WOODBURY — The Woodbury Business Association held its 17th annual James J. Clark, Jr., Community Service Award to honor the late William J. Butterly, Jr., on June 19 at the Good News Restaurant and Bar, 694 Main St South. During his life, Mr. Butterly held several positions, including state representative, home inspector and teacher, yet, when his wife Judy Butterly accepted the award on his behalf, she described his happiest years as Woodbury’s first selectman. “It would have thrilled Bill to know he was getting this award.”
Rick Richardson, president of the Woodbury Business Association, welcomed the packed room by noting that every person who has received the award has done something special for the town, but this year’s award would be the first given posthumously.
He commented on the idea that so many people gathered would have many fond memories of Mr. Butterly, “I assume that, during dinner, there will be many stories shared around the tables.”
Speaking about her predecessor, First Selectman Barbara Perkinson remembered his strong beliefs and his energetic and tenacious nature, but also how she was able to learn from him.
“He was a good debater,” she remembered, citing his stubbornness among other qualities and an ability to compromise to achieve the best outcome for all. “He loved Woodbury very, very deeply.”
According to her, his meeting agendas would reflect that passion for the town and his presence on the streets and in businesses was enhanced by his familiarity with many residents.
Ms. Perkinson said she misses him. “You may not have agreed with him, but he did know the facts.”
After assuring those present that she will not take up Mr. Butterly’s favorite sport of pickleball, Ms. Perkinson yielded the floor to Woodbury Poet Laureate David Bibbey.
He recalled that the former first selectman always had time for another person before reciting a poem that offered comfort in the idea of remembering those who are lost by sharing love and pain to help through the hard time of loss.
Mr. Bibbey also read a poem asking what makes a town and answering that it is its people and how those people behave and talk to each other.
Wayne Anderson, chair of the Public Building Commission, thanked the WBA for honoring his friend, describing Mr. Butterly as a person about whom one could not say too much.
“Bill Butterly was a businessman,” Mr. Anderson said, recalling a number of red dots that Mr. Butterly had applied to almost every surface in a house that was up for sale, each sticker representing a step in a detailed and carefully considered home inspection.
Mr. Butterly explained that his job was to make sure the buyers knew what they were getting, prompting Mr. Anderson to change his mind. The house didn’t have the measles; his friend had integrity.
“Bill provided a lot of service to the town of Woodbury.” According to Mr. Anderson, the former first selectman showed up for both big and little events and would always make the time to listen. “That’s a lost art today, especially in government.”
Considering the measure of a person as how one treats animals, Mr. Anderson remembered that his friend loved creatures, adding, “I will miss him greatly.”
Resident Joyce Drakely summed up Mr. Butterly by relating a time the power went out in the middle of the night.
Despite the early hour, he responded immediately to her text for help, identified the location of a downed tree and placed a police officer at the scene to secure the area as the first step in addressing the problem.
“Bill served the public,” Mr. Richardson agreed, as he introduced Jenifer Miller, director of the Parks and Recreation Department.
She said Mr. Butterly made the town a priority and was grateful for the good things that happened in it, always making sure that credit went to those he felt had made them happen rather gathering praise for himself. “He believed that a volunteer base is what makes Woodbury great.”
She said he displayed a patience that he may not have been known to have, but did so to ensure that volunteers had what they needed.
She concluded by noting that the job of first selectman is a paid position, but the dedication of the man who once held that position was 24/7. “Congratulations. I know you’re watching and wondering what this fuss is all about.”
Alex DeSorbo, chair of the Board of Finance, was unable to attend but shared written remarks to note that politics was always part of Mr. Butterly’s life in a long list of service, including holding the highest elected position in both Watertown and Woodbury.
Mr. DeSorbo pointed out how the new first selectman in 2013 was working to pull people together and address a discord that would highlight the negative. “Bill looked to get people involved. That’s community service.”
Mr. Richardson closed the ceremony by pointing out that the Butterlys purchased the new pineapple decoration that sits atop the library. “He’ll always be keeping an eye out over our town.”