Losing a legend: Jim Butler passes away|
Saturday, July 07, 2012
By Jaclyn Yingling Sports Editor
Last August, I had to write a column about a man I really respected and looked up to leaving us too soon.
Now, less than a year later, I sit again at my computer staring at the screen trying to find the right words.
It's hard to lose a colleague, but even worse when you consider that person a true friend.
I have had the honor of calling Jim Butler my friend for over 12 years.
When I got the call from his wife, Sue, that he had passed away on Friday afternoon from a heart attack, I was devastated.
I could go on and list all of Jim's accomplishments, like winning the 1976 Wrestling USA Magazine Hall of Fame Sportswriter of the Year. He was also the 1980 Scholastic Wrestling News Magazine Writer of the Year.
He followed that with the Amateur Wrestling News Dillinger Award and District 6 Man of the Year Award in 1984.
In 1991, Jim was honored as the Amateur Wrestling News National Wrestling Photographer of the Year and the National Wrestling Media Association Photographer of the Year in 1995.
He was inducted into the Pennsylvania Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Fame and District 9 Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1999. He was inducted into the District 6 Hall of Fame in 2003.
But just listing things wouldn't do the person I considered like a surrogate uncle any justice.
Jim was a family man, who was always there for his kids, Candy, Kevin, Steven and Troy. He adored his wife, Sue, and was a fantastic grandfather to his many grandchildren.
He talked about all of his family a lot, and it was easy to see how much he was enjoying life.
All of us who worked with Jim at The Progress have stories just like the people he touched in the wrestling and racing worlds.
And that's how I choose to remember Jim.
We spent many car rides together traveling all over the state covering baseball, softball, basketball and the like.
Jim always offered to drive. So, he usually met whichever of us he was going with at the office or picked us up at our house.
He was usually at least five minutes late, but he was always there and we always made it on time.
During those long car rides, we'd talk about anything and everything to pass the time.
One of those things was what we'd do if we'd ever hit one of those big Powerball jackpots.
The first thing Jim said he wanted to do was turf all of the local football fields and give the kids in the schools we cover fancy facilities to play in.
Then, he planned to give money to friends and keep a little for himself to have some fun.
If you knew Jim, that would come as no surprise.
Some of my favorite memories are of district and sectional wrestling tournaments when Jim would drop his role as photographer and "coach" a few kids who seemed to be in need of pointers.
Watching those kids hanging on every word he said and then going out and executing exactly what he taught them was amazing.
That was the legacy Jim Butler will leave.
Jim was friends with everyone it seemed. Whether we went to races or wrestling tournaments, everyone knew him.
Being with Jim got you an automatic "in" with people. They figured if he liked you, you couldn't be all that bad.
On those many car trips to here and there, Jim's phone would ring at least once or twice with people he knew, and some he didn't, asking him about different things.
Sometimes it was racing related other times it was about wrestling.
He spent many years going all over the country, taking any kid who wanted to go to a wrestling tournament in Iowa.
He spent even more years driving up and down the East Coast and all over the Midwest with the hauler he sold racing memorabilia out of.
Jim used to like to call me from Daytona Speedweeks or whatever tropical hot spot he had found himself in to talk about the weather.
My phone would ring and it would be Jim asking, "What's the weather like up there?"
When I would reply that it was cold and snowing, he'd laugh and say, "No kidding, it only got to 84 here today."
It was a given that when Jim was on vacation with his wife, Sue, he would still call the office at least once to see what was going on in the local high school sports world.
He was always excited to get back to shooting sports and hated to sit around in one spot too long.
When he had his first knee replacement a few years ago, he called everyone in the office at least once because he was so bored sitting at home.
He relished his time taking photos of high school athletes, and had recently started posting his photos on his Facebook page and his photo site.
He remembered kids long after they graduated and still kept up with many through social media.
I last talked to Jim on Thursday. I had texted his wife to see how he was doing, since he was in the hospital getting another knee replacement.
The number I texted called me back almost immediately. It was Jim.
"Hey, what are you doing?" he said. I said I was checking up on him and he laughed.
We talked for 20 minutes or so about things that were going on and he said not to worry, that he would be back as soon as he could get around and drive.
I told him, rather sternly, that I had called to see how he was doing, not when he was coming back.
He told me he knew that I was just looking out after him.
Now it turns out he will be the one looking out after all of us from a different place.