Oldest Living Alumni
Harold Butler

Harold Butler, with the Arcola High School Class of 1945, belongs to an elite group of Arcola High School students who were called to serve this country before completing their high school education. Many, like Harold, were near the end of their senior year, but were drafted to military service just a few months before graduating with their high school classmates. On occasion, some students were drafted so close to their graduation date, the school board voted to award their diplomas in their absence because they had completed nearly all their course work. Harold was able to earn his Arcola High School diploma after successfully completing written examination following his 1946 discharge from the Army after serving in Korea.

Harold Jones Butler, the third child of farming parents Jones Butler and Verbal Henniger Butler, was born January 5, 1927, at Charleston, IL. His parents had moved to Illinois from Breckenridge County, Kentucky. Harold’s older siblings were also born at Charleston, Evelyn in 1923 and Hobart Milton in 1925. Harold began school in Charleston, and then continued his grade school education at a rural school south of Arcola when the Butler family relocated to southern Douglas County. His father worked for several farmers in the Arcola area, including Byron Williams and George Black. Harold remembers he received a very good education in the country school, even with only one teacher instructing grades 1-8. He also recalls families of the students supplied the coal for the heating stove in the small school.

The Arcola Record-Herald reported 8th grade students from nine rural grade schools in the Arcola community were promoted to high school at the Arcola Presbyterian Church on May 15, 1941. Students included Harold Butler of Union Central School, who received his diploma from Luther J. Black, Douglas Co. Superintendent of Schools. Harold and his classmates began their freshman year at Arcola High School on September 2nd following the July 24th lightning strike and subsequent fire that caused considerable damage to the school building. Students attended high school with no roof on the building and without electricity in the early part of the school year. The bombing of Pearl Harbor and the United States’ entry into World War II later that same year were also memorable experiences for students at AHS. As juniors, Harold’s class entered the war bond drive for the second time and exceeded their goal of $10,000.00.

With no school buses to transport rural students at that time, Harold remembers he and his brother Milton drove through the country and picked up several other students on their way to school in Arcola, including Phil Wesch (AHS 1947), Norma Wesch (1945) and George Anna Hall Wilkerson (1946). He can still name many of his teachers at AHS, including Nelson Roberts, Dale Hull, Mary Stoddard, Modesta Scott, Elizabeth Moss, Lois Moore, Genevieve Corley and Supt. Floyd King. When asked about his favorite classes at AHS, Harold remembers he did not like history as a high school student, but it would now be his favorite subject.

Harold was a member of Future Farmers of America during high school, serving as treasurer his senior year. Harold “Clip” Butler was also a sports writer for The Arco-Lite, the student column published in the Arcola Record-Herald. When asked how he received the nickname “Clip”, Butler admitted he repeatedly blocked illegally from the back in football.

The newspapers provided much information about sports during Harold’s high school career, as he played football his sophomore, junior and senior years. The 9-30-43 and 10-7-43 newspapers reported Butler, at left end, was a standout in the Arcola line. The 10-14-43 Arcola-Lite column reported the football team went to Mattoon the prior Tuesday night for a scrimmage. It turned out to be a real game and Harold Butler received a broken nose in Arcola’s 13-6 loss to Mattoon. Harold noted the football helmets were not equipped with face guards at that time, but a guard was added to his helmet after his nose was broken.

The 10-14-43 Record-Herald reported Arcola upset Monticello 12-0 in their first win and Monticello’s first loss of the season as “Arcola’s Purple Ponies rode rough shod over the Monticello Giants Friday night on the Piatt Co. gridiron.” Also during Harold’s junior year, the 11-11-43 Record-Herald reported the Arcola-Tuscola football game was changed to Armistice Day, “the first time in memory the two rivals have not played on Thanksgiving Day.” Harold received a football letter his junior year from Coach Earl McLane at the annual football banquet in the Presbyterian Church basement on 11-18-43. The newspaper reported community support was evident as nearly 200 guests were present for the chicken buffet dinner.

In the 8-31-44 Record-Herald, Coach Glen Riley reported 24 young men came out for football, with senior Harold Butler weighing in at 148 lbs. The newspaper later communicated Butler reinjured his knee in the season opener against Mattoon, and again in practice later in the season. Harold recovered from his injuries and was able to complete the season, but would eventually have knee replacement surgery later in his life. The Christian Church hosted the football banquet Harold’s senior year on 12-6-44. Football lettermen included Lowell Bergfield, Harold Butler, Jim Ghere, Dale McGregor, Tom Patridge, Billy Seaman and Capt. Junior VanGundy. Harold was also a center on the AHS basketball team that played in the old East Side Grade School gymnasium, where Libman Broom factory was later housed. He remembers, as in football, their basketball teams had several different coaching changes as a result of their coaches being drafted into military service. Local graduates, including Jess Sargent (AHS 1938), then stepped up to coach the team. Harold also captained one of six basketball teams that played in round robin tournaments during noon hour at school.

