Where Food, Drinks & Stories Are Shared

Christian "Chris" E. Butler

January 9, 1944 - March 26, 2024
Formerly of Mattawan & Hillsdale, MI


Life Story Visitation

Friday, April 5, 2024
6:00 PM to 8:00 PM EDT
Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes
Kalamazoo Location
6080 Stadium Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
(269) 375-2900
Driving Directions

Life Story Service

Saturday, April 6, 2024
11:00 AM EDT
Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes
Kalamazoo Location
6080 Stadium Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
(269) 375-2900

A reception will follow in the Life Story Center.

Driving Directions


Saturday, April 6, 2024
1:30 PM EDT
Robinson Cemetery
Corner of M40 and 20th Ave
Gobles, MI 49055


At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.

First Baptist Church
604 E 3rd St
Lawton, MI 49065
(269) 624-6556

West Volusia Humane Society
800 Humane Society Rd
DeLand, FL 32720
(386) 734-2450
Web Site

Charity of Your Choice

Life Story / Obituary


While the nation was moving toward peace, Elmer and Theolaine (Melching) Butler welcomed their second son into the family on January 9th in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The little brother of Ken, he made quick work of learning how to get out of trouble – by saying it was Ken’s fault! This comical and particular knack would go on to serve both of his younger brothers, Doug, and Dave, as well. Although, maybe not quite as fruitfully, as both Ken and Chris were between nine to eleven years older than their younger brothers. His father, Elmer, worked at Eaton Corporation, which allowed his mother, Theolaine, to remain at home, tending to their rambunctious brood of boys and household responsibilities. Chris was raised in a loving home that fostered important values that would stay with Chris for his entire life, hard work, respect, and modesty. Elmer did his best to be a role model for his sons, and when he started building their home on 4th Street in Oshtemo, all the Butler boys helped their father, board by board.

Chris and his brothers enjoyed learning a variety of skills from their father, but the one they shared the most excitement about was working on cars. All the brothers shared a passion for buying, selling, rebuilding, or tinkering with anything that had an engine. As siblings do, they created many memories together, and would go on to regale their families with tales of their antics any time they got together. Chris would laugh and look back fondly as he told stories about the times he and his brothers would drag race down their country road when their parents were away. His brothers recall spending a lot of time push starting his ’51 Dodge or bringing him a can of gas – suspiciously, more often than he should have needed.

Chris and his older brother, Ken, were both highly competitive and driven. A gifted athlete, Chris had quick feet and steady hands, finding himself success in any sport he played. As a teen, Chris enjoyed baseball, track, basketball, and football. His speed and determination would prove to be both useful and helpful in securing wins for his team. There was, however, one occasion on which Chris was sprinting for the endzone and his pants started falling down! Between trying to keep a hand on the ball and his pants from his ankles, he was tackled just short of a touchdown. This is just one of the funny stories that speaks to Chris as the person they all know and love. This cheerful outlook and his many successes on the field earned him a coveted place on the 1961 Mattawan High School State Championship football team.

A graduate of the class of 1962, Chris then went on to attend Western Michigan University where he pursued topics such as biology and physical education, to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in education. Ever the diligent worker, Chris worked at a local service station which helped fund both his education and to pay for the gas he often needed. After completing his degree, he accepted a position with Gull Lake High School in 1966 where he began teaching science and driver’s education.

Chris was dedicated to the importance of education for both himself and others and returned to WMU to obtain a master’s degree in school administration. Having obtained his master’s degree, he shifted gears in 1972 and made the decision to move to Hillsdale Community School where he continued in his service to others by becoming the elementary school principal. Soon after, he became the district’s middle school principal, taking joy in helping shape the minds of the youth he dedicated his life to, a position he held proudly and took seriously until he retired in 1995.

In his time as principal, he worked hard to have a personal management style tailored to individuals. He was exceptional with the students, making every effort to know each of their names. He took pride in his students and their accomplishments, and when they faced challenges, he supported them with empathy and kindness. It was important to Chris to create a space in which the students felt safe, always. Chris’ approach was tailored to each student, and he was able to relate to the students. He worked hard to implement creative solutions and techniques to connect with students, parents, and his staff, which humanized and offered respect to everyone involved. Chris had a phenomenal sense of humor which echoed in both his personal life and professional life. The students valued his sense of humor and antics, as it made their days at school just a little easier. There was a student that was presenting with some challenging behaviors, and his solution was to tape a picture of himself over the student’s girlfriend inside his locker. He then hid and waited to see the results of his prank and for the student to open his locker in front of his friends! They shared a laugh together about it afterward. He even proposed to arm wrestle a student’s mom to resolve a problem! Though his solutions were different and creative for his time, they were thoughtful and humorous, and always had the student’s best interest at heart.

