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Valerie Joy Butler

BUTLER, Valerie Joy A memorial service will be held Sept. 26 for Valerie Butler, an artist and widow of Wesleyan history professor Jeffrey Butler. She died September 10, 2009 of heart failure at 84. Born in 1924 in South Africa. As a Rhodes University student, she painted deep sea fishes for naturalist J.L.B. "Doc" Smith, a discoverer of the Coelacanth, a fish presumed to have been extinct for 65 million years. She and her husband emigrated in 1950 to Oxford, England, where she raised three children with ingenious frugality during postwar rationing. The family moved to Middletown in 1965, where she earned an M.A.T. from Wesleyan and taught art at Valley Regional High School in Deep River. She also photographed Wesleyan authors for book covers. A survivor of breast cancer, she said, "Sometimes the worst things that happen to you are the best things that happen to you." Cancer led her yoga and Buddhism, which she practiced all her life. A woman of beauty, and an artist in everything she did, she could stain a deck in the morning and look fabulous serving coq au vin made with her own chicken stock the same night. She cared for her husband after his stroke in 2001 until his death in 2008. Her children: Katy, Peter, and Jonathan, all of California - extend their thanks to hospice workers, volunteers, and friends. Cremation was private. Her memorial service will be held Saturday, September 26, at 10 a.m. at the Wesleyan Chapel, reception following at Russell House. Please do not feel constrained to wear black.

Published in The Hartford Courant on Sept. 21, 2009
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