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Public safety ‘family’ gives Butler final salute

Public safety ‘family’ gives Butler final salute
          Butler’s widow praises entire county while holding strong to her faith



Marion County Sheriff’s Deputy Michael Butler was given his final ride after his funeral at the Winfield First Baptist Church. A temporary arch was formed by local firefighters using the ladder trucks from the Hamilton and Haleyville fire departments. An American flag was suspended from the arch under which the former law enforcement officer was driven en route to the cemetery. Shown attaching the flag to the ladder trucks are Winfield firefighters (from left) Will Riley and Dewayne Norris.


Article and photo contributed by The Journal Record

Journal Record
News Editor

winfield - Having now ended his courageous battle with cancer, Marion County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Michael Butler was laid to rest earlier this week.

Flanked by law officers and firefighters with whom he had served during his career, Butler was remembered as a caring husband and father as well as a devoted law enforcement officer.

Butler, 36, died on Saturday, Sept. 3, after a six-month cancer battle. Law enforcement rallied to support the sheriff’s deputy online and at his home throughout the illness.

His funeral held at Winfield First Baptist Church on Tuesday, Sept. 6. Hundreds filled the church sanctuary as speakers recalled a man who was devoted to his family and his career, but more importantly to his faith.

His passing ended a battle with a rare form of cancer--the treatments for which had left Butler weakened but not broken.

Almost as if standing guard near their friend, firefighters and law enforcement officers stood near the front of the church at either end of the casket in the hours leading up to the service.
Officers from various departments across the county and beyond said farewell to the Marion County High School graduate with a unified salute prior to opening the visitation line to family and friends who had come to say goodbye.

Emergency vehicles filled much of church parking lot as the service drew near.

A temporary archway was formed in the downtown area of Winfield using laddertrucks from the fire departments in Hamilton and Haleyville. A large American flag was flown from the resulting area. The hearse carrying his body was driven underneath the archway en route to the ceremony after the funeral service.

Less than 24 hours later, the late officer’s widow spoke with the Journal Record about the compassion displayed across Marion County in the months leading up to her husband’s death.
“I would not live anywhere else,’’ Miranda Butler said. “I am overwhelmed by the local response to our battle.

“I truly do not have the words to express how I feel. All of the local churches have been a blessing--and even the churches beyond our county. The law enforcement family has been amazing. And other friends and family have been so faithful with their visits, food and other acts of kindness. It has all been beyond my wildest dreams.’’

Butler had been with the Marion County Sheriff’s Department for more than four years at the time of his death. His previous seven years came with the police department in Winfield.

In the interview, Mrs. Butler also recalled the return flight from Texas in July when her husband had sought treatment for his cancer in Houston. Coming in for a landing at the airport in Hamilton, Butler said the sight was a humbling experience.

“Seeing the numerous law enforcement vehicles with their blue lights flashing was something I will never forget,’’ recalled Mrs. Butler, saying that her husband closed his eyes and said, “That is my family.’’

Asked what has proven to be the most difficult part of the journey, Mrs. Butler said it would be caring for the couple’s two daughters now that their father has died. Caroline is 7, while her older sister Anna Beth is 11. Each attends school in Winfield.

“Let me stress, I am not worried about the financial,’’ she began. “God has been so faithful and provided for us throughout this process and He will continue to do so.

“But I want make sure that I provide the things for our girls that Michael would have wanted for them--and I mean the important things money cannot buy. I want to be there for them as a mother as I head back to work, but still wanting to find the time for them and their needs.’’

Heading back to work will be something in the coming days Mrs. Butler has not done in more than five months. She praised her employer for the extended leave of absence she was granted in order to care for her husband.

“Thanks to Citizens Bank, I have no regrets,’’ Mrs. Butler said. “I owe that to my employer. (President) Chris (Carothers) and (chief executive officer) Russell (Carothers) have been so good to my family during this whole process.

“They encouraged me not to worry about work and that my job would be waiting for me when I could return. This allowed me to be the mother and wife I needed to be. I had wanted to be by Michael’s side until the end, and thanks to the bank, I was able to do that for him.’’

But confronting this hurdle in her life proved easier due to an unexpected event a few years prior when the couple had suffered through not one but two miscarriages.

“I was angry with God,’’ she recalled. “I wondered how He could put me through this. I did not understand, but now I see the Lord used that instance to prepare me for what was to come with Michael’s sickness.

“And now I am reaping the rewards because my phone has been blowing up with several saying they returned to God or returned to church because of Michael’s testimony. This is exactly what he would have wanted--to know his life was making an eternal difference in the lives of others. The Lord will give you the strength to do more than you think you can.’’

Her strong Christian faith has been nurtured over the years by a husband who was a leader in taking his family to church. Butler said there is no doubt this commitment to God and regular church attendance was the cornerstone of their 16-year marriage.

Even in his final weeks of life, Butler had been able to attend a few services with his family. Prior to his illness, the family rarely missed any event or service.

Her husband’s battle with cancer became a community outreach in many ways as she provided daily updates on his condition through Facebook.

Saying she used the social medium to keep friends and family current on his condition, Mrs. Butler said, “I did not want to leave anyone out.

“Using Facebook to update his condition allowed me to tell everyone of his efforts. And I am learning that these daily updates have proven to be inspirational for many who have followed them.’’

But while most of those daily posts were filled with at least some encouraging words, Mrs. Butler admitted there were a number of difficult times the social followers would not have seen.

“Michael hurt every day,’’ she recalled. “He cried at times and asked God to take this from him, but the Lord never did.

“He was in a lot of pain, but he knew the Lord was faithful. But watching him cry from the pain was the toughest part for me. After all, he is the love of my life and the father of my children.’’
Asked how her husband would want to be remembered, Mrs. Butler cried a little before her response was verbalized.

“He considered himself a plain, old guy just doing his job every day,’’ she said with an eventual chuckle. “He had never wanted recognition.

“He wondered why his sickness was receiving so much attention when so many others also suffer. He loved his job  and helping people. He wanted to be a full organ donor, but was unable to do so because of the cancer. But he was able to donate his eyes. He was always wanting to help someone else.

“On his death bed when his friends and law enforcement buddies would come by for a visit, he would remind them to get right with God. That was the most important thing to him was to know others were ready to meet God. And now, he has.’’



Honoring a brother
Dozens of law enforcement vehicles lined the streets outside the Winfield First Baptist Church where funeral services were held for Marion County Sheriff’s Deputy Michael Butler on Tuesday, Sept. 6. Shown in this photo are (right) one of several Winfield Police Department vehicles and (in front of the church) a Marion County Sheriff’s Department patrol unit. These vehicles represent the two local departments for which Butler worked.


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