From her work counseling countless students through the decades to her work preserving old buildings for future generations, Mimi Jo Butler was honored last week by members of the Pickens County Retired Teachers Association as the 2010 Golden Deed recipient.
“God has blessed this community with volunteers, and Mimi Jo is central to that,” said Vivian Murphy, chairman of the PCRT Golden Deed committee. “She has led a tremendous and unselfish life.”
After graduating from Emory University with a double major in history and sociology, Butler worked in child protective services in DeKalb County before beginning her education career in 1965 in Cobb County. In 1996 she moved to Etowah High School and into Pickens County schools in 2000. She worked at Jasper Middle School and Pickens Elementary before retiring in 2008 from Tate Elementary.
Along the way she touched many lives.
“Educators make a really positive influence on students, and I can tell you Mimi Jo made a positive impact on me,” said Mike Robertson, CEO of Piedmont Mountainside Hospital and former Etowah High School student. “She truly is the epitome of what an educator is: she loves, she cares, she supports. I wouldn’t be here today before you as a professional in the health care environment if it weren’t for Mimi Jo.”
Robertson is one of three people who nominated Butler for the Golden Deed this year.
Upon receiving the award, Butler praised her parents’ community service work through the years as well.
“I didn’t do anything like they did for the community. There was not much they didn’t do. Dad was more well known for (his work) because he wrote articles for the Progress, and mother was more a behind the scenes person.”
Butler said she thoroughly enjoyed working with students and seeing them develop into accomplished adults, but, as every educator will tell you, she has seen her share of hardship and tragedy in the eyes of her students.
“When I came to Pickens in 2000, I was not prepared for the poverty that had happened in Pickens County since I left,” she said. “I mentored whole families that didn’t have running water or electricity. Every day in education is an opportunity for something to happen. Education affords you an opportunity to give kids opportunities they never would have had. Working with kids is fun.”
Butler praised the efforts of the local mentoring program and the wonderful volunteers who’ve worked with children over the years.
“I love teaching kids about preservation and teaching adults to care about their past.”
Though she has worked in schools and behind desks her entire career, Butler has never been afraid of getting her hands dirty to accomplish things she deems important. While restoring the old Tate Gymnasium, Butler said things got a little sticky.
“Jackie Howell and I worked under the bleachers in that gym for two days, and it was built in 1923-24, and let me tell you, it seemed like it had never been cleaned under those bleachers. There was an entire history underneath those bleachers.”
Butler, a 36-year veteran educator, is an officer for the Marble Valley Historical Society. She scripted the downtown walking tour of Jasper and won the Spirit of 1812 Award in 2010.
She has written four books of history, edited the Cobb County Genealogical Society quarterly for 10 years, and written historical nominations for the Tate Gymnasium, the whole village of Tate and the marble company, and the Pickens County Courthouse.
Butler established the museum at the old county jail in downtown Jasper and was chairman of the building committee at Tate Methodist Church, where she oversaw the building of a new fellowship hall.
A proud friend and co-nominator, Barbara Cline, thanked Butler for all she has done for others throughout the years.
“Mimi Jo and I go way back – for 64 years probably,” Cline said. “Shortly after school started we became friends, and shortly after that we became best friends. We’ve kept that up forever. I just want to say thank you for what you’ve done for me and thank you for what you’ve done for others.”