Appreciation:Thomas Butler

March 15, 2011
By

Massport’s director  of government and community affairs

-By Joshua Resnek

Thomas Butler

Massport lost one of its most popular and influential leaders with the death of Thomas Butler, the well liked and highly respected director of government and community affairs.

Mr. Butler, one of Massport’s most endearing public voices since first coming here in 1987, had been fighting valiantly against leukemia when he suffered a setback last month. Two weeks ago his condition worsened. He died on Friday March 4, at the Brigham and Womens Hospital.

“Tommy had a very difficult job to do reconciling the needs of this Authority and the traveling public with the legitimate concerns of surrounding communities that were asked to shoulder the burdens of our facilities and make sacrifices for the greater public good,” said Thomas Kinton Jr., Massport CEO and executive director.

Mr. Butler and Mr. Kinton were not just colleagues but friends, and as such, his loss was made that much harder on the Massport CEO.

“He did his job brilliantly, never giving in when it came time to remind the community of the good that Massport did, or reminding Massport of our obligation to the local communities and their quality of life,” Mr. Kinton added.

Mr. Butler was a gregarious type, a lifetime son of South Boston who loved his neighborhood and who came to understand something about the effect airplanes flying overhead can have on the people who were his neighbors.

He was, in many ways, a larger than life figure at Massport where it was his job to put out fires wherever people were angry in neighborhoods impacted by the airport.

His many, many visits to resident meetings in East Boston, Chelsea, Revere and Winthrop – and even in South Boston during the past two decades – showed his inner strength as well as his ability to calm down a difficult crowd which he tended to do with ease.

Mr. Butler was a bright light, a voice of caution and honesty who understood human nature.

People were naturally drawn to him because he always appeared to being having fun.

He was the youngest of seven children growing up in a working class home in South Boston.

His father was a truck driver. His mother lived to be 100.

He was a Baby Boomer who attended the John P. Bigelow Grammar School in South Boston and South Boston High School. In 1975, he graduated from Boston State College.

Growing up in Southie taught him about people and their issues and he came to understand early on that people had to be treated with respect.

“He had the gift of winning friends and influencing people,” his brother Edward said.

Indeed.

He knew how to work a room full of people.

Former State Senate President Robert Travaglini had high praise for Mr. Butler.

“He was a real friend. We had lots of fun and we got a lot of work done,” he said.

Mr. Butler came to Massport in 1987 as a manager of intergovernmental relations.

He had previously worked as a social worker for the city of Boston and was active in civic associations in South Boston.

Mr. Butler is survived by his wife, Helen; a son, Thomas Jr; and a daughter, Jillian; a brother, Edward; a sister, Donna; and many nieces and nephews.