ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Susan Butler was well-known in her community, partly for knowing her community so well herself.
Butler, 69, died on July 30 from ovarian cancer.
From her arrival in Albuquerque in the late 1960s, she served as a Christian education director at various local churches, including St. Mark’s-on-the-Mesa Episcopal Church, St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, Central United Methodist Church and the Cathedral Church of St. John.
Her friend Amy Dixon said she first met Butler while a Sunday school student at St. Mark’s-on-the-Mesa, then later in life they reconnected when her daughter began taking Christian education classes at the Cathedral Church of St. John.
The two ended up working on several projects in the church together, Dixon said.
“We became very fast and very dear friends,” she said. “Susan was one of the most forthright and kindest people that I’ve ever known in my life. She lived her faith and walked her faith every single day.”
Butler’s husband, Nathan Butler, said he called his wife “Susie Sunshine” for her optimistic personality. He said she had an amazing ability to connect to people and include them in her life.
He said while she was in the hospital, they had a lawyer come and talk to them about various issues, and she still managed to make it a personal experience.
“I don’t think she met him more than once or twice, and she knew that he sang in a choir, that he liked to match his ties to the pens in his pocket, it was that kind of Sherlock Holmes kind of stuff that she was so good at,” he said.
Dixon said Butler was very good at recognizing people’s gifts or talents and drawing them out.
“She could figure that out pretty quickly and encourage people in a way that allowed them to safely take a risk. She would say, ‘Just give it a try for a couple of hours.’ And all of a sudden you were like, ‘Here I am, doing this,’ ” Dixon said. “And she did it in such a way that you were always grateful that you took that chance.”
Timothy McIntire, a family friend who also worked with Susan Butler, said her personality helped her succeed at her job.
“She was a master teacher. She knew how to work with not only the children, but the adults,” McIntire said. “She was the real deal.”
Butler said his wife was not only talented in her endeavors for her church, but she was an excellent cook.
“And not out of a book, she was pulling stuff off the shelves. I mean, I’d look around the house and say, ‘There’s nothing to eat,’ and she’d get into the shelves and put together incredible meals,” he said.
She was a writer, as well. Butler said the two collaborated on a few educational children’s books in the 1980s, she writing and he illustrating.
She also took great joy in her two daughters and two grandsons, with whom she enjoyed board games and practical jokes.
“She was a big game player. If (her grandsons) were here, and they were up at 6 a.m. and wanted to play board games, she was ready,” he said. “And she loved practical jokes, which she picked up from her mother, I remember one Christmas she and the boys had a lot of fun with a whoopee cushion.”
Butler said his wife just enjoyed helping to build the community around her.
“It was a beautiful thing,” he said.
— This article appeared on page B3 of the Albuquerque Journal