Thomas P. Butler, a lifelong Wakefield resident, a dedicated town employee for 36 years who held positions as executive secretary and town administrator, and an avid Boston sports fan, died suddenly on April 30. He was 65.
Mr. Butler was most well-known in Wakefield for serving as executive secretary in the early 1990s then as town administrator until 2008 when the town charter changed in the late 90s.
“If you look up ‘Mr. Wakefield’ in the dictionary, you’d see his photo there,” said Chief Richard Smith of the Wakefield Police Department, who was a close friend of Butler. “He had his finger on the pulse of the community and knew he unwritten rules of what Wakefield needed all along.”
Born in Melrose on March 28, 1946, Mr. Butler lived in Wakefield for his entire life and attended Wakefield High School, where he played football, basketball, baseball and track. After graduating from WHS in 1964, he attended Boston College and graduated in 1968 with a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration.
Soon after that, he served as a sergeant in the U.S. Army from 1969-1971, stationed in Texas. He joined the Town of Wakefield as a senior accountant in 1972. When Executive Secretary John McCarthy retired in 1991, Mr. Butler was hired to succeed him as executive secretary, which then morphed into the position of town administrator in the 1998.
Serving as the first town administrator in the town of Wakefield for an entire decade, Mr. Butler hand-shaped the position and set up the process used in Wakefield today, said his friends.
“He did an outstanding job of pulling everyone together and really kind of established how that function worked,” said Richard Stinson, director of the Wakefield Department of Public Works and a close friend to Mr. Butler. “He was great at building consensus and there’s not a person in town that didn’t like him. Not one person would say a bad thing about him.”
One of the biggest issues Mr. Butler tackled each year was setting the town budget, but he was able to pull every department together to make it all work, said Stinson.
"He worked tirelessly to make Wakefield a wonderful community in which to live and raise a family," said Stinson. "He did this during challenging financial times."
When he retired in 2008, Mr. Butler was among the first class to be inducted to the Wakefield Alumni Association's Hall of Fame.
Besides his professional life, Butler was an avid sports fan, holding season tickets to the Red Sox and the Boston College Eagles, his alma mater.
“I think in terms of what he loved most, between the Red Sox and the town of Wakefield, it was a jump ball,” said Chief Smith.
“He loved seeing the Sox win the World Series,” said Stinson. “He went to most of the World Series games at Fenway.”
Mr. Butler was also very personable, and had a lot of friends in Wakefield, said Stinson.
“He loved talking to people,” Stinson said. “I’d talk to him three or four times a day when he was working and when he was retired. The amount of people he talked to in a week was incredible. He loved to get other people’s insight, and would talk about politics, sports, family – he was just really great at talking to people.”
"He truly was a wonderful and noble man," said Dan Butler, Mr Butler's nephew. "He was respected and loved by so many people - family, friends, co-workers, people all across Wakefield. He will be missed dearly."
Mr. Butler is survived by siblings: William Butler and wife Virginia of Wakefield, Kathleen Lyng and husband James of Marshfield, Robert Butler and wife Patricia of Mercerville, NJ, and Brian Butler and wife Kathleen of Weymouth. Also survived by 10 nieces and nephews, and 12 grandnieces and grandnephews.
A wake will be held on Tuesday, May 3 from 3-8 p.m. at A funeral service for Butler will be held on May 4 at 10 a.m. at . Burial services will at St. Patrick's Cemetary in Stoneham.
In lieu of flowers his family would appreciate contributions be sent to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute/ Jimmy Fund, Attn. Contribution Services, 10 Brookline Place West, Brookline, MA 02445-7226.