Late educator still reaches out by auctioning off belongings
Regina Butcher, support services teacher at Lake City Middle and educator of 47 years, passed away in July, but her legacy continues to improve the lives of the students she loved.
According to LCM principal Kelvin McCullom, she was the toughest woman he ever met.
“She had been sick for a while, and she was taking treatment, but in all the time I’ve known her she never used it as a reason to miss school,” he said. “She hated missing school. She lived for this school and her kids.”
She was, according to many teachers who worked with her, one of the most passionate teachers they knew. Butcher was a support services teacher for kids who struggled with reading and math, but, according to McCullom, she met the social needs before their academic needs.
“A lot of times she was able to help kids out just by meeting their needs,” he explained, “whether it was to pay for a bill or get food, get services. She took care of the needs on the home front before she would take care of the needs in the classroom.”
Support services teacher Andrea Livingston worked with Butcher for four years and knew her for 10.
“I felt like she had a genuine love for the students and staff,” she said. “She never wanted recognition. She would sneak it in somehow.”
McCullom confirmed that with a personal anecdote, telling how Butcher wrote his mother a card last year when his father passed away.
“She sent my mom a personal card of encouragement with money in it for her and me to go out to dinner,” he said. “That’s in a nutshell Regina Butcher, she always thought of other people. She thought of others before herself. She was selfless.”
That selflessness extends to the decision prior to her passing to auction off all her belongings, including her home, to fund a scholarship for four students. Her brother, Bill O’Neill, said he hopes the scholarships will be perpetual.
“The goal is for the awards to come from the interest,” he explained.
O’Neill lives in upstate New York, where he and Butcher are from. In fact, one of the two schools that will offer the scholarships is named after their father, Thomas O’Neill. He was superintendent of the Walton Central Schools system and died in service.
“Just like Regina did,” he said.
O’Neill knew what Butcher’s intentions were after her death. Butcher’s late husband Chuck, who passed away 13 years ago, also had in his will that he wanted the property and estate sold to fund scholarships. The $1,000 scholarships in New York will go to one boy and one girl who are entering trade school.
“The town I come from is a trade type town,” O’Neil said. “Everything nowadays is geared toward going to college. I feel that sometimes kids that want to enter a trade are looked down on and it shouldn’t be.”
Two additional scholarships will be awarded to students who will be involved in intercollegiate sports. On top of that, two students at Anderson County High School will be the recipients of $1,000 scholarships as well. Those will be awarded to a boy and a girl who attended Lake City Middle.
O’Neill and Butcher didn’t get to see each other often, but they were close and talked on the phone regularly.
“This is exactly what she wanted,” he said. “She had cancer for 10 years. It went from her stomach; she got a perforated intestine from the scars, kidney failure, diabetes, high blood pressure, but she went to work every day.
“She was one tough Irishman. She went down swinging.”
Butcher’s best friends, Susan Owens and Juanita Melton, both met Butcher as teachers. Owens said she called her “mom” and came to her any time she needed advice.
Melton, who met Butcher in 1998 at LCM, called Butcher a “wealth of knowledge.”
“She was our mentor for the teachers,” she said. “She was encouraging, uplifting, and motivated you to be a better teacher. If she made a suggestion, you were guaranteed it was going to work.”
Butcher quickly became a part of Melton’s extended her family. Butcher even cut the cord when Melton’s daughter, Samantha, was born, and was there when her son Joe was delivered by C-section.
According to Melton, Butcher co-founded the middle school softball team, was involved in Special Olympics, and was an on-call sign language interpreter for local hospitals and first responders. She was also a tutor and summer school teacher.
“Ms. Butcher was my best friend in school,” said eighth-grade student Madison of her former teacher. “She always helped me with my math and things outside of school. She always had a style about her that I loved. I remember one time I was struggling with something and I got frustrated. She told me to close my eyes and breathe. She told me that things will work out and to not worry. Ever since then, when I was stuck in a situation, I would close my eyes and breathe. I loved Ms. Butcher so much and will always cherish every moment spent with her.”
McCullom said that Butcher’s continued passion for students made her a very unique individual.
“This is my 33rd year of teaching, and I can count on one hand the number of people in education who have made it over 40 years and still have a passion for it,” he said.
The auction for Butcher’s estate is online through Oct. 7. It can be viewed at jdsauction.com. Click “current auctions,” then scroll to “Estate of Mrs. Butcher.”
All proceeds fund the six scholarships. Her home will be auctioned on Oct. 28 through Stephenson Auction and Realty.