John Carroll Butts, age 85, passed away on January 19, 2019 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He was born in Boynton, Oklahoma to Rev. Silas Union "Cal" Butts and Maggie E. Day Butts on July 19, 1933, the youngest of six children. John graduated from Coweta High School in Coweta, Oklahoma in 1951 and earned a B.A. in education in 1955 from Northeastern State College in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. He returned to Northeastern and got his M.A. degree in education in 1967.
In August of 1963, Mr. Butts married Ava Joyce Bilbrey in Lawton, Oklahoma. They were married 51 years until Ava's death in 2015. John and Ava's long marriage was blessed with a mutual love of music - John sang and Ava played the piano and a dedication to spiritual life through their church. They were longtime members of First Baptist Church of Tulsa, where John was a deacon, and were eager participants in any and all church musical endeavors: choir and solos and the occasional play. They also regularly visited homebound members and those in the hospital. John's service to the Lord was through his music ministry. He sang as Ava accompanied him for almost every family wedding and funeral as well as those for others. At the extended family's annual Thanksgiving reunion, he sang a moving rendition of "The Lord's Prayer" each year for over 40 years. In later years, John and Ava enjoyed singing and playing with The Hyechka Club of Tulsa.
John and Ava regularly attended performances of the Tulsa Opera for many years, and visited the Santa Fe Opera for several summer seasons. Later, John never missed the regular Saturday afternoon live radio broadcast from the Metropolitan Opera in New York. He shared this love of opera with several friends who sometimes listened with him on Saturdays, and one niece who he mentored in the musical hobby. Everyone knew not to call him during the opera on Saturday afternoons. He felt enriched and derived much pleasure through listening to this music.
John did his military service in the Army from 1957 1959. He worked for the Board of Education in Vallient, Oklahoma as an English teacher in 1956-1957. He worked for Edison Junior High School in Tulsa as an English teacher from 1959-1960, and taught English at Edison Senior High School from 1960-1970. Mr. Butts began his work as an Academic Counselor and Student Advisor at Edison High in 1970 and continued until 1985. He also taught evening classes to adults for ten years during this period.
John had a profound devotion to his family. He became a cohesive force who gathered family news and communicated it to those who needed to know. Everyone received a greeting card and a phone call on his birthday. When his sister, Madeline became homebound with slowly declining health, John visited her every week. She looked forward to these visits, as he was a wonderful conversationalist as well as being warm, full of stories, loving, and funny. When all other visitors had faded away, John still came.
He grew up in a time, place, and family where there wasn't much in the way of material goods. Service to others was valued and entertainment was centered around the funny anecdote or other clever narrative. Family and friends could relax in the evening on the front porch and regale each other with tales both true and embellished. John was a master of storytelling, and knew which was the best choice for each person. He was adored by his nieces and nephews and their children and grandchildren.
This cultivated gentleman ended every phone call with, "Now what can I do for you?" And he really wanted to know.
Visitation will be at Moore's Southlawn Funeral Home, 9350 E. 51st Street in Tulsa, on Tuesday, January 22, from 12noon-8pm. A memorial service will be at 10am on Wednesday, January 23, at Moore's Southlawn Chapel. Interment will follow at Floral Haven Cemetery in Broken Arrow. Moore's Southlawn 918-663-2233. Share memories at moorefuneral.com