We've Got The County Covered

John Thomas (JT) and Wilma Mary Butler

One lovely March evening in 1948 at the old Chinook Armory during a St. Patrick's Day dance, Soldier Boy, home after two years overseas, noticed a bouncy, curly haired girl that could really dance. He remembered her from high school days. He asked for the next dance, and they jitterbugged the night away in the Armory.

That dance led to a fast paced eight-month courtship between those two jitterbuggers, and on November 26, 1948, John Thomas (JT) Butler and Wilma Mary Butcher were married at the Methodist Church in Chinook, Montana. And that very night, the happy honeymooners made a solemn pledge to each other.

JT just out of the army and back from Korea, and Wilma just graduated that fall, now began a beautiful, adventurous, 74 year-long love affair, that sadly, came to an end recently in San Antonio, Texas.

But at the beginning....both the Lovers grew up in the area and graduated from Chinook High School. JT, two years older, lived and worked on the family farm. Wilma worked as an usher at the two movie theaters and was busy "running the high school with her gang of ten." JT was a talented musician and played in local bands and was also quite a singer when he wasn't racing around the state too fast in one of his trusty Fords. Upon graduation, JT joined the Army and Wilma finished high school and began working at the creamery. Then, the magic occurred in that jitterbugging at that St. Patrick's Day dance and they were married.

The two newlyweds began the business of running the family farm east of Chinook in Paradise Valley raising hay, grain, beets, and cattle. Soon came the first child Jane, then Jack, and last Peggy, and the family was perfect. For many wonderful years, life spun around the farm, North Fork School, fishing trips with grandparents, Christmas trips to Oregon, 4H clubs and conventions, County Fairs, lots of nights visiting and playing cards with neighbors Billy and Laveeda, Chet and Maureen, aunts and uncles, summer trips to Glacier Park, the family loved the winter drives following Sugarbeeter basketball and football games, between cousins' birthday parties and MYF roller skating.

After 20 years on the farm, life was changing for JT and Wilma. Their children, whom they raised to be independent and bold, had graduated from Chinook High School, and were building their lives in far-away places. They leased the farm and moved into Chinook where JT began working at the Post Office, and Wilma was soon the Head Dietician at Sweet Memorial Nursing Home. They also began a rental service and owned more than ten houses in the area. This new business arrangement afforded JT and Wilma the flexibility to travel to be with their children and grandchildren, and they needed it as their children had ended up in different hemispheres.

The air miles for JT and Wilma increased as the grandchildren started arriving. Jane and Don had the first, Brad in California, then Clint was born in Connecticut. Peggy had Jason in Montana, but soon moved to Texas where she married Steve and added his daughters Amy and Ashley to the family. Jack had set up life in Alaska and yearly fishing trips filled everyone's freezer with JT and Wilma's salmon and halibut (on one Father's Day JT caught a 300-pound halibut and a 50-pound king, but on most days Wilma would out fish him to his delight). Jane finished the grandchildren list with Andrew born in Virginia, but soon her family moved to Australia, and JT and Wilma made several memorable trips Down Under.

Probably exhausted from world travel, JT and Wilma decided to retire from Chinook in 1992 and moved into their last home in San Antonio, Texas where Jane and Peg's families had decided to settle, and soon Jack and his wife Bernie too made their way to The Alamo City.

Over the next couple of decades JT and Wilma's great grandchildren started coming. Brad and Aly had Abigail, Elijah, Riley and Caleb. Clint and Molly had Wesley. Jason and Nadine had Bailey and Teage. Andrew and Krista had Hayden and Greyson. Amy and Brandon had Mazzy, Emma and Ella. Ashley and Neil had Elise, Ian and Kate.

JT and Wilma especially enjoyed the later years of their lives, spending wonderful times with all their family around them instead of scattered around the globe. They also enjoyed friends and family coming from up north to visit them, spending time on the backyard patio enjoying warm weather, and showing them the Riverwalk and all-around San Antonio. And of course, many evenings found JT and Wilma's living room packed with family watching the Spurs win championships on tv.

And so, in this their last year together, JT and Wilma Butler amid their large and growing happy family, smiled at one another often, remembering the solemn pledge they made to each other on their honeymoon night way back in 1948. And that pledge was to be the best parents to their beloved children, and, to build a strong happy family. They really were, and we the family surely are.

 
 
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