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
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
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,
Butch. Be thou at peace.
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
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
Walter G. (aka "Butch") Robertson was a high-school buddy of
mine in Las Vegas High School (class of 1956). We were on football and
basketball teams together and enjoyed our classmates on those same teams. Butch
was the son of the Superintendent of Public Schools in east Las Vegas, NM; later
the high school was named in his father's honor, posthumously, as Robertson High
School in 1957. I had hoped that he might be at one of our high school reunions,
but unfortunately, he was never able to attend. I missed see him in those years
after his graduation at West Point.
Tommy B Thompson
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
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.”
Butch. be thou at peace
25 Feb 2016
Taps Memorial Article:
Walter G. Robertson
Cullum No. 23480-1961 | February
16, 2016 | Died in
Interred in Arlington National Cemetery, VA
Walter Gaines “Butch” Robertson was born and raised in the wide-open
spaces of New Mexico, where he developed a love for animals and the outdoors.
His father was an educator, and his parents stressed Christian values,
reinforced by the fact that both of Butch’s grandfathers were Methodist
In high school in Las Vegas, NM, Butch excelled in several sports. He also
developed a strong interest in the battles of World War II and Korea, and made
up his mind to pursue the Profession of Arms. He was determined to follow two
respected uncles and two cousins to the world’s most prestigious military
educational institution, West Point.
Butch described his four years at West Point as among the happiest in his
life, at least after surviving Beast Barracks, plebe English, and math. His
classmates invariably describe Butch as possessing natural leadership
abilities, a puckish sense of humor, and a wonderful singing voice. He
naturally commanded respect, yet made friends easily. He became a cadet
battalion commander, lettered three years in lightweight football, and enjoyed
the benefits of being in the Cadet Glee Club and the Chapel Choir. Butch said
that if records were kept on time away from West Point on boondoggle trips, he
would have ranked pretty high. His rendition of “Danny Boy” could elicit
tears, especially from the young ladies who swooned at the sound of his voice.
One anecdote testifies to that puckish sense of humor, which stayed with him
his whole life: Against all rules, Butch and his roommates kept two hamsters,
Igor and Thor, in an elaborately constructed nest of 33-1/3 record covers. The
animals were let out at night to run around the room, sometimes in timed
races. One evening the officer of the day unexpectedly entered, whereupon Igor
ran over his shoe. The next day Butch had to report to the H-1 tactical
officer and was ordered to get rid of Igor (Thor remained undiscovered but
left on his own terms a few days later). No matter how many times Butch
recounted this story over the years, his dead pan delivery never failed to
crack up his audience. Butch always hoped the descendants of Igor and Thor
might still race around South Area at night.
At graduation Butch chose Infantry and reported to Fort Benning, GA. Following
airborne and Ranger training, his first unit assignment was in Korea as a
platoon leader in the First Cavalry Division. He then returned to Fort Benning
for advanced schooling and subsequent duty as a company commander with the 2nd
Infantry Division. Butch served two combat tours in Vietnam, first as an
advisor to a Vietnamese infantry battalion and, later, once again with the
First Cavalry Division. He was decorated for valor five times. In between his
Vietnam tours he returned to West Point as senior infantry instructor in the
Tactical Department, where he particularly enjoyed running summer training
programs. Following Command and General Staff College, Butch served as Deputy
Commandant of West Point’s Prep School at Fort Belvoir, VA. This was followed
by staff assignments in Washington, DC and Fort McPherson, GA.
While serving in the Military Personnel Center in Alexandria, VA in 1975,
Butch became smitten with his boss’s executive secretary, Barbara. Following a
not-so-secret courtship, they were married in 1976. Barbara brought two sons,
Dave and Steve, and Butch brought a daughter, April, to the marriage. After
their marriage, Butch was posted to Fort McPherson. Although selected for
battalion command, Butch elected to retire in 1981, having grown fond of the
Atlanta area and wanting to try new paths. He and Barbara enjoyed successful
ventures in selling health foods and products. They practiced the healthy
lifestyles they preached, owning houses on golf courses in the Atlanta area
and later in Florida. They continued to work from home but spent more and more
time on the golf course. Unfortunately, Butch’s health began to deteriorate,
and they eventually moved to the Ashby Ponds community in northern Virginia,
living near Barbara’s sister.
Throughout their retirement, Butch and Barbara loved getting on the open road
and drove a motor home much of every summer. Their greatest fun was an annual
sojourn to Idaho to spoil grandchildren.
In his own words, “Butch would want to be remembered as one of good humor,
always trying to be funny and occasionally succeeding. He believed that all
relationships were important, while a few are precious. He believed that
soldiers you lead are like your family: they deserve your absolute best
effort. He intensely loved animals, and never met a dog he did not pet. 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.”
To his classmates, friends, and family, Butch personified that “truth of
life.” On the “up-slope” he acquired more friends and admirers who truly loved
him than can be counted. Butch inspired loyalty because he was loyal. He
inspired love because he loved. He inspired smiles and laughter because he
smiled and laughed. He reached into our lives, and shaped our personal and
collective ethos. Through the years, wherever we were, whatever we were doing,
we were a bit happier, better led—and entertained—when he was with us.
When our course on earth is run, he will doubtless be waiting to greet us with
songs and cheer. For a life well-lived, for enriching the lives of so many
others, Well Done, Butch. Be thou at peace.
— Family and H-1 Classmates