by Tom W. Dillard
The world of gardening lost one of its great proponents recently with the death of Gertrude Remmel Butler of Little Rock, Ark. To members of the Society for Louisiana Irises, she was simply-but passionately-Gertie! Gertie, and her late husband Richard C. "Dick" Butler, were the kinds of people who lit up a room with their radiant personalities. For years after Dick's death in 1999, Gertie carried on by force of will-even maintaining Dick's growing site in the country. Ill health has confirmed her to her home in Little Rock for some time. The following obituary was provided by Ruebel Funeral Home. [Editor's comments are in brackets.]
Gertrude Remmel Butler, of Little Rock, died in her home Saturday, September 29,2007. She was born March 31, 1910, at 314 Broadway in Little Rock, the oldest child of Augustus Caleb Remmel and Ellen Lucy (Nell) Cates Remmel. Her father was chairman of the Republican State Committee when he died in 1920; and her mother was Republican National Committeewoman for Arkansas when she died in 1961, having served since 1928. Because of her father's untimely death leaving her mother with six children under ten years of age, Gertrude, as the oldest, assumed a parental role early in her life.
Gertrude graduated from Little Rock High School in 1928 in the first graduating class from the beautiful building now housing Central High School where she served as its first female cheerleader. She attended National Park Seminary near Washington, D.C. and graduated in 1930. On returning to Little Rock she became a lifeguard at the "White City" pool in Little Rock and was elected to the advisory board of the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA She took up archery, won many trophies and became a model for Ben Pearson bows and arrows. She started volunteering for the Pulaski County Chapter of the American Red Cross about 1933, became a member of the motor pool and eventually the oldest member of its board of directors and an honorary member of the Clara Barton Society. On March 7, 1936, at First Methodist Church, Little Rock, she married Richard C. Butler, an attorney whom she knew through the Epworth League.
Gertrude Butler served on the Board of Lady Guardians of the Ada Thompson Memorial Home until it merged into Presbyterian Village where she led two aerobics classes every Thursday for over thirty years. She was a member of the Junior League of Little Rock and served as its president 1948-49. She was a member of the Little Rock Chapter of the Garden Club of America, serving as president 1956-58 and winning a Zone IX horticulture award in 1981 and a national award in 2005 for her partnership with Virginia Alexander in creating and caring for the rose garden at the Pulaski County Courthouse rose garden in Little Rock.
[Gertie and Dick Butler were mainstays in the Central Arkansas Iris Society as well as the Society for Louisiana Irises. Gertie was also deeply interested in daffodils, and she and Dick endowed the daffodil display garden at Hendrix College in Conway. Charles Amy of Lafayette, La., named a Louisiana iris in honor of Gertie. She was a charter member of the board of the Arkansas Field Office of the Nature Conservancy. Descended from devout Methodists, Gertie was a warm and constant presence at the First United Methodist Church, Little Rock. The Gertrude Remmel Butler Child Development Center of First United Methodist Church, Little Rock was named for Gertie.]
She is survived by her son, Richard Colburn Butler III of Little Rock and Washington, Ark.; two sisters-in-law, Jean Punington Rernrnel and husband William H.Fitz Simmons of New York and Ruth Rebsamen Remmel of Little Rock; and many nieces, nephews, and many great-nephews and nieces. The funeral was at 2:00 p.m. Wednesday, October 3, at First United Methodist Church, with the Rev. Michael L. Mattox and Bishop Charles N. Crutchfield. Interment followed at Mount Holly Cemetery in Little Rock.