Joseph F. Butler, 76, was called home Wednesday, October 2, 2013, after a courageous fight for life, surrounded by his precious family. Joseph “Joe” a proud enrolled CS&K Tribal member was born July 17, 1937 in Polson, MT to Joseph Butler and Mona Ashley. He was separated from his parents at a very young age and was taken in by his paternal grandparents, Francis “Frank” and Nancy Butler. His years were spent growing up around the Polson area where he attended school until the 3rd grade. After his grandparent’s home, he went to live with his uncle Nick until the age of 16. It was then he left his boyhood home to start a life of his own. He traveled to Kalispell where he gained employment with the forest service and worked as a Forest Ranger for several years.
Joe came from a large family. He was born into a family of 8 children. He has 3 full siblings, and 4 half siblings, a few of which he knew very well and a few he only met a time or two. He was very close to his brother John and spent his life as close as he could be, always doing the best he could to watch after his little brother. His favorite pastime was teasing and joking with John, right up until his last breath. His sister, Christine “Tina” was very close to Joe and they grew up never far from each other, and who Joe also took it upon himself to try and take care of, until she married and made a family of her own. Joe & Tina remained very close right up into her death in 2005. Tina meant the world to Joe and he missed her everyday after she passed and would speak of her often.
Joe met Betty Lake and had a brief relationship that resulted in the birth of a daughter, Sheri. After that separation he met and married Sybil (Hawkins) Butler and they together had 5 children and where he gained his step-daughter, and who he also claimed as his own.
Joe started his life career as a certified welder where he and his family moved to San Jose, CA where he attended welding school, earning his degree in welding,
The family returned back to Dixon, MT where they chose as their home. This is where Joe built a shop and was self-employed in his own business as a welder/mechanic, a job that he loved, and was proud of. This is where he built many friendships working on friendships, cars, and then got into helping everyone that asked him for help with “demo derby” cars. A passion he had up until the time of his death. This is also when he began his 30 year employment as a “woods worker” cutting post & poles, cord wood, and Christmas trees. He purchased a Caterpillar (CAT) and post peeler for equipment used to support his family. He loved his mountains and spent most of his time there working or doing what he loved, hunting, fishing, and camping. As Joe grew older, and time spent in the mountains grew few, he talked fondly reminiscing of his life he spent in the mountains doing what he loved. After the harvesting of post & poles was stopped he applied at SKHA as a ground keeper and then shortly after he was hired he was promoted to “Foreman” and was supervisor of his own small crew. He was very proud of this achievement and this is also where he built his “work family” and spent 13 years, he build many friendships. Working in the outdoors doing the things he loved. Joe always had a smile on his face for everyone. He was a very hard worker. With this job and with every job he has ever had. He put his heart into everything he did and this made him proud.
At 65, Joe was “forced” into retirement for health reasons. But he never stopped talking about “wishing he could still work” he missed working more then anything; it gave him peace in his heart. Joe was a “family man” from the beginning and was the proudest father that could be after the birth of his 1st daughter, Pamela, with his then wife Sybil. He would hold her for hours from the time she was born and would just marvel in her beauty. Shortly thereafter he and Sybil gave birth to the remainder of the children he loved more then life. Four more children, Jody, Juanita, Leslie, and Crystal. He loved more then anything being “Dad” and from this grew a close relationship with “each” of his children, always being present in each of their lives and building a lifetime of precious memories.
In 1982 and then in 1984 came the birth of 3 of his 46 Grandchildren & Great-Grandchildren. From the first moment he became “papa” he devoted his heart to each and every one of his grandkids. And they also became the love of his life. His own children and his grandchildren are the legacy of his unconditional love and he made sure “each” of them knew he loved them with all of his heart. From the very first child to his very last, many of whom he himself helped to raise, right up to the day he went into the hospital, with his “special” boy, Dailon. He had patience, love joking, humor, laughter, and his ever ending smile for all of them.
He married into a very large family and as a result he became “uncle Joe” to many nieces and nephews and also a brother-in-law. He spent a lot of time with all of these people as well and developed a close relationship and friendship with all of them.
Joe loved camping, hunting, fishing, picking huckleberries, BBQ’s, and family get-togethers. He always loved to eat. He very much enjoyed being together with family and friends, just sitting back and relaxing and visiting.
He is preceded in death by his parents, sister Christine, his first granddaughter Camron, and infant great-granddaughter Adileah.
He is survived by a large family, some of which he knew well. A few of which only knew he was their brother.
John (Karen) Butler of Arlee, MT, Tom (Susan) Antiste of Elmo, MT, Geraldine “Jeri” Butler of WA, and Sheila Maloy, Judith Maloy, Patrick Maloy Jr. (of which he knew of but never really knew)
He leaves behind daughters, Pamela Butler of Dixon, Jody Butler of Polson, Juanita Butler of Missoula, Crystal (Alex) Butler-Metcalf of Dixon, and his son; Leslie “Les” (Tory) Butler also of Dixon. Shelly (Shane) Hendrickson of Arlee.
46 Grand & Great Grandchildren too numerous to mention by name, and also “Papa” to many other “Friends-Spouses” of his grandkids whom he met and became their papa also.
Joe spent the last moth of his life confined to the hospital. Not one moment passed that his beloved family was not by his side. He fought courageously for life but in the end he told all of us. “I’m tired and I’m ready to go home” Every single day he would tell each of us how much he loved us and that his life with us had been filled with love and happiness, with his last breath he whispered I love all of you (my children and my grandkids) with all my heart, never forget that, don’t cry for me, I am not afraid to die.”
Dad was baptized Catholic at birth but later in life he chose “Christianity” and asked the Lord Jesus into his life. He knew Jesus as his savior and as he left this world to the Kingdom of Heaven, his soul was at peace.
A traditional wake services will begin Friday at 7pm in the Longhouse in St. Ignatius, prayer service for the family and friends as well as story sharing will continue through Saturday at 8pm. On Sunday at 2:00pm funeral services will be held at the Longhouse where he will be given his final prayers by Pastor Lee Wraith. He will then be cremated and his ashes spread at the location he has chosen at a later date. A meal will follow the services.