Prior to the end of his first marriage, he was blessed with three beautiful daughters. Though navigating the waters of daughters can be particularly challenging, especially as a single parent, he crafted a loving home for his daughters. He was present for every win and every loss and supported them in any way possible in each of their endeavors. His daughters never doubted his confidence in their ability to do tough things, in sports or in life. It was important to Chris that his girls understood the meaning and value of hard work. His motto for the girls in everything they tried was, “To be a good winner, you must also be a good loser.” Chris’ daughters grew to adopt the values he shared. They admired him for all his achievements, but most importantly for his steady, unending love, comfort, and kindness. Chris beamed with pride when he shared stories about his daughters and their many accomplishments. He loved them deeply and was fiercely proud of them. He was their hero – their rock. His daughters loved him endlessly, and he was happy to delight in the stories they shared with him about their lives.

An active member of the educational community in Hillsdale, Chris met Diane “Dee” Linker Brown, who was also an active member of the school system, eventually serving on the school board. Working closely together to better the education of the youth in their community, Chris and Dee developed a seventeen-year friendship. This friendship blossomed into a deeply loving and happy relationship. On December 24, 1991, Chris and Dee joined together in marriage at Hillsdale College. Together they had five children as Dee brought two sons to the marriage, however, all five children were in college by the time they married.

As public servants, Chris and Dee often found themselves with endless to-do lists, especially as Dee took on the role of a city council member. Though busy, they made special allowances for one another and made sure that their marriage was always a priority. They enjoyed their quiet time, but they loved sightseeing and traveling. Chris found beauty in the National Parks all over the United States. He never lost his child-like sense of wonder about the breathtaking sights he was able to experience, and when he got out of the van to look around at an incredible natural feature such as the Grand Canyon, he would take a deep breath of the fresh air and declare, “I want to live here!” As endearing and precious as this was for Dee, she knew that they had to find a spot to call theirs, and in 1996 they settled in central Florida – even though Chris declared that he would live in Arizona, two different places in Texas, and all throughout the continent on their two cross country journeys. While in Florida, Chris found work at a local church preschool and enjoyed the change of pace, watching the children learn and grow. The downside to working with children often comes in the form of germs, and to mitigate any risks, he started looking at other activities he loved. Chris found and accepted a position at his local Sears, and while there he was able to delight in selling tools part-time. For five years, he talked tools and provided advice about projects to the public. He loved his job, and because of his natural ability to talk to people and inviting charm, he excelled.

Everyone knew that Chris and Dee were soulmates. They enjoyed the little things together such as rides to the airport, meals at Norwood’s and shared a love of science, theory, geology and rocks, and science shows. Alternately, they enjoyed big things together as well - trips to the beach, hosting their friends and family in their home for vacations, and traveling the country. They shared an incredible relationship and modeled a happy and healthy relationship for all their children and grandchildren.

Chris grew up with big dogs and had a well-known love for animals that stayed with him into adulthood. He and Dee had four cats, and he could often be found with one on his lap. Chris liked to cook and eat tasty food, but nothing hit the mark like Dee’s home cooked meals. Chris was an outdoorsman and had a love of both hunting and fishing. He enjoyed hunting deer and pheasant, and fearlessly fished both on open water and ice. Chris could do it all; but he found in Dee someone who he no longer had to do it all with, and instead had a partner that he could always rely on to help. The need for that help would become greater than ever, as Chris suffered a heart attack in 1998 that required surgery. Despite the health barriers of chronic congestive heart failure, he lived a long life full of joy, wonder, happiness, and most importantly, love. He cherished every moment, lending his support to others, and making every effort to make sure people knew that he loved them.

The world feels less colorful and more uncertain as Chris’ absence is felt by all who loved him. May we all find some semblance of comfort as we share our memories and stories. We can honor his life by preserving the lessons and values instilled by Chris and teach them to those we love. In the moments when we create art for others, face challenges head on with confidence, pursue our passions, enthusiastically cheer on those we love, teach children, go rock hunting, or act in the service of others, we are celebrating Chris and the legacy that he left behind. We keep his spirit alive by telling his stories and sharing his wisdom to inspire and encourage others to take full advantage of their lives.

A Life Story Visitation will take place Friday, April 5 from 6-8 PM at Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900, and where a Life Story Service will be held on Saturday, April 6, at 11 AM with a reception following in the Life Story Center where, food, drinks, and stories will be shared. Burial will take place at Robinson Cemetery in Gobles. Visit Chris’s webpage at BetzlerLifeStory.com to archive your favorite memories, photos, or sign his guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to the First Baptist Church in Lawton, M, the West Volusia Humane Society in DeLand, FL, or to a charity of your choice.