Friends, son remember Fred Gold Butler Sr.

April 11, 2000|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Fred Gold Butler Sr. was supposed to leave Sunday for the Dairy Farmers of America convention in Kansas City.

But Butler, the group's Northeast director, died Saturday while milking cows beside his son, Fred Jr., at the family's Inwood, W.Va., farm. He was 71.

When they heard what happened, about 10 other directors of the national organization flew in a corporate jet to Hagerstown Monday so they could visit Brown Funeral Home in Martinsburg and pay their respects.

Fred Butler Jr. said news of his father's death has spread through the agriculture world, from Florida to Texas to California.


Calling hours at the funeral home were supposed to end at 9 p.m. on Monday, but as 9:30 passed, there was still a line of well-wishers waiting to offer condolences.

Fred Butler Jr. said visitors included West Virginia's commissioner of agriculture and the chief executive officer of Farm Family Insurance Co., of which Fred Butler Sr. was a member of the board of directors.

Fred Butler Jr. said his father left his family dairy business and set up his own farm in Inwood in 1956. The farm eventually grew to a herd of 700, and the Butlers were milking as many as 315 twice a day.

At about 6:10 a.m. Saturday, father and son were milking cows when Fred Butler Sr. gasped for air and started to fall back. His son reached out for him.

"There was no other way I would want him to die than beside me," Fred Butler Jr. said. "No one will have to tell me how my father died."

"I can't wait until next week to plant corn, so I can just go out on the tractor and cry," he added.

Fred Butler Sr. also owned and operated Wright Motors Inc., an automobile dealership in Martinsburg, for the last 35 years.

"I've never seen him mad," said John Small, who knew Fred Butler Sr. through the Lions Club. Small, the Berkeley County clerk, is the Lions' secretary. Butler was the past district governor.

"He was always up front with everybody - very honest and Christian," Small said.

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