Dick Butalla was a true American throwback. He loved music, Elvis, cars, Americana, woodworking, outdoor life, his tools, football, Gospel music, a good steak, the USA, his family, and his unwavering faith in Jesus. If you knew Dick at all, then you also know in an era of instant communication and 280 character limits, Dick preferred an old-fashioned conversation. A long conversation over a cup of coffee if at all possible. Dick rarely wasted time talking about weather or other temporal things, choosing instead to engage you on any number of topics for which he was passionate. And for those fortunate enough to find themselves in one of those conversations, you walked away with a very good glimpse of Dick and his heart.
Dick was born on November 17, 1942 to Frank and Rita (Zini) Butalla in Duluth, MN. He spoke often about his time spent around Lake Superior and watching the deck hands working the ships. One of Dick’s favorite memories was winning the Soap Box Derby championship and proudly mounting the trophy on his parents' wall. Dick moved to Omaha, Nebraska in his high school years and spent his time at Holy Name High School playing football and growing his musical talent. Dick played trombone in the band and sang in the choir where his love for music began to flourish. His love of nature and service also grew as he earned his Eagle Scout Award. During his college years Dick honed is strong work ethic working construction and serving as a deckhand on a tugboat on the Missouri river. Music remained part of his life as he formed a 60s rock band providing vocals, string base, and guitar. No gospel music yet, but that would come later.
After graduating from Creighton University, he married and had 2 kids, Ellen and Rich, to whom he was very devoted. He joined the army to serve the country he loved. Dick rarely spoke of it, but he served in the Vietnam War where he earned a Bronze Star for meritorious service in a combat zone when he transported wounded soldiers across enemy lines to a nearby field hospital. Dick achieved the rank of Captain in the United States Army, and soon thereafter decided to begin his civilian career as a public servant. Dick spent 30 years in Child Protective Services as a social worker for the state of Nebraska dedicating his professional career to helping protect abused and neglected kids and searching for the best possible outcomes in some very challenging circumstances.
After stepping away from his first career, but not wanting to sit idle, Dick spent his pre-retirement years serving as an event planner for the Pacific Springs Retirement Community where he was an immediate hit with the residents because of his endless patience and creative “Men’s Club” activity planning. He would serve in that role for seven years becoming a local celebrity among the residents.
In 2008, Dick chose to officially retire to the state of Missouri where he bought a 40-acre property in Archie, MO, perfect for watching wildlife, planting trees, and of course hosting many gatherings to celebrate friends, family, and faith. He loved spending time with his five grandkids, including hosting “Camp Grandpa” for a week every summer.
Service was part of his nature. He served in The Good News Club after-school program and many church events, leading music and working with children with special needs. He organized a singing group called the “Gospel Guys,” which sang for the people at the Kansas City Rescue Mission (now called “Shelter KC”). He spent many hours a week arranging music and practicing with the boys in order to offer the men at the shelter their best.
Dick deeply enjoyed his family, church community, outdoor living, wildlife, and an enduring affection for performing traditional southern gospel music with his friends. He went home to Heaven on June 18, 2020 in Overland Park, KS at age 77. He will be remembered fondly for his devotion to God, family, and country.
Dick is survived by his brother Barth Butalla; daughter Ellen (Joel) DeBoer; son Rich (Shannon) Butalla; and five grandchildren. He was preceded in death by sisters Mary King, and Helen Ross.
Visitation will be held at Legacy Christian Church, Blue Valley campus (14301 Metcalf Avenue, Overland Park KS, 66223) on Friday, June 26 from 12 PM to 1 PM. Funeral service to follow at 1 PM.
Burial will take place Monday, June 29, 1 PM at the Omaha National Cemetery with military honors.
Past or present military service people, if you would like to, please wear your uniform to honor Dick.
Memorials are suggested to Child Evangelism Fellowship (P.O. Box 348, Warrenton, MO 63383), or Shelter KC (1520 Cherry St., Kansas City, MO 64108)
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