Marion Mayor Emeritus Robert L. “Bob” Butler, 92, went home to be with his heavenly father at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, April 22, 2019, while enroute to Heartland Regional Medical Center.
Bob was born on Jan. 23, 1927, at 704 N. Garfield in Marion, the eldest son of Homer and Eva (Clarida) Butler. In his youth, Bob attended the First Christian Church Disciples of Christ on North Market Street with his parents and younger brother, Bill. Baptized by the late Rev. Hubert Barnett, Bob became a Christian and joined the church on April 18, 1937.
It was then he received his first Bible, which he looked upon with a sense of reverence and mystery. The Word of God, as it is written in the King James Bible, became his anchor and the course of his life was determined. His lifelong service to the church included serving as the board chairman several times and teaching an adult Sunday school class for over 30 years. Having served as an elder in the church for several decades, Bob was named “Elder Emeritus,” the church’s highest honor, in 2016. In his personal notes, Bob mentioned a number of occasions when he felt the strong presence of the Holy Spirit. There were two specific instances he noted – during his military service in Korea, and when he “was caught up” (his words) in the 1982 tornado. In addition, there were numerous times when making important decisions that Bob also felt the loving guidance of his faith. Reading was one of Bob’s lifelong passions. Although he could never recall when he began reading independently, his curiosity was awakened by the comics his dad read to him from the Sunday St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper. Captivated by Flash Gordon, Bob was motivated to learn to read so he could read his favorite comic all by himself. He loved used bookstores – the less he spent the more he could buy. That philosophy allowed him to acquire an extensive library that drew the envy of many, except for that of his wife, Louetta, who had to dust his numerous volumes before getting to furniture she originally set out to dust. An avid reader of classic literature, “Don Quixote” was his favorite novel and Mark Twain his favorite author. Bob attended school in Marion, graduating from Marion High School in 1944. During those years he probably got his first kiss, but wrote, “I do not remember my first kiss probably because I was too excited.”
As he traveled the journey of youth, he had many accomplishments, but was most proud of attaining the rank of Eagle Scout. Bob graduated from law school at the University of Illinois, passing the Illinois Bar exam prior to graduation, a point of which his wife was particularly proud. He returned to Marion where he was a Williamson County assistant state’s attorney for 10 years before opening his own practice. In 1963, life would change for Bob, his wife, and daughter, and ultimately, the citizens of Marion and the surrounding communities, as Bob won the first of 14 elections to become the mayor of what he would eventually call “the Hub of the Universe.” When he found a moment to step away from his duties, Bob liked to travel with his wife. “There are so many fabulous places in the world I would enjoy, I’m not sure where to begin,” he wrote. “Louetta and I have been content to take tours of some of the fantastic areas in America. We decided Savannah was the prettiest city we had seen. Mt. Rushmore was one of our favorite sites. I have no desire to travel the world; TV does a good job doing that.” Bob was proud of his accomplishments that put his hometown on the map, but he said there were four decisions that impacted his life without him having to do anything: his birth; Louetta’s acceptance of his marriage proposal; the birth of his daughter, Beth; and his election to 14 terms as mayor. Even with all the success, Bob remained humble. “I have been given more credit than I deserved and more criticism than was warranted,” he said. Ironically, Bob passed away on what would have been his final day in office had he not retired.
Along with the many citizens from southern Illinois whose lives have been impacted by his hard work, Bob leaves his wife of 67 years, Louetta, and his daughter, Beth, both of Marion; a brother, James William “Bill” and wife Dorothy of Marion; sister-in-law Shirley Aikman of Marion; niece Cathy Carruthers and husband, Gary, of Godfrey; nephew Dick Butler and wife, Jill, of Marion; great-nieces Caitlin Reyes and husband, Michael, of Houston, Alyse Butler of Chicago, and Connor Butler of Marion; great-nephews Andrew Carruthers and wife, Heidy of Edwardsville, and Caleb Butler of Chicago; and great-great-nieces Sophia, Camila and Gabriela Carruthers of Edwardsville.
He was preceded in death by his parents; brothers-in-law Thomas Edward “T.E.” Sanders and Edward H. “Eddie” Aikman; and one nephew, Jeff Butler.
Mayor Emeritus Bob Butler will lie in state at the Marion Cultural & Civic Center on Monday, April 29, from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m., and on Tuesday, April 30, from 9 a.m. until noon. A service honoring the life of Bob Butler will begin at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 30, on the proscenium of the Yolande B. Peterson Auditorium at the Marion Cultural & Civic Center. A private interment will follow.
Bob had many favorite programs and charities that he actively worked for and supported. His family has chosen the Marion Cultural & Civic Center, the Lighthouse Shelter, the Boy Scouts of America, the Girl Scouts of the USA, and the First Christian Church, Disciples of Christ as suggested recipients of memorials in Bob’s name. Envelopes will be available at the Civic Center. Mitchell-Hughes Funeral Home in Marion has been entrusted with the arrangements. For more information or sign the memorial guest register, visit www.hughesfuneralhomes.com.