OBITUARY: Gilbert Wayne Butler Feb. 22, 1941 – Aug. 9, 2014

GILBERT WAYNE BUTLER Feb. 22, 1941 – Aug. 9, 2014

Avid runner and Rotarian Gilbert Wayne Butler was born February 22, 1941 in Fort Collins, Colorado to John Lafayette Butler (Lafe) and Phyllis Elizabeth (Hunter) Butler.  He was raised in Boise, Idaho and graduated from Borah High School in 1959. 

In 1963 he received his B.S. in Chemistry from Oregon State University, Corvalis. Bypassing a master’s degree, he went directly into the doctoral program at the University of California, Berkley, receiving his Ph.D. in Nuclear Chemistry in 1967. Gil performed post-doctoral research at Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory and Argonne National Laboratory (Illinois) before joining the Nuclear Chemistry Group at Los Alamos National Laboratory in June 1972.

He traveled to the Nevada Test Site in the 1970’s during the time of the underground weapons tests, checking for drill-back samples that qualified for further testing back in Los Alamos. Gil also collaborated on research experiments at the 800-MeV proton accelerator (LAMPF) with special Interest in the study of very neutron-rich light nuclei by using the fast time-of-flight/energy technique. He was also an expert in the area of quantitative, high resolution gamma ray spectroscopy as a member of the Radiochemical Diagnostics Team in support of the Nuclear Weapons Program. 

In 1996, Gil joined the LANL Safeguards Science and Technology Group in the Nonproliferation and International Security Division where he collaborated on a large-scale project to bring under control and accountability large amounts of nuclear materials in the former Soviet Union.

After retiring from LANL and LANS, Gil still worked in Nuclear Safeguards with E-2 and Alutiiq, making many trips to different labs and universities in Russia with a small team of scientists from other national labs. He totally retired in December 2012.

Gil was an active member of the American Chemical Society and held different offices including chair of the Central New Mexico Section of ACS.  He continued to serve the ACS as an advisor and counselor for several years and coordinated the section’s activities in the National Chemistry Olympiad until he was hospitalized and unable to communicate this Spring.  He received the ACS Clark Award for service to chemistry in New Mexico in 1997.   

Rotary was a big part of Gil’s life for 13 years. As a member of the Rotary Club of Los Alamos, he served as secretary, treasurer, president-elect and club president (in 2009-2010). He initiated the GED Exam Fees Grant which pays for the students’ exam fees if they cannot afford the fee themselves.  Education was very important to Gil—he wanted to help students provide a better life for themselves.

Through Mesa Public Library, Gil tutored LAHS students in math and science, helping more than one student earn high enough grades to graduate.  He traveled with a Rotary team to Guatemala three times to assist with the Guatemalan Coalition Global Grant that brings fresh water and better sanitation to the highland villages of Uspantan. He also started a monthly food collection for LA Cares Food Pantry. His contributions to the Rotary Foundation earned him his 8th Paul Harris Fellow.

The LA Cares Food Pantry benefitted greatly from his volunteer services—moving food, helping with food drives, delivering food boxes and doing computer work for wife, Jeanne. He was an active member of the United Church of Los Alamos and was on the Board of Trustees for 18 years, serving as secretary and chair several times. Since Gil was a “do-it-yourselfer,” his knowledge and expertise made him a valued member of the Board of Trustees and their “Mexican Mission Team” – who’s main objective was to build houses in Mexico with high school kids from the Los Alamos area during their Spring Break. He was apart of this group and personally made the trip to Mexico for 3 straight years.

He absolutely loved a challenge, and if for some reason he didn’t know how to complete a project that was put before him, he would educate himself on the topic any way he could. He would read and research the topic until he was confident that he knew everything he could to complete said project with precise thought and execution. His Knowledge and abilities will be greatly missed – especially by his family.

An avid runner of the canyon and mountain trails, Gil was a member of the Atomic City Roadrunners Club and for over 30 years was a member of the High Altitude Athletics Club and was their treasurer most of those years. He ran in and/or helped with most of the local races in Los Alamos, especially the Mini-marathon, the Bandelier 50/50, the Jemez Mountain Run and  the CROP Hunger Walk/Run.  In younger days he ran several marathons. While receiving radiation and chemotherapy treatments he started working out at the YMCA and was hoping to get strong enough to start running this summer. Obviously, God had other plans for him.

Diagnosed with an unexpected and very malignant brain tumor in early December 2013 while in Colorado, he had surgery immediately to remove the tumor but developed pneumonia a few days later. He received radiation and chemo in January and February with no problems but ended up in the hospital the first week in March and transferred to St. Vincent’s in Santa Fe  for 3 weeks before being transferred to Albuquerque.  He lost his battle with cancer and pneumonia on August 9th in Kindred Hospital.

On October 14, 1978 Gil married Jeanne Lea Burmester in her home church; United Church of Christ (Congregational), Hampton, Iowa. His uncle Robert Hunter assisted with the service. Gil is survived by his wife Jeanne, their daughter Tamryn Louise Clancy (Michael (Trey) Clancy) of Los Alamos, and their son Randal Matthew Butler of Tucson, AZ., as well as their two grandsons, Jayson McCurry Jones and Logan Matthew Jones. He is also survived by sisters Joan (Bob) Thye of Bend, OR and Linda (Frank) Morse of Albany, OR and several nieces, nephews and cousins.

The memorial service for Gilbert Butler will be held on Saturday, September 20 at 11 a.m. in the United Church of Los Alamos.

Instead of flowers, Memorials may be made in Gil’s name to the Rotary Foundation, LA Cares, Heifer Project, United Church of Los Alamos Memorial Fund, International Medical Corps, Doctors Without Borders, or a charity of your choice.

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