The Butler-Disciples House is the old rectory and priests’ residence for the former St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church. We use this beautiful, 5,000 square foot home for our church offices and small group meetings.
Within the residence is a two-room suite with private bath. It has been set aside for use by out-of-town guests.
The congregation voted to name the residence after two members of our congregation, Robert and Lena Butler; and “Disciples” in reference to our denomination, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
Following are remembrances made by Rev. Jerry McGlone during the funeral services for Bob and Lena.
Lena Bender Butler
August 30, 1905 – May 26, 1996
Lena Butler was born in Stillwater, Pennsylvania. She moved to North Tonawanda in 1938. She was a member of Payne Avenue Christian Church, Sirus Chapter O.E.S., Salvation Army Golden Agers, North Tonawanda Senior Citizens, the DeGraff Hospital Auxiliary, the Degraffettes. She was an Elder Emeritus of Payne Avenue Christian Church. She was a World War II Airplane Spotter, climbing the tower of the City of Tonawanda Armory, and watching for enemy airplanes. She retired in 1969 after twenty-six years as a registered nurse at DeGraff Memorial Hospital in North Tonawanda. She was the head nurse in the delivery room and assisted in the birth of many infants.
Lena was married to Robert Butler for 65 years. They had one son, Robert Butler, Jr. who died in infancy.
Lena was always giving me things: a packet of Kleenex, a plastic statue of the Last Supper, an antique vase, a newspaper clipping, a folded up dollar bill. She was always giving me something. She gave me her prayers. She gave me her friendship and support. She gave me her time, her trust, and her laughter. She gave me her strength, her faith, and once in a while, she gave me her tears. She gave me loyalty and love.
Part of what she gave me was time and her presence. Lena was here all the time. She attended every event at church. She and Bob went to every funeral. They even attended funeral services I performed for non-members. Neither Lena nor Bob knew the person or family, but they attended the funerals to support me.
Whenever the doors of this church opened, Bob and Lena walked in. Lena was a constant support, a constant worshiper, a constant worker, and a constant witness to Jesus Christ. Her presence and touch are in every corner of our church.
She gave to the church, and to our church family, and no one knows completely the extent of her giving.
The Friday night before she died, Lena had a difficult time. Bob cared for her in their home. Lena was uncomfortable, maybe in pain. She was agitated. She called out for help. Bob held her hand, and she said, “Lord, help me.”
Immediately. Lena went to sleep. She slept peacefully and quietly the rest of that night, through Saturday, and into Sunday morning when Lena silently and quietly breathed her last breath and slipped away from this life. Bob was still holding her hand.
Lena was a special woman who brought happiness and sunshine wherever she went. She used her life, her blessings, her talents, her wealth to the fullest, not just for herself, but for her Lord, and for the people who crossed her path. Her life was fully caught up in giving away what she had to make life better for other people. She literally lived her life for her Lord, for her husband, and for other people.
I have known many good people. I have known many great church people. I have known a handful of people whom I consider “saints.” Out of that handful of people, Lena is number one. She was a special lady. She had a thoroughly Christian character. She loved and laughed. She was kind and thoughtful. She was sincere and sweet. She lived her life and considered it a precious gift from God.
Robert E. Butler
August 20, 1906 – March 17, 1998
Robert E. Butler was born in Weehawken, New Jersey. He was a resident of North Tonawanda for the greater part of his life. He was the husband of the late Lena Bender Butler. He was a retired North Tonawanda Police Captain, retiring in 1966. He was a World War II Navy Veteran with the Seabees, serving in the Pacific Theater. He also served as a member of the Naval Military Police.
He was a member of Payne Avenue Christian Church, where he was Elder Emeritus and former Deacon. He was a life member of Mazpah-Faith Lodge F&AM, A.A.S.R. Valley of Buffalo, Ismailia Temple A.A.O.N.M.S., Eastern Star Chapter #619, B.P.O.E. #860 Elks, International Association of Chiefs of Police, AARP and the Salvation Army Golden Agers. He was a member of Stephen Sikora Post #1322 American Legion and Sutherland Lodge #826 F&AM. He was awarded the Silver Beaver Award from the Buffalo Council of the Boy Scouts of America. He began the AARP’s Tax Consulting for the Elderly Program in North Tonawanda. He also began a tax consulting program for the Native American residents of the Niagara Frontier, regularly going to the Reservations to offer his expertise.
Bob expressed one regret to me. The City of North Tonawanda had an unwritten law all policemen were expected to enforce. That law was that no person of color was to remain within the city limits after sundown. Bob said he escorted people of color out of town. His life’s work proved him to be a man free of social and racial bias. He regretted that portion of his job.
Captain Robert Butler was the cornerstone of this church. He was our wise counselor and advisor, our confidant, our teacher and brother Elder, our benefactor, and our friend. Bob and Lena left their mark on this church family. They were the first to welcome visitors, the first to make people feel at home, and the first to embrace the little children. They were the first to accept change, the first to seek ways to bring people of color into our congregation, the first to heal wounds, the first to reach out in new ways. They were the first and best witnesses to Jesus Christ PACC had to offer.
Bob and Lena gave $500.00 scholarships to every young person of the church who went off to college. Every year they bought a block of tickets to the Shrine Circus. They rented a bus and carted off every child, young or old, who wanted to go. They bought refreshments and made sure everyone had a good time. Whatever project this church had going, they were always among the largest contributors.
Bob began his police career as a motorcycle patrolman. For many years he walked a beat including Oliver Street - a wild and reckless neighborhood filled with many bars, roughnecks, and fistfights. He was a policeman who upheld the law, but he was a compassionate policeman who sometimes looked the other way after a reprimand and steering the lawbreaker in the right direction. Bob was a man of keen humor. In addition to all of this, Bob was an astute businessman.
Bob told me a story about having lunch one day in a restaurant on Oliver Street. There was a young mother in the restaurant with her young son. The boy wasn’t eating his vegetables. The mother was getting angry with her boy for not eating his vegetables. Bob overheard the mother say, “Look at that big policeman over there,” and she pointed at Bob. “If you don’t eat your vegetables, that policeman is going to arrest you.”
Bob got up from his table, walked over to that mother and son. He said, “Young man, I hate those vegetables you’ve got on your plate. I wouldn’t eat them either!” Then, he turned to the mother and whispered, “If you ever threaten your boy like that again, I’ll come and arrest YOU!”
Bob was an upright man. He was honest and true. His word was his bond. He kept confidences. He was a righteous man.
Bob began life with nothing. He had no inherited wealth. He worked hard, invested wisely, and became a man of means. Bob was always generous. He remarked to me that he was “lucky” with investments. The full measure of his generosity will never be known.
Wherever there was a need, Bob went. Bob offered his strong hand. Bob gave of his time, talent, and treasure. The cornerstone of this church has been shaken, but this house remains strong because of the life and witness of God’s servant, Robert E. Butler.
Several months after Bob’s death, PACC was informed that Bob and Lena had left approximately $500,000.00 to the church. They had left a similar amount to Church Extension of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) where there is a named account designated for giving loans to assist churches in becoming handicapped accessible.
With this seed money, PACC has gone forward to relocate to this new facility. In the spirit of Bob and Lena Butler, we expanded our mission to include the construction of a ten million dollar, 64-unit Town Home complex in the Town of Wheatfield, “The Town Homes at Shawnee Landing.” It provides affordable housing for singles and families. All has been done in God’s glory through the inspiration and generosity of Bob and Lena Butler.
We have named our office building in their honor, to keep their witness alive, and their love ever present.