Following his 18th birthday on January 5, 1945, the Douglas Co. Selective Service Board called Harold Jones Butler and 16 others to report for pre-induction examinations in February. By late March, he had been notified to report for departure to the induction station. The 4-19-44 school news reported their classmate, Harold Butler, was in the infantry and stationed at Camp Robinson, Arkansas.

The AHS Class of 1945 graduated 37 seniors on Wednesday evening, May 23rd. Uncle Sam had called three other class members before their graduation. Jim Ghere was first called to the Army, followed by Harold Butler, and then Junior VanGundy later joined the Coast Guard. Other 1945 graduates who may be remembered by local readers include Lloyd Bergfield, Wanda Miller Still, Tom Patridge, Francis Rich, Bill Seaman, Anna Thompson Seaman and Judith Webb Morris.

After completing his basic training at Camp Robinson in Arkansas, Harold reported to Chicago to catch his troop train to the state of Washington. From Washington, the troops were loaded on the Sea Barb, an old US Army troop transport ship, which was headed to Korea in anticipation of war. As the Sea Barb passed under the Golden Gate Bridge in California in September 1945, it was announced over their radio World War II had ended. Harold remembers the trip across the Pacific Ocean was a terrible experience for him as he was seasick the entire trip. He notes there were no punches on his meal ticket on that voyage.

Harold survived his transport to Korea, where he was then stationed 1945-1946. He was discharged from the Army as a corporal in 1946 and was soon able to successfully complete the examination to earn his Arcola High School diploma. Harold then began work at Koehne Manufacturing in Mattoon and later worked for Jay Douglas on a farm near Mattoon.

In the early 1950s, Harold frequented the Arcola Candy Kitchen on Main Street. There he requested a date with 1950 AHS graduate and Candy Kitchen employee Donna Jean Carrothers. Donna was a student at Eastern State College and had made her home with her mother’s sister, Laura McCann Bushu (AHS 1921), and husband Ben Bushu, for the past several years following her mother’s death.

Harold and Donna dated and were then married at the Arcola Christian Church by Rev. Phillip Hollembeak on November 15, 1953. Donna’s father, Don Carrothers of Chicago, escorted his daughter in her wedding ceremony. Others who participated in the wedding were organist Shirley McCann (AHS 1954), attendants Sarajean Jones (1949), Leona Creath, George Morris, Larry Bushu (1955), and ushers C.W. VanGundy, Jr. (1945) and Kenneth Maier (1947).

Following their wedding, Harold continued to farm on the Myron Whisnand farm east of Arcola and the couple made their first home in the Whisnand tenant house. Donna was now employed at the Monahan Broom Corn office. Their first son, Scott, was born in 1954. Harold had the opportunity to farm on his own and the young Butler family moved to the Howsmon farm northwest of Arcola in 1955. Harold and Donna’s son Jeffrey was born in 1957 and then Bryan in 1959. With their three young sons in grade school, Donna was able to return to college at Eastern Illinois University to complete her Bachelor’s degree and then Master’s degree in Education in 1968. She first taught fifth grade in Tuscola for a year before teaching first grade at Arcola Elementary School for the next 24 years.

In the 1960s, while still farming, Harold took on additional responsibilities as a rural mail carrier and continued to carry mail for 24 years, including some years as a substitute rural carrier. He and Donna left their farm home and moved into their 421 West Main Street home in Arcola in 1985. Harold retired from the postal service in 1991 at age 64, but continued to farm for several years.

Over the years, Harold has served as a member of Arcola Lions Club and VFW. He joined the First Christian Church of Arcola shortly after their 1953 wedding and served on the church board for many years. Donna is a 75-year member of the Arcola Christian Church. The Butlers are avid gardeners and their travels have taken them to nearly all 50 states.

As Harold approached his 91st birthday, he and Donna moved from their Arcola home to Rushville, IL, in 2017 to be close to their son Scott. The Butlers enjoy monthly visits to Arcola to spend time with their friends as they play bridge. Their family has grown and now includes many spouses, three grandsons, four granddaughters and ten great grandchildren. Son Jeff is a Monticello resident and Bryan lives at Ankeny, IA.

Arcola Alumni Association honors Army veteran and Arcola High School graduate Harold Butler and also recognizes the Butler family, which boasts eight Arcola High School graduates in two generations: Harold, his sister Evelyn (1941) and brother Milton (1943); Harold and Donna’s sons Scott (1972), Jeff (1975) and Bryan (1977); and Milton and Marilou Butler’s daughters Nancy (1973) and Cathy (1976).

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Last Revision July 21, 2019