brian) of Arizona. He is also survived by his grandchildren, Rob, Kalani, Malia, Connie Megan, Tim, Catherine, Douglas, Michael, Katelyn, Benjamin, Taryn, Zachary, Emily, Nicholas and Brianna; plus 19 great-grandchildren.
Billy lived a long and adventurous life, and touched the lives of many people through his kindness, his joy, and love of a good laugh. He loved being outdoors and teaching his children and grandchildren about the natural world through numerous camping, hunting, fishing and fruit picking adventures. An avid gardener, he always managed to have a vegetable garden with bountiful produce to round out the pantry and freezer, wherever he lived. He enjoyed music and dancing and always made sure that all the ladies, whatever their age, got a dance. During family and social gatherings, Billy could always be found with a baby or two on his lap and a contented smile on his face. He loved to read and work on puzzles, and playing games, especially dominoes. Over the years, he developed an interest in the history of his family and passed this information to younger generations to continue.
His wishes were to be cremated and his ashes buried next to Marianne at the Gebo Cemetery near Fromberg. We hope to have a short graveside service later this fall but that date has not been determined.