On Thursday, July 15, 2021, James (“Jim”) Horton Butt II, the devoted and loving husband of Miriam, father of five children and seven grandchildren passed away at age 88.
Jim was a great conversationalist, genuinely interested in all people and their stories, connecting with them to discover life experiences or interests they shared in common. Jim’s interests were diverse — spanning history, art, music, politics, nature, gardening, science, travel and of course medicine.
Jim met his wife Miriam (née Thurston) in his third year of medical school. Initially, Miriam, a head nurse, working in the same hospital as Jim, confided to a colleague that she did not care for that young medical student. However, shortly thereafter, they began dating, were engaged in the back of a NYC taxi cab, and married within six months on November 29, 1958.
Jim raised his five children with love and generosity — imparting first and foremost to live one’s life with honesty, integrity and a respect for others. He also instilled the importance of an education, an appreciation of music, and especially a love of reading. Every Christmas morning, his children would find teetering towers of books for each of them that Jim had selected with care. As his children became adults, he would have read the book in advance and provided a review as well as the book. His gifting of books continued with his grandchildren.
Jim loved celebrations — birthdays, holidays, graduations, weddings, and anniversaries — hosting Bastille Day parties, adorning every nook and cranny of his home during the Christmas season, honoring his wife Miriam on every birthday, and welcoming a new grandchild into the world shortly after birth.
In his more than 35 years as a physician, clinician, teacher and investigator, Jim deeply and sincerely cared for thousands of patients, educated and mentored scores of medical students, residents and gastroenterology fellows. With his engaging presence, uncompromising ideals, he expected (i.e., demanded) of his trainees, thoroughness, consistency and accuracy of information when providing patient care. Jim’s career began at Cleveland Metropolitan Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio and in 1973 he accepted a joint appointment at the Harry S Truman Memorial Veteran’s Hospital and at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Medicine, where he was one of the original architects of the VA’s Gastroenterology Division and served as a medical educator at the MU medical school until his retirement in 1995. During his sabbatical year in 1979-80 at St. Mark’s Hospital in London, England, Jim designed a steel tool to extract polyps, for which he received royalties.
Throughout his career, Jim was recognized for his contributions to medicine receiving the Harry S Truman Memorial Veteran’s Hospital Staff Physician of the Year (1995); University of Missouri-Columbia School of Medicine Outstanding Teaching Residents’ Inpatient Service (1993-94); Distinguished Service as a Member of the Gastrointestinal Drugs Advisory Committee (1985-1991, 1994-1997); and the Cleveland Clinic Educational Foundation Department of Gastroenterology Visiting Professor Appreciation Award (1981).
After his retirement in 1995, Jim and his wife Miriam lived 5-6 months annually at a family home in Sandford, Nova Scotia, Canada, where he spent his days caring for the many trees he had planted, tending to his exquisite flower gardens, and harvesting from his vegetable garden. He also picked up painting watercolor landscapes, and occasionally, when his children were visiting, he would venture out for a day at the beach, deep sea fishing, or sailing on nearby lakes. Additionally, Jim and Miriam traveled extensively in their retirement to Alaska, Ireland, Germany, Colorado, California, New York, and Massachusetts.
Born on January 16, 1933 in Portsmouth, Ohio to James and Virginia (Yeager) Butt, Jim spent his childhood in southern Ohio with his parents, brother Steve, and grandfather Clifton Yeager. Upon high school graduation from Chillicothe High School in 1951, Jim and his buddies — John, Gary, Phil and Ed, drove cross-country to California camping at various national parks before Jim attended Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, receiving a BA in Chemistry in 1955. From 1955 to 1968, he pursued his medical training that ultimately led to a specialty in gastroenterology, receiving his MD in 1959 from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, followed by an internship in 1960 at the University of Rochester, Strong Memorial Hospital, a residency from 1960-1964 at Cleveland Metropolitan Hospital, and a fellowship from 1966-1968 at Harvard University in Boston, Massachusetts. From 1964-1966, he served as a Captain in the US Air Force at Wright Patterson Air Force base in Fairborn, Ohio.
Jim is survived by his wife, Miriam, brother Steve, children Andy (Lynn), Becky, Tom (Jennifer), Jim (Joanne), Debbie (Dart), and six grandchildren — Taryn, Brody, Aidan, Cam, Alex and Ethan. He was preceded in death by his father, James, mother, Virginia, sister Sarah Gordon, and his grandson Jameson Sandford Hatherly.
The family wishes to thank both the caregivers of Home Instead Senior Care and the staff at Lenoir Woods for the exceptional care they provided Jim over the past two years. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to The Food Bank for Central and NE Missouri, First Baptist Church of Columbia or Save the Children. A celebration of Jim’s life will be held at a future date.