Ernest DeVon Butler, US Marine Corps.
One week ago, my dad's last remaining sibling passed away at the age of 94. Today, my Uncle Ernie was laid to rest in his hometown of Fresno, California. My father, the youngest of eleven children, drove to Fresno to attend the funeral. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to join them, but I'm very grateful that I was able to visit with Ernie and his sweet wife, my Aunt Alma, just five months ago while we were vacationing in California.
Uncle Ernie and Aunt Alma, at ages 23 and 19.
Alma is now 90 and has dedicated herself to caring for her childhood sweetheart in his declining years. Her gratitude that she was still physically able to do so was so very sweet. She told me recently, on two occasions, that when Ernie passed on she will have fulfilled her mission, and then she plans to join him on the other side of the veil. Such devoted love is a rare thing in this world.
Alma and Ernie with his cousin Eldon.
Until Alma is able to rejoin her forever-sweetheart, I love to think of Ernie's joyful reunion with their two sons, my cousins Bobby and Jimmy, who passed away many years ago. I'm sure there were many happy tears, as well, when he reunited with his parents, my Butler grandparents, Ed and Myrtle. Not to mention the nine other siblings who preceded him beyond the veil.
My Grandpa Ed Butler with his son, my Uncle Ernie.
Ernie and Alma have three children still living: my cousins Larry, Carol, and Bryan, as well as several grandchildren and great-grandchildren. They are a wonderful family. No one I've ever met has been kinder than my dear uncle and aunt. I never doubted I was loved while in their company.
Ernie served in the Marine Corps during the final years of World War II, as a turret gunner on a bomber plane. My thanks to my cousin Debbie's husband, Mike, who posted many of these photos online, allowing me to add them to my collection. I believe they were displayed at the funeral today.
Uncle Ernie Butler, Marine, with his cousin Eldon Christopherson, Navy.
Uncle Ernie on the left.
This map was eye-opening regarding my uncle's dangerous missions.
The green indicates where he was stationed; the blue is where they were bombed.
My dad is almost eleven years younger than Ernie (as the baby of the family, Dad is now 83 years old), so he was just a kid when his big brother went off to war. Ernie was always his hero. My dad may have been the taller of the two, but he looked up to his older brother in every other way.
Uncle Ernie as I'll always remember him.
I wasn't born until 1954, so of course I don't remember Uncle Ernie as a Marine and war hero. The man I knew was soft-spoken and gentle, with a quiet, endearing sense of humor. He made a 23-year career as the Boy Scout Camp Ranger for Fresno County, and he loved the great outdoors. We created many happy memories enjoying family camp at Camp Chawanakee on Shaver Lake at the end of the Boy Scout season each summer.
Uncle Ernie and me, picnicking at White Mountain Apache Reservation.
Oct 13, 1990
Some of my best memories of Ernie and Alma come from when Mark and I moved here to the White Mountains in eastern Arizona during the summer of 1990. Sarah was nine months old and I was beginning a new career as a teacher at the local high school. Everything was new and our closest family was a three-hour drive away. Except for Ernie and Alma, that is, who--as luck would have it--were serving an LDS mission in Whiteriver, just a thirty-minute drive from us, on the Apache reservation. For the next six months or so, until their mission ended and they returned home to California, they filled our empty spaces with love and fun, showing us the sights on the reservation and inviting us for meals and holidays and picnics. I love those memories!
My grandparents with ten of their eleven children on their 50th anniversary.
July 2, 1963
Sadly, with the exception of my father, everyone in the photo above has moved on to the next life, where I trust we will all meet again one day. Front and center are my grandparents, Lawrence Edward (Ed) Butler and Myrtle Van Ausdal Butler. Flanking them are their two eldest children, firstborn Twila Kester (on the left) and second-born Elda Bennett.
In the back row from left to right are the rest of my Butler aunts and uncles: Jean Stokes, Vera Clark, LouDene Shields, my dad Myron Butler, Ernie Butler, Fern Haley, Bonnie Hawkins, and Irene Eugster. Not pictured is eldest son (and third child), my Uncle Lynn, who died when he was only twenty-one, many years before this picture was taken. My dad was still a child when his oldest brother Lynn died.
Until we meet again, Uncle Ernie, I'll remember you and miss you and look ahead to the day when we're finally gathered in the eternal embrace of all those we love.