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Horseman, SBOA director Bill Butler dies

December 29, 2014
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Wilmer T. "Bill” Butler, 88, a longtime horseman and former Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association of New Jersey (SBOANJ) director, died Dec. 27 at his home on the family farm in the Franklin Township community of Asbury, NJ.
 
"He had been in failing health of late but still his ebullient self,” said his daughter Bonnie Butler, mayor of Franklin Township.
 
"Dad served on the SBOA Board for about eight years, beginning in the late 1960s and then later in the late 1970s into the 1990s -- about 25 years total. He originally got involved to ensure that the horsemen had a strong voice and was one of the key people involved in the implementation of the health insurance/pension program.”
 
Born Jan. 12, 1926, in Tottenville (Staten Island), N.Y., he was a son of the late Raymond A. and Elizabeth S. (McConnell) Butler. He attended Tottenville High School and left to join the Navy where he served in the Armed Guard during World War II. After his years in the service he joined the rodeo as a member of the Rodeo Cowboys of America and traveled the circuit in the Northeast and Midwest.

Following his father's death he briefly ran the family auto agency on Staten Island before changing careers into harness racing. Mr. Butler began driving and training horses in 1962. He enjoyed decades as a successful harness driver in New Jersey at Freehold Raceway and the Meadowlands, as well as other tracks on the Eastern Seaboard. Among the top horses campaigned by Mr. Butler were Straight A. by Dale Frost and Butler's Burner by Oil Burner.

Along with his wife, Pat, he trained horses and ran a boarding establishment for many years. He was a director emeritus of the Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association of New Jersey and was instrumental in the development of that organization's insurance and pension plan, which served as a model for other groups in the United States and Canada. He always championed the cause of the small stable horseman. He was a member of the United States Trotting Association and the American Legion, Beauvais Hudson Post, for 69 years.

He is survived by his sons, Kenneth Scarr and former driver-trainer Robert Scarr; daughter, former driver-trainer Dr. Bonnie Butler; grandchildren, Stream (Jackie) and Sonia; and great-granddaughter, Mia. He was preceded in death by his wife of more than 50 years, Patricia (Duff).

Funeral services will be held Saturday (Jan. 3) at 11 a.m. in Devlin Funeral Home. Visitation will be held Friday (Jan. 2) from 4-7 p.m. and Saturday (Jan. 3) from 10 a.m. to the time of services in the funeral home. Burial will be in Bloomsbury Cemetery in Greenwich Township.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Standardbred Retirement Foundation by visiting http://www.adoptahorse.org/ or Franklin Township Fire Co., P.O. Box 43, Broadway, NJ 08808.

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