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Walter G. Robertson
"Butch"

Company H-1

4 Mar 1938 - 16 Feb 2016

Place of Death: Leesburg. VA

Interment: Arlington National Cemetery

It is with great regret and sorrow that we must notify you of the death of our Classmate, Butch Robertson, on February 16, 2016 in Leesburg, VA.

Butch is survived by his wife, Barbara; daughter, April; son, David Pierce and his son Caleb; son, Steven Pierce and his spouse Irene; grandchildren, Stephanie Angele and her husband Ethan, Marcel Pierce and his wife Heather, Mary Reuter and her husband Louis, John Pierce, Paul Pierce, Mark Pierce, and Luke Piece; and great grandchildren, Brigitte Angele, Liliana Angele, Derek Angele, Kateri Angele, Gerard Pierce, Killian Pierce, and Ignatius Reuter

A memorial service will be held at 2 PM, February 25, 2016, at the Great Oak Clubhouse at Ashby Ponds, 44755 Audubon Square, Ashburn, VA  20147. 

The funeral for Butch Robertson will be at 1 PM on June 21, 2016 at the Old Post Chapel, Fort Myer, VA, with burial with full military honors to follow at Arlington National Cemetery.  A reception will follow at the Fort Myer Officers Club.

Condolences may be sent to Barbara at 21144 Cardinal Pond Terrace, #WC402, Ashburn, VA  20147 

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations in Butch’s memory be made to the Wounded Warrior Project, P.O. Box 758517, Topeka, KS  66675. 

Well done, Butch.  Be thou at peace.

Remembrances:

Class Memorial Pages\H-1 Butch Robertson.pdf

Okja and I plan to attend.  Beyond that, words fail me.  Fortunately, fond memories of our ever cheerful warrior-friend and classmate lend comfort to help combat our inevitable sorrow. 

Over the many decades since our graduation I have frequently claimed that our old South Area Beast Barracks squad (Butch, Jim Cullen, Terry Kirkpatrick, Tom Mercer, Bill Nesbeitt, & TFF) was the only squad to survive Beast Barracks intact all the way to graduation and to reach these later years undiminished.  Now, as we face the inevitable, may Butch Robertson’s ever cheerful presence offer comfort and example of a soldier's life well-lived.  

I believe you may recall the Handrail Award Ceremony Butch arranged less than a year ago at our Ft Belvoir Class Brunch.  I was deeply honored when Butch presented to me the piece of stairwell railing he valiantly removed from our old Co. G-1 Central Area barracks just prior to their demolition.  This piece of railing will forever summon up fond memories of our Butch Robertson as we wait our turn to follow him into our Long Grey Line. 

In Sadness,TFF, Central Area Flanker, emeritus, Co. G-1    

Eulogy:

It is my sad honor to be asked to say a few words about Butch from the perspective of his West Point classmates.  I feel quite inadequate to the task on two counts. 

First, I cannot presume to represent the 800 plus young men (it was all men then) who started with the class of 1961 or the 534 who eventually graduated.  While I am confident they would all share my sentiments about Butch, there are many who would express them in far more eloquent terms than I can.  Some are present here today and I hope they will share their own reminiscences. 

Second, I feel inadequate in trying to summon words that would do Butch justice – what words are there to describe a man of such achievement and character, a man who was loved by so many?

 The West Point experience is not only defined by the arduous four years on the rock.  Because of the special bonds that are formed between classmates, it lasts a lifetime.

Butch himself described his four years as a cadet as among the happiest of his life.  Not all of us felt that way, but it is an indication of his natural leadership ability, his good humor, and his singing voice – yes, his singing voice – that he would think that.

When I polled classmates in our company about their recollections of Butch, those three qualities were consistently mentioned.  I’ll give brief examples of each drawn from those recollections.

First, his leadership ability:

John Grisoni:  “Almost 60 years ago I was about to be separated from West Point because of deficiency in mathematics. There were those in my H-1 cadet company, both classmates and upperclassmen, who encouraged me to stay the course.  I recall Butch coming to me one day to tell me that he would do all he could to help me succeed for the rest of the year if only I could hold on to the current semester.  He was willing to share his time and energy in what was a very demanding plebe year for all of us.  That was the kind of leader and man that Butch was.  As I near my 80th birthday, I often think of how blessed I was for being in the company of those fine young men such as Butch.  I have truly marched among giants.  I will never forget, nor have I ever experienced outside of my family, such love and support. And the camaraderie continues to this day.  Well done, Butch.”

Bill Nesbeitt:  “Butch had a huge impact on many of us young cadets. I well recall his ever-present positive attitude.  He led and inspired without displaying a run-away ego or exuding an obsession with self-important desires to ‘take control.’”

