William Butler thought he was simply going to welcome the crowd to Fun Day on Saturday morning.

The folks of Bladenboro had other ideas by honoring the man who has become a community treasure.

Bladenboro Mayor Livingston Lewis proclaimed Sept. 8, 2012 as William A. Butler Day. The 86-year-old president of the Bladenboro Historical Society was also awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine from the Governor’s Office prior to the day-long Fun Day.

 “I never dreamed of anything like this happening,” an emotional Butler said after the unveiling of a banner declaring Saturday as his day. “All of the people have done a wonderful job. They’ve done the work and I’ve tried to help them”

 N.C. District 46 Rep. G.L. Pridgen presented Butler with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, an award begun in 1965 to honor North Carolinians who have a proven record of extraordinary service to the state.

 “The man is like the Energizer Bunny,” Pridgen said. “He has done so many things. But in talking with him, he doesn’t mention those things. He mentions his family. He mentions how he used to run the dairy farm and all of the kids would came by. It was like their small zoo. He’s a very impressive gentleman.”

 Butler operated a dairy farm in Bladenboro for 31 years, has served as a deacon of Zion Hill Baptist Church since 1949 and was a supervisor for the Soil & Water Conservation Board for 42 years. He was a member of the Bladen County Board of Commissioners for four years and was a recruiter for the Bladenboro Medical Board among his many community and civic activities.

 Butler was instrumental in leading the Bladenboro Historical Society’s quest to save the former Bladenboro Farm Life School building from being demolished in the early 1990s. The Bladen County Board of Education had decided to stop using the building as a primary school.

 “I felt that it was a good building,” Butler said. “I felt that Bladenboro needed something to leave a legacy for generations to come. My grandfather was on the board that built this building (in 1917). I felt obligated, with a group of others who were just as involved as I was.”

Former N.C. Rep. Edd Nye, who represented Bladen County, sponsored a bill in 1992 in the state legislature that deeded the building to the Bladenboro Historical Society. At the time, the law read that unused school property had to be sold at public auction, but Nye’s bill removed that requirement. A clause in the bill calls for the building to be returned to Bladen County Schools if the Bladenboro Historical Society no longer exists.

“I was so thankful for that bill,” Butler said. “It’s been a struggle at times, but it’s been a good struggle.”

Among the rewards from that “good struggle” came Saturday with the Society’s 21st annual Fun Day held on the lawn in front of the historical building. There were rides and inflatable bounce houses for the young children, carnival games, community service organizations offering information and prizes, and, of course, food, including funnel cakes, boiled peanuts and ice cream. Several hundred people attended the event.

“The (Historical Society) board came up with the idea for Fun Day,” Butler said. “We felt like we needed to bring the public in. It’s a public building for the community. We wanted to bring the people together and show our appreciation for what we’ve got because there’s been a lot of donations.

“I think it’s about $400,000 that’s been contributed over the years. It’s been done with donations and hard labor.”

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