Jesse Butler – Brigadier General, United States Army

VENICE, FLORIDA – Shortly after graduating from a trade school in Chicago in 1934, Jess Butler signed up for the National Guard, launching a 38-year commitment that culminated in his promotion to Brigadier General.

Butler, who retired from U.S. Steel in 1978 and moved to Englewood and later to Venice, died Wednesday of heart failure at age 90.

He will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Butler rose quickly through the ranks of the National Guard and attained the rank of second lieutenant before World War II, said his daughter, Sandi Cullen, of Palm Harbor.

During the war, he was promoted to Army Colonel and helped train troops in artillery and infantry throughout the United States. He also helped guard domestic military installations.

After the war, he was hired by U.S. Steel in Pittsburgh and worked his way up to an area manager of its supply division. He also remained active in Pennsylvania's National Guard Reserve, where, as commander of the 202nd Artillery Division, he was in charge of protecting the city and its strategic steel production from missile attacks during the Cold War, Cullen said.

He also served on Pennsylvania's Selective Service Board.

“What he did for the Reserves was like a second job, so for many years it was like he had two jobs,” Cullen said.

Still, Butler was a devoted family man eager to help his three children succeed.

“He knew the importance of education, and all of us have college educations. Two of us have master's degrees,” said his son, Rick Butler, of Sarasota.

Butler valued a close-knit family because of his own childhood, when he and a younger brother and sister were raised by relatives after his mother died during childbirth.

In retirement, Butler enjoyed golf, dancing with his wife of 65 years and seeing the country.

“There wasn't a place they hadn't been to. And they'd visit many of their friends from the war years on their trips,” Cullen said.

In addition to his wife, Shirley, and son and daughter, Butler is survived by another daughter, Bonnie Lee Finch, of Hilton Head, South Carolina; a brother, Bob, of Springfield, Illinois; and six grandchildren.

A memorial service will be at 11 a.m. today at Farley Funeral Home in Venice.

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