Remembering John Butler–a St. Patrick’s Parade Grand Marshal who refused to let Mother Nature get the best of him

R.I.P. : John Butler, Grand Marshal of the 2010 Morris County St. Patrick's Parade.
R.I.P. : John Butler, Grand Marshal of the 2010 Morris County St. Patrick's Parade.
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By Robyn Quinn

The passing of John Butler, the only Grand Marshal of the Morris County St. Patrick’s Parade to have two parade days, will be mourned by many across Morris and Sussex counties.

Butler was a driving force within his church and many community organizations. He died last Friday at age 74.

For more than 20 years, he volunteered on various committees for the parade. He was “rewarded” by serving as Grand Marshal twice–in 2010.

Butler lined up with his wife Joyce and their family at the head of the parade on March 13 of that year. But a great nor’easter roared through and the event was canceled moments before its scheduled start. Butler got a second chance on April 10, when the parade proceeded without a peep from Mother Nature.

“John worked tirelessly behind the scenes for decades on the parade, and was a beloved member of our organization.  His spirit embodies what we are all about,” said Ryan Dawson, president of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick.

Butler also belonged to the Irish American Association of Northwest Jersey.

Additionally, he was a 4th degree Knight and a Past Grand Knight for the Knights of Columbus. He also was financial secretary of St. Therese Knights of Columbus, Council 6320 in Succasunna.

Butler’s contributions on the board of the Department of Persons with Disabilities were recognized in 2017 when the department named him Knight of Columbus of the Year.

Friends remembered Butler as a kind and gentle soul, a glass-half-full sort of fellow who had a way of making people feel good.  The mention of his name inevitably brought a smile.

“John has touched many lives over the years and has left us with so many fond memories.  He will be sorely missed by his Brother Knights and all those that knew him,” said John P. Jones, a Past Grand Knight.

John Murphy, the 2018 parade Grand Marshal-elect, knew Butler for years and “never heard him say a bad word about anyone and I never heard anyone say a bad thing about John. He was a true gentleman and a friend to so many.”

“John Butler always knew what to say and just how to say it,” said Willie Quinn, the 2011 Grand Marshal.

Robert Nace, who served as president of the parade trustees during Butler’s Grand Marshal year, said Butler and Al DeBenedictis for years were instrumental in the success of the parade ad journal, the vehicle that raises more than $100,000 annually to fund the event.

“John was a delight to work with for so many years. His friendship and leadership will be missed by all who knew him,” Nace said.

“John Butler was the respected statesman of the Morris County St Patrick’s Parade, sharing his love, lore, and insights to make sure the parade always stayed true to its mission and origins,” added Theresa Davis, president of the Irish American Association of Northwest Jersey.

Butler died surrounded by his loving family: Joyce, his wife of 50 years, and his two daughters and son-in-laws, Kelly Musmanno and Al, and Teri Burke and Shawn. Butler doted over grandchildren Jake, Zack and Colin. He also is survived by siblings Dennis and Debbie Butler, Brian and Marti Butler, Jill Fried and Dan, and Jill Butler.

Family and friends will commemorate Butler’s life with visitation on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018, from 4 pm to 8 pm at the William J. Leber Funeral Home in Chester.  A funeral mass will be celebrated on Wednesday, Jan. 24, at St. Therese Church in Succasunna. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested memorial donations be made to the Department of Persons with Disabilities.

So fill to me the parting glass
And drink a health whate’er befall,
And gently rise and softly call
Good night and joy be to you all

–The Parting Glass, circa 1615

Robyn Quinn has served on numerous committees of the Morris County St. Patrick’s Parade.

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