John James Butler, owner of Butler Brothers, one of the first gourmet grocery stores in Westchester County, died peacefully on December 14, 2023, at his home in Rye, N.Y., with his family by his side. He was 93 years old.
Jack, as he was known, was born in Philadelphia, Pa. on February 18, 1930, the son of Mary Kate (Moffett) Butler and Martin Michael Butler. After living in New York City, the family moved to Rye in 1942. Jack attended Catholic school his whole life, and for high school, he chose to commute by train to Cardinal Hayes High School for Boys in the Bronx.
After graduation, he joined the United States Marines and served in the Korean War. He was stationed in the Republic of the Marshall Islands for the duration of the war, where he served as a military police officer with a security detail for the atomic bomb tests. Upon his return home, Jack entered Iona College and married the love of his life, Theresa Fanella, of Harrison.
Throughout high school and college, he worked after school with his father in their produce shop on Purchase Street. It was this experience that would ultimately propel him into the grocery business. After earning a degree in Business from Iona College, Jack went to work for Grand Union, starting as an auditor to the manager of the Rye location, and working his way up to sales manager for the chain’s Connecticut division, where he spearheaded the opening of 22 new locations. After leaving Grand Union, he served in a similar capacity at Daitch Shopwell.
Yearning to make his own mark in the industry, Jack followed the lead of his brother, Martin (Marty) Butler, who had recently opened a grocery store in downtown Rye, Butler Brothers. In 1969, Jack bought a grocery store and adjacent meat market in Harrison and opened his own Butler Brothers, which quickly became popular because of its quality and convenience, and was a fixture on Halstead Avenue for 30 years. The Butler Brothers stores were among the first truly gourmet grocers in Westchester County.
The Butler family was well-known and respected. Marty and Tommy Butler, two of Jack’s brothers, served on the Rye City Council. Everyone in the family, including Jack’s children, possessed entrepreneurial spirit and tenacity. Kevin Butler and his wife Barbara owned Rags, a retail clothing shop; Margaret Butler owned High Gear; Marty Butler and his wife Karen not only owned Butler Brothers but also the Rye Village Market; Brian Butler owned The Marketplace of Harrison and ran a successful catering business; and Jacqueline Johnston and her husband John owned Crisfield’s Prime Meats for over 40 years.
A humble and generous man, when his younger brother Timothy needed a kidney in the very early years of transplants, Jack did not hesitate to give him one of his. Sadly, the transplant could not prevent Timothy’s early death, but Jack never lost faith. He loved God, his family, and his country. A devout Catholic, Jack was a parishioner at the Church of the Resurrection for his entire life.
Among his happiest days were warm summer afternoons spent with his wife, children, and grandchildren by the pool and gardens in his backyard.
Jack Butler is survived by Theresa Butler, his loving wife of 71 years; their six children, Jacqueline Johnston (John) of Harrison, Brian Butler of Rye, Terese Bisconti (Robert) of Bronxville, Kathleen Brown (Curtis) of Carmel Valley, Calif., Patrick (Debra) of Ridgefield, Conn, and Timothy (Christina) of South Salem, N.Y. He is also survived by his brother, Kevin Butler (Barbara) of Rye; 14 grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by his siblings, Timothy, Marty, Margaret, and Tommy.
A Mass of Christian Burial was held December 18 at Church of the Resurrection.
Donations in Jack Butler’s memory may be made to Cardinal Hayes High School, 650 Grand Concourse, Bronx, N.Y. 10451.