Kenneth Morton Butler (1931-1961)

B 2-11-1931 in Havana, Cuba to Harold Abbott Butler and Ofelia Salazar Butler
D 12-26-1961 in Marion, Indiana



            Ken was born at the Anglo American Hospital in the Vedado neighborhood of Habana, Cuba on February 11, 1931 and spent the first four years of his life living in a third story apartment at Linea and M streets in the Vedado. The apartment had access to a patio on the roof where their father had installed a sand box and a swing that kept the two energetic boys busy.

At the age of two Kenny and his older brother Billy would be taken by their mother to a small park across Linea Street every afternoon where they could run and play with other children. During a short played revolution in 1933, he, carried by his father and his brother, dragged along by his mother, had to abandon their apartment to the army gunners who manned their roof to shoot at officers who had holed themselves in at the National Hotel. They walked five blocks to a friends apartment where they spent the following 3 days. Here are Pictures of the boys on the roof.
During a short played revolution in 1933, he, carried by his father and his brother, dragged along by his mother, had to abandon their apartment to the army and gunners who manned the roof and walk five blocks to a friend's apartment where they spent the following 3 days.
 In 1935 his father purchased a house on the corner of 4th avenue and 1st street in the La Sierra neighborhood of Marianao, about 10 miles out of Habana.


This is where Harold Abbott Butler and family lived in Cuba

              It took but weeks to meet a bunch of young boys with whom he and his brother joined every afternoon after school to play games in the large area in front of their house where five streets converged. Other times he joined his brother exploring empty lots where they built rustic huts in the reeds to hide from the sun.

              On Sundays their mother would take the two boys to church one block away and afterwards the family would drive to a beach club, the Havana Biltmore Yacht and Country Club, where Kenny would spend the afternoon playing in the sand and swimming.
              Ken started school in 1937 at the German School, located in the Vedado section. His father would drop the two boys off in the morning and pick them up after work. In 1939, with Germany warring in Europe and the German School installing Nazi salutes during recess, both boys were shifted over to Ruston Academy, also in the Vedado neighborhood, which was a bi-cultural grade and high school. He and his brother made many friends. Bill graduated in 1947 and Ken in 1949.
      In 1943 their father bought the boys a 12 foot flat bottom sailboat called a Snorky named Pallas with number 32 on its sails. Ken and Bill sailed it all over loading it with friends, boys and girls, then and head out to sea with 3 or 4 other Snorky's with other friends aboard. Their favorite game was to throw buckets of salt water at each other, and this would go on for hours, each chasing the other. All had a great time. In 1945 father bought brother Bill a 15' Snipe called Bluebird and Kenny became captain of the Snorky. Ken would often crew for Bill in Snipe races which were often at other clubs 6 to 7 miles away. When Bill went to Purdue in September 1947, Ken got the Snipe.

               Starting in 1947 Ken joined the Biltmore rowing crew as a novice and during the following years trained under some of the worlds top coaches such as Rusty Callows and Delos Schock. Bill rowed as well but never made the first team. Ken trained hard and by 1949 thanks to his fabulous rhythm and strength he ended up as stroke on their Clubs first team. In Cuba there were seven major rowing clubs and all participated in the annual summer races that started in Havana with the 4 man novice race. Ken's team won that easily. The 8 man novice followed, and they won as well. Four 8 man shell races followed and Ken's team won them all.

Having graduated from High School at Ruston in June, 1949, he headed with his brother to Purdue where they roomed together, Kenny taking the upper bunk of a double deck bed. Ken enrolled as a freshman in Mechanical Engineering but his first drive was to organize a rowing club at Purdue. Notices in the Purdue news letter roused the interest of more than a dozen men with previous rowing experience and with them in late 1949 Ken with his brother Bill formed the Purdue Rowing Club. Bill became its first president. Ken contacted the Intramural Department to determine if it was possible to get help in purchasing a rowing shell. Ken contacted Pollock, a major shell manufacturer on the West coast who offered to provide an 8 oar shell in the range of $1600. Members of the Club all pitched in what money they had. The Club was able to raise but $160.            

            Ken got on the telephone and contacted his coaches from Cuba, Rusty Callows who was head coach for the University of Pennsylvania and Norman Sonju, head coach at Wisconsin requesting their help and orientation on how to form a rowing club at Purdue and if they had any used shells for sale, cheap. In early 1950, Rusty Callows offered Ken an eight oar shell with the only condition that he go pick it up at their boat house on Boathouse Row in Philadelphia. Ken was able to borrow a truck from the Intramural Department and with another member of the Crew drove to Philadelphia, and there no turnpikes in those days, loaded the 8 oar shell together with extra oars and spare equipment, and drove back to Purdue. A month later they took off again to Madison, Wisconsin to bring back a second 8 oar shell. Meanwhile, Crew members were busy building a boathouse near Happy Hollow restaurant on the Wabash River. In early spring 1950, crew practice began. The boat house was completed later that summer and serious intercollegiate competition began during school year 1950-1951 with Club membership growing from the initial 20 to over 50. All men. Here are some Pictures of early crew days.

            Ken graduated in June, 1953 as a Mechanical Engineer and was soon drafted into the US Army.  After Basic training he was shipped to Ft. Lewis, Washington where he shipped out on April 10 aboard a troopship to Japan. For the full story or his trip to Japan go to: which consists of a letter he wrote to Aunt Nell, cousin Helen and Jack         on May 17, 1954. Released from the Army in the summer of 1955, Ken went to work in the New York City area with an engineering company. He dated several ladies, but his love for sailing took him to purchase a 17 foot open sailboat on a trailer which he kept at his apartment in the Bronx. On weekends he would trailer it to different parts of Long Island and sail the day away. In the summer of 1957 he towed his boat up to New Haven, Connecticut, with a good friend to join a regatta sponsored by the New Haven Yacht Club. During the race Ken suffered a brain hemorrhage and his crew friend sailed the boat up on the beach in front of the Club where several doctors from Yale were relaxing. He was taken by ambulance to the Yale Medical Center where they found a brain tumor and operated.  

            Upon first news of Kens predicament, Bill flew from Havana to Kens bedside and stayed with him until their mother and father organized things at their home and flew up. Kens parents stayed two months in New Haven as Ken slowly recovered, then flew him to Havana where he slowly got better, yet never returning to be the original Ken. During 1959 he became a bit too much for mother and dad to handle so he was sent to a clinic in Tampa run by old Havana friends. When his condition worsened space was found for him in the Veterans Administration hospital in Marion, Indiana where he was looked after until December 26, 1961, when he passed away. 

            With Castro in full force in Cuba, it was impossible for his mother and dad to attend Kens funeral. His brother Bill in Manila, fresh from the birth of their daughter Sally on December 21, flew to Chicago on December 28, from where he drove to Marion for the funeral. Joining him were members of the Covell and Salazar families who joined in the funeral mass and military burial. Here is his military cemetery record:

Here is his military cemetery record:

 Butler, Kenneth M, b. 02/11/1931, d. 12/26/1961, PFC USA KOREA, Plot: 6 3782,  

Bill Butler, September 14, 2010