If good deeds are primarily what you take to the next world, then Marguerite Mary “Margo” Butler should have plenty saved up from her lifelong service in Evanston and to the wider community.
Mrs. Butler, who died early Saturday, played a key role in helping spread an Evanston-initiated program, Spontaneous Acts of Kindness, begun at Second Baptist Church in Evanston, to her parish at Saint Nicholas Catholic Church, also in Evanston.
Through the program, community members perform acts of kindness as simple as greeting another person with a smile or assisting someone who appears lost.
Since the program was started, more than 6,000 spontaneous acts of kindness have been performed in the Evanston community, crossing ethnic, race and gender lines, “with a good majority of them coming out of the Saint Nicholas parish, inspired by Margo’s efforts,” said Dr. Jean Murphy, a longtime friend of Mrs. Butler and one of the originators of the SAKs program.
Visitation for Mrs. Butler will take place today, Friday, Oct. 11 from 2 to 9 p.m. at the Donnellan Family Funeral Home, 10045 Skokie Blvd.
A funeral service and mass for Mrs. Butler is to be held, beginning promptly at 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 12, at St. Nicholas, at 806 Ridge Ave.
Born Aug. 4, 1934 to Russell Anderson and Mary Louise Mims (Higgins), Mrs. Butler was an only child who in infancy was baptized Roman Catholic at St. Mary’s Church in Evanston.
A lifelong member of the community, she was “a wonderful, spirited, kind-caring person who knew everybody and used that for the common good,” said Murphy, describing her friend as “other-directed.”
Mrs. Butler attended St. Mary’s Elementary School and the Illinois Technical School for Colored Girls, run by the Sisters of Good Shepherd in Chicago. Upon graduation from Evanston Township High School in l951, she attended Evanston Business College, then Northwestern University as a part-time student, before going on to attend the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and Roosevelt University.
She married James E. “Lefty’’ Butler in 1952 and they had three sons.
Mrs. Butler spent nine and a half years working for the federal government – first at the Fort Sheridan U.S. Army post, and then for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in its Cold Regions Research & Engineering Lab.
After leaving government work, she spent 18 years in the corporate world and 10 years in the medical field, working at both Evanston Hospital and Baxter Labs and managing a medical practice.
Described as a “community dynamo,” she worked another 10 years selling residential real estate in Evanston and on the North Shore.
Mrs. Butler’s years of volunteer work, included service as a longtime PTA member. She was active with school boards at the former Skiles Junior High, King Lab School, and Evanston Township High School.
She was a passionate advocate for diversity, serving on the one-time North Shore Committee for the Urban League, and on the executive committee for the NAACP, where she was a subscribing life member.
Mrs. Butler also served on the boards of the United Way and YWCA; and she was a former member of the Auxiliary Board of VFW Snell Post #7186 and chaperone for the Snell Post Drill Team & Color Guard.
A devout Catholic, Mrs. Butler received many awards for her service, most notably for outstanding dedication and contributions to the Black Catholic Community of Metropolitan Chicago.
She served as secretary for the group’s planning and implementation committees for the 2000 Black Catholic Convocation and served as the editor for the Proceedings Book.
She was co-chair of the Host Committee when the National Black Catholic Congress was held in Chicago in 2002, and worked faithfully with the Chicago Congress Team until her death.
For outstanding service and contributions to the Black Catholic community of metropolitan Chicago, she received the Sister Thea Bowman Award in 1998 from the Holy Angels Knights of St. Peter Claver Auxiliary. For the same devotion and service, she was presented the Father Augustus Tolton St. Nicholas Parish Award by the Office for Black Catholics of the Archdiocese of Chicago in 1999, as well as the Dr. Nathan Jones Award in 2002.
“To say she was feisty is a understatement. She challenged me to be better,” said Andrew Lyke, Director of the Office for Black Catholics of the Archdiocese of Chicago, in a statement. “She generously stepped in to assist and take the lead in our common work in the Church. It was easy to go deep with Margo because there was nothing superficial about her. The depth of her work matched that of her love.”
An avid traveler, she fulfilled her dream to visit Africa last summer.
Survivors include her husband James E. “Lefty’’ Butler; three sons, Michael, James, and Russell Butler; grandmother of Karli anad Nina Butler, Barbara Steele, Gary Dubose anad James Williams; and great grandmother of Zailen Siner and Marcus McDowell; as well as cousin and “fond sister” to St. Nicholas parishioners and community members.
In lieu of flowers, family members are asking that contributions in Mrs. Butler’s memory be made to the Evanston Area Black Catholics at 838 Grey Ave, Evanston, IL, 60202.