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Martinsburg officer 'a great spirit'

January 30, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Before a battle with skin cancer took him from his post as a resource officer, Martinsburg Police Department Patrolman Roger E. "J.R." Butcher Jr. was "a great spirit" at Martinsburg High School.

"It's amazing to me with the youth that we have today, how he was able just to touch them by just sitting and speaking to them," said Katie Myers, a behavior counselor at MHS and high school classmate of Butcher's.

Butcher, 30, died Thursday at City Hospital in Martinsburg, surrounded by family and friends, according to the police department, where he served for nine years.

"It's just like he had an aura about him, that you were in the same room with him and you were just drawn to him and wanted to hear what he had to say and be around him," Myers said Friday at the school from where she and Butcher graduated in 1997.

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"He was just a very, very wonderful spirit, and God must have a different plan for him to go up and watch over us for some reason."

"Over the past year, J.R. has fought a valiant fight against cancer," Chief Ted Anderson said Friday in a news release.

"His spirit and determination never wavered, and each day he looked forward to and expressed optimism in returning to his full duties at the Martinsburg Police Department."

Butcher was diagnosed with melanoma, a rare form of cancer in November 2007. His illness prompted an outpouring of community support and fundraisers.

Funeral services will be at noon Tuesday at the Berkeley 2000 Recreation Center at 273 Woodbury Ave. in Martinsburg.

Martinsburg High senior Lauren Taylor, who helped organize a three-day bake sale that raised $10,500 for Butcher's cause, said the officer was the kind of person that made her want to help others.

"He's my hero," Taylor said. "I don't know how to describe it. He's probably one of the best people I've ever met. He made a big influence on my life."

Senior Blake DeBord had hoped that Butcher would eventually return to the school hallways where he said the officer always had something to say to him, whether it be "a couple pointers" on the game of football or some other topic.

"He was a really cool guy," DeBord said.

A linebacker and guard on the football team, DeBord said Butcher's "inspiring words" included advice on how to keep the team's spirit up.

"(We were) hopin' to get him back, but I guess it just wasn't going to happen," DeBord said Friday.

In addition to duties as the school's resource officer, Butcher was an assistant firearms instructor, a member of the emergency response team, adviser to the police department's Explorer Post, a member of the police department's bicycle unit and past coordinator of the "Bigs in Blue" program with Big Brothers Big Sisters, according to the department.

His professional career included four months with the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department as a deputy sheriff.

Myers said Butcher was a "jokester" in high school, but he became "a great father, a great provider and husband."

When Butcher returned to the school as a resource officer, Myers said she discovered that some things about the man with whom she went to the prom their senior year did not change much.

"I always looked forward to having him pop his head into my classroom and giving me a hard time as he always did in high school," Myers said.

At the cruise-in and concert benefit held for him in Hagerstown in June 2008, Butcher was walking with a slight limp, greeting his friends and smiling. He had hoped to return to his job by the beginning of the school year after having endured several surgeries, including removal of a tumor in his brain in May 2008.

"I don't know if that is realistic," Butcher said at the time. "I really miss it. I just miss ... being on the road and dealing with the public."

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