Who was John Butler?

Most anyone living in Chester in the 1960s will remember John Butler. I doubt there is anyone alive today who knew John better than Bob Ulbrich. Bob wrote a number of his memories of John Butler. Below are a few of Bob’s memories.


John never handled the income he received from a Trust of funds that he inherited but always referred any financial payments or decisions to ‘The Front Office’, which was Ulbrich Law Offices. I always felt that was probably the way that John saw his father or mother handle their finances. We would pay John’s monthly expenses and invested some of his money in CD’s….


John was a great Harvard rooter. I’m not sure where this originated. My guess was that his grandfather or great grandfather, who we were told was governor of Massachusetts, was a Harvard graduate. John would always come into the office before the Harvard-Yale game and we would bet on the outcome. Usually a dollar but sometimes two dollars!


John served in the army with distinction during the Allies campaign up the boot of Italy in 1944. His service records in the army show he served from March 6, 1943 until his discharge on October 19, 1945. He then went back into the army during the Korean War and served from December 15, 1949 until December 12, 1952.


John Butler
John Butler’s silver belt buckle. Photo by Ron Patch.


John lost his apartment and had no place to go. He began living in his truck, which he parked in various places, but mostly next to Barney Carpenter’s Texaco station on Depot Street. He lived in his truck for about two years. I contacted the family (his brother and sister) several times and implored them to somehow advance enough money that we could at least buy him a camp or meager structure for John to live in, but they never responded….


….When John’s mother died, John received an inheritance somewhere around $250,000.00, and was also the recipient of funds from a trust to him and his sister and brother. John’s one-third share was also valued in the $250,000.00 range….

….The inheritance changed John’s life dramatically. He had monthly income on which to live and funds to buy a house.

ZANADU FARM (John’s Spelling)

John settled into the house and we began renovations to make the barn to contain three stables. Hessie worked on it, Gary Doolittle, my son-in-law, spent part of the summer painting it….

….John had a path from the house to the barn which forked into two lanes. John had two signs with arrows indicating ‘horse’ and ‘humans’ – horses to the left and humans to the right.


At that time John had to begin to think about who would be beneficiaries of his now sizeable estate. His interest in horses had him first name the Morgan horse farm as his beneficiary. However, knowing John’s interest in Harvard and education I suggested to him setting up a system of scholarships for Chester students, and the awarding and investing to be handled by Chester Academy Trustees….


Because of his problems, John had various actions that the general public might not understand….

John’s love for horses sometimes showed up in his actions. He would often ‘paw’ his foot on the ground while talking with you.

If the word ‘string’ was mentioned John would say in a low voice, “Short, mighty short.”

If you mentioned his vehicle as a truck, John would say in a low voice, “Pick-up.”

John always dressed for dinner in the late afternoon. He would put on his riding pants, a white dress shirt with a string tie, and his holster with revolver in place. You had to assume this was his father’s routine.

John always had a table place set and marked for ‘Sue.’ One room in the house was marked ‘Sue’s room.’ We assumed Sue was someone John knew at the horse center in South Woodstock.


In the early 1980s John began having health/heart problems and he really desired to enter the Veterans Home in Bennington….

….Hess and I would go over and visit John regularly and John seemed to be happy at Bennington and seemed to feel very much at home….


As a sad ending to the whole John story, I believe there were six people at John’s funeral – Clair & Dee Hesselton, Buster Frizell, Janet Langdon and Dianne and I. Perhaps the funeral only emphasizes the fact the question is being raised today as to ‘Who was John Butler?’”


While few today knew John, his generosity still benefits local students with scholarships every year.


This week’s old saying, “Those that say it can’t be done shouldn’t get in the way of those doing it.”

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