If loyalty, generosity, neighborliness and kindness are the virtues that define a good person, then Butch Woltman, who passed away last month, was clearly a good man.
Charles Joseph Woltman, known to his family and friends as Butch, was 80 years old when he left this earth. He spent well over half his life in Los Banos, including 55 years married to his beloved Mary.
Butch was not a guy who wanted to be in the spotlight. But his life was worthy of recognition, because he lived it with integrity and love, and he made a lasting impact on everyone who knew him, including me, who was his neighbor for 25 years.
We were neighbors on Granada Circle in Los Banos, along with some remarkable people like the Duni, Mederios and Pugliese families and Sue Nocito. Butch and Mary helped make it a wonderful neighborhood by their friendliness and hospitality.
Good neighbors are a blessing, and I felt blessed. The house my wife Susan and I lived in was the first home I owned. Since I didn’t make much money on a teacher’s income, I tried to fix things when they broke.
One of Butch’s best qualities was his sense of humor and his smile, which often brightened my day. He was just a few years older than I was, but he seemed much wiser. And he had a lot more tools than I did, many of which I borrowed–and he gladly lent–over the years.
I think the tool I borrowed most often was a “snake,” in my continuing attempts to unclog pipes and sewer lines. Butch not only provide the snake, but also a lot of valuable advice and help.
I was glad to borrow stuff from Butch because I enjoyed hanging with him, especially in his garage or mine. Mary, meanwhile, would often invite my family to her house, and we enjoyed good times talking and laughing.
Butch and Mary’s children, Cathy and Jeff, were about the same age as my daughter Ginny and son Mike, so they hung out together, too. Since Cathy, Jeff, Ginny, and Mike all swam on the Tiger Sharks recreational swim team we got to know Butch and Mary even better.
Anyone who is a parent of a swim team swimmer will know what I’m talking about. Spending hour after hour on a long hot Saturday just waiting for the 60 seconds your kid will swim, you get to know a lot about people around you.
I also appreciated Butch’s ability to get along with everyone. I admired how well Butch, who is not Portuguese, became such an integral part of Mary’s family, which is Portuguese through and through.
Butch got along so well with everyone in Mary’s family you would think he was born in the Azores, not in his actual birthplace of Gloversville, NY.
I remember once coming over to Butch’s home when he and Mary were having a family gathering, and at one point everyone got up and started dancing the chamarrita, including Butch. He was definitely Portuguese in spirit.
I also admired Butch for his work ethic. Before he retired, he worked for 35 years for the California Dairies creamery in Los Banos, not an easy job. He left home with a smile in the morning and came back home with a smile.
In my mind Butch is an example of a truly dedicated family man, a person who works hard to support his family, treating his wife with the utmost respect and love and caring deeply for his children.
Similarly, Mary is an example of a truly dedicated family woman, the heart of her home, devoted to her husband and children, kind to everyone in her extended family, always willing to help her neighbors. And both Butch and Mary have deeply loved their grandchildren—Joshua, Raegan, Lincoln and Justin.
One of my favorite memories of the Woltmans was the celebration of Butch and Mary’s 50th wedding anniversary, a gala that Cathy and her husband David hosted at their home. All of their family members, friends and neighbors who were there were enthusiastic in their praise and affection for this remarkable couple.
Both Butch and Mary have had a deep and abiding faith, which has carried them through some medical challenges for Butch over the years, including his most recent challenge, which in recent weeks required hospice care.
When I visited them on the day before Butch passed way, he still had that same warm smile and friendly greeting, and although he had a hard time talking, made sure he said “Thank you” to me for stopping by.
The loss of Butch will leave a big hole in the lives of everyone who knew him, especially in Mary’s. I know Mary’s faith will enable her to carry on and continue to be a caring mother and grandmother. And I’m sure Butch’s spirit will always remain with Mary, guiding and inspiring her.