George Cherry:  “The main thing I remember about Butch was that he was the perfect blend of business and fun.  Our four years at West Point seemed to be an effortless walk in the park for him.  Although he seemed to enjoy every minute of it, he was serious when the occasion called for it.  He would do his job and help others with theirs.”

Bruce Cowan:  “He was the highest ranking cadet in our company and highest rank doesn't always go well with being well liked.  Not the case with Butch.  Despite his rank everyone in the company liked Butch and respected him.  He was a genuine good guy - everyone's friend and gaining everyone's respect for his high rank which he carried well.”

Bob Kewley:  “However you would describe ‘natural leadership,’ Walter Gaines Robertson had it.  Butch made friends easily, unknowingly demanded respect, and never lost an H-1 friendship.  I know that through the years, wherever we were, whatever we were doing, we enjoyed being around him, were all a bit happier, better led, and perhaps entertained, when he was in the group.

Second, his sense of humor:

Butch himself said he “would want to be remembered as one of good humor, always trying to be funny and sometimes succeeding.” Well, he succeeded beyond his expectations.

George Cherry:  “He was a much better than average comedian who loved life.”

One anecdote testifies to the puckish sense of humor which fortunately stayed with him his whole life:

Mike Underwood and Bob Kewley:  “In addition to the three of us roommates, we also had Thor and Igor, the hamsters.  Mike had a metal box for 33 rpm records.  We cut off the bottoms of the record jackets and glued all the tops together. That way Thor and Igor had a nice home during the day – in the record box.  Since the hamsters were nocturnal, we would let them out at night and they would just make a circuit of the room as fast as they could.  Round and round they would run.  Often we would hold hamster racing competitions.  One night during the evening study time, we had Igor out and were letting him run.  The Officer of the Day unexpectedly burst into our room and before anyone could react, Igor ran over his shoes. The next day Butch had to report to our company tactical officer with hat and Igor in hand.  Butch did not get in bad trouble over Igor but we did have to get rid of the little guy.  (Thor, who was undiscovered, left on his own terms a few days later.)  As Butch once said, perhaps Thor and Igor or their descendants are still roaming the halls of old south area.

And finally, his singing voice:

You might wonder why this would be so important.  Well, it was because it got him a prominent place in the Glee Club and in the Chapel Choir, both of which afforded the opportunity to get off of West Point for brief trips to perform in the outside world.  In fact, Butch said, “If records were kept for time away from the Rock on boondoggle trips, (I) would rank pretty high.”

Nick Plodinec:  “He was a fine man....highly respected for his intelligence, leadership qualities, and great sense of humor.  We shared many fun moments in the Glee Club where he was also an outstanding vocalist.”

Bill Nesbeitt:  “My memory brings up a happy vision of Butch and my ears hear yet again his magnificent voice singing ‘Oh Danny Boy’ on Glee Club trips.  The young ladies did swoon!  Butch was delightful and entirely filled with a joyful spirit on those trips.”

Mike Underwood:  “(At) Mike Xenos’ wedding a couple of days after graduation, Butch sang ‘Ave Maria’ during the ceremony.  We were in a church and the choir loft was above and at the back of the sanctuary.  So, at the appropriate time, Butch sang and his voice sort of washed over us.  I will never forget the impact that had on me.”

Butch wrote of himself that, “He knew life is precious, and so as you realize you are on the down slope, relations with other living things tend to be increasingly emotional, sentimental, and meaningful, a truth of life we should learn on the up-slope.”  Butch need not have worried.  On the “up-slope” he acquired more friends and admirers who truly loved him than can be counted.

Bob Kewley wrapped it up: “For me it went beyond having a close friend.  He was an ardent supporter who added elements to my life that have made me a better person, proud of who I’ve become.  Butch’s legacy transcended more than that time, our time at West Point.  He remained loyal . . . to the brotherhood developed so many years ago.  That kind of lifetime mutual loyalty, respect and admiration is something most people never experience, and will likely not see ever again.  From the comments and memories expressed by others you can see, Butch Robertson obviously earned that respect and admiration.”

I last saw Butch on Veteran’s Day last year.  Todd Counts and I came out for a very happy few hours.  The last words Butch and I exchanged on this earth were, “I love you.”  In that sense, I think I really can represent my classmates, both by saying those words to Butch and hearing them from him.  We all loved him, and know that he loved us.

These words are sung in the final stanza of the West Point Alma Mater: “and when our work is done, our course on earth is run, may it be said well done, be thou at peace.”

Well done, Butch. be thou at peace

Mike Eiland
25 Feb 2016

Obituaries: