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Dick Tatro, Jeanne Butler, and Douglas and Ruth Helmick Lier will be recognized and honored as the newest members of Living Treasures of Los Alamos on Sept. 9. The ceremony and reception, sponsored by Los Alamos National Bank, will commence at 2 p.m. in the Betty Ehart Senior Center. The public is invited to attend.
This event is an opportunity to celebrate the contributions of individuals who have enhanced life on the Hill. Friends, family and co-workers are encouraged to participate in the ceremony by sharing stories and remembrances about each new Treasure.
Living Treasures of Los Alamos pays tribute to seniors whose activities have made a notable difference in the quality of life for community residents. These individuals are role models and mentors, providing inspiration as they demonstrate commitment, perseverance, hope, heart and wisdom. Their contributions are diverse but they share a common outlook, which is to live life to the fullest.
LTLA honors these people by sharing a glimpse into their lives and acknowledging their contributions. More information about the Living Treasures program may be found at livingtreasureslosalamos.org.
Join friends, family and LTLA in recognizing Dick, Jeanne, Doug and Ruth as they are acknowledged as Living Treasures of Los Alamos.
Born on an Iowa farm, a 4-H member most of her life, driven to helping others and someone who would be lost without her annual, extensive vegetable and fruit garden — Jeanne Butler is a mid-westerner through and through.
Butler grew up in Franklin County, Iowa, attending school in the nearby town of Hampton. Her early goal was medical missionary work, helping people through nursing. She attended Yankton College in Yankton, S.D., for two years, then Northwest Institute of Medical Laboratory Technique in Minneapolis, Minn.
Summer ecumenical work camp experience with Sioux Indians left Butler with a desire to work in an Indian hospital. Following graduation, she was hired as a laboratory and x-ray tech at PHS Indian Hospital in Wagner, S.D. Two years later, she moved to St. Olaf’s Hospital in Austin, Minn. — an experience that prompted a career-change decision. She saw how doctors treated nurses versus med techs and decided not to pursue nursing.
In 1965, Butler joined the Peace Corps. She thought her medical training would be the skill utilized, but medical work meant city living and she preferred a rural area. She became a 4-H Club organizer in Sarawak, Malaysia, working with two distinct groups — the Ibans (former head hunters) and the Malays.
“It was wonderful,” she said, noting the two cultures were quite different. Ibans lived in ‘long houses’ with multiple families and were quite democratic — women and children had a voice in decision-making. In contrast, the Malays were male-dominated. The two languages differed, too, but schools were in English so children often translated for adults and Peace Corp workers. Butler taught sewing, cooking and was provided with baby chicks for poultry projects. Her favorite part of the experience was, “just being with the people and their way of doing things. I probably learned more from them than what we taught.”
In 1968, Jeanne joined the Poudre Valley Hospital in Ft. Collins, Colo., and in 1971, completed her bachelor’s degree in microbiology at Colorado State University. She remained at Poudre Valley as a microbiologist until 1974. One Christmas, a friend from church invited Butler to dinner, where she met the woman’s nephew, Gil Butler, on break from post doc work at Argonne Labs. Butler and Gil learned they had similar interests but it was another three years before they met again.
Butler moved to Tucson, Ariz. and joined St. Mary’s Hospital. By then, Gil was a nuclear chemist at Los Alamos National Laboratory and for a while, they pursued a long-distance relationship. Gil encouraged Butler to “check into Los Alamos.” She found a job with the University of New Mexico Cancer Research and Treatment Center in Albuquerque and following training, moved to Los Alamos in 1977 to work in the Pion Treatment program at LANL. She and Gil were married the following year.
Gardening is an absolute passion for Butler and in 1981, she retired to garden, harvest, can, preserve and outwit hungry wildlife, as well as volunteer as a 4-H leader. In addition, she and Gil soon became foster parents and over the next four years, fostered three girls and a boy. In 1985, they adopted their daughter Tamryn and their son Randal, in 1988.
When Tamryn entered a junior high contest to get parents involved in local organizations, Butler joined the board of Homeless Services of Los Alamos (now LA Cares) to volunteer with the Food Bank. She volunteers to this day and has served as co-coordinator of the monthly food distribution for several years.
Between 11 p.m. and midnight on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights prior to box distribution, Butler and Gil pick up vegetables and occasionally bakery items, from Smith’s. It takes a full day for Jeanne and other volunteers to move over a ton of food from storage areas and then pack and label boxes. Butler also coordinates a limited number of box deliveries to people who don’t have a car or cannot drive.
In 1986, Butler became involved in the United Church Thrift Shop, has served as co-chair for more than 20 years and volunteers monthly to sort/price donations. She recruits church participants for Church World Service’s annual Crop Walk and has judged knitting/crochet entries at the County Fair.
Butler said her parents were always involved with community activities, as was her grandmother. Butler’s kindergarten report card noted she was too helpful (tying children’s shoelaces) and she should stop that practice. “It seems like I need to be of service to other people. I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t do that,” she says.
Butler has been described as “always phoning, delivering, dropping off, and picking up” and doing it while “staying calm, unhurried, incredibly patient” and “totally unflappable.” A note Butler found, written in her grandmother’s hand said, “Service is the rent we pay for our space on Earth.” Butler has clearly taken that philosophy to heart.