A Life's Story
July 28, 2023
Driven to do right, determined to succeed
Dedicated community volunteer Enid Butler was part of a high-impact ‘train of women’ in her family
By: Janine LeGal
Enid Butler asked that there be no service after she died. Similarly, she might not have wanted the spotlight on her in a tribute story, but she’d be glad to see the organizations doing good in the community get some attention. The mother of two, grandmother of three, great-grandmother of one and dedicated community volunteer with countless organizations was a powerhouse, passionate about giving back to community. Butler died on March 9 at the age of 81.
Volunteering with a multitude of non-profit groups throughout her life took her all over the world and created cherished friendships. Butler was actively involved with the Girl Guides of Canada at the local, national and international level. She was a founding member of Grands ‘n More, part of the Stephen Lewis Foundation supporting grandmothers in Africa whose families were devastated by HIV/AIDS.
The Winnipeg incarnation of the annual Art From the Attic fundraiser began in 2015 when Butler took note of her Saskatchewan peers’ fundraiser and returned home from a meeting with a binder full of ideas. The event sees art from donors across Winnipeg sold to help grandmothers in Africa who are raising grandchildren orphaned by the AIDS epidemic.
Butler also served in various capacities, as a board member and volunteer with Augustine United Church and the Oak Table, and gave her time and skills working in development for Special Olympics Manitoba. The organizations remained particularly close to her heart, long after retirement.
“Everything she got involved with she seemed to take to another level,” said her daughter, Jennifer Greek. “Eventually she was on the advisory group, the world council, she always seemed to have that drive in her…. She always cared about what she was involved in. It became something that she needed to do,” she said, recalling that in her family home, being aware of what was happening in the world was critically important.
“We always watched the news. The conversation was always about what was going on, popular culture… the importance of understanding things, getting educated. She would see things and feel that she had a responsibility to act to make things better, to become engaged. I look at her parents; they were wonderful and involved in the community. As I grew up, became an adult, and had my own kids, I started to see parents as human beings, not just as parents. I started to recognize that they really had an impact on a lot of people.”
Perhaps it was the family’s deep socialist roots that played a motivating factor in Butler’s drive to make a difference, daughter Sue Wilton mused.
“My mother’s great uncle was M.J. Coldwell (Canadian democratic socialist politician and leader, who was pivotal in establishing Old Age Security),” Wilton said. She remembers growing up hearing stories of Tommy Douglas, former premier of Saskatchewan and leader of the New Democratic Party.
“This was part of our family history. The world could be a better place. There was always a belief in communal care, universal good, the fundamental right to safety, to life,” Wilton said.
Born in Saskatoon, Butler grew up spending summers at Pike Lake with her younger brothers. She graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with a bachelor of arts degree.
She met her future husband, Conrad Butler, through her work.
They married in Saskatoon in April 1965, and moved to Winnipeg the following year. The couple’s supportive and loving partnership stayed strong for over 50 years, inspiring gratitude in the entire family.
Butler’s professional career included starting a nursery school in Southdale, working with volunteers at Misericordia Hospital and Middlechurch Home of Winnipeg, and eventually starting her own consulting business supporting community organizations.
Throughout their married life, Butler and her husband loved to travel overseas with friends and family and spend time at the lake, in Sandy Hook and Gimli. They loved being grandparents, creating memories with each of the grandchildren.
Butler deeply appreciated her husband for the support he provided, which helped generate many professional and volunteer opportunities for her.
“They had the best partnership,” said Wilton. “Their personalities complemented each other.”
“My mom and dad were a real team,” added Greek. “My mom often said she wouldn’t have been able to do a lot of what she did without him. He supported her. And she always credited him behind the scenes for supporting her decisions. I see that in terms of it’s not just you in a relationship, it’s about the importance of having a strong partnership and tackling things together.”
When Butler’s husband experienced some health challenges, he stayed at home with the girls while she worked on building her consulting company.
“My mother became a Brownie leader, a deputy commissioner of Canada with Girl Guides, and chair of the Western Hemisphere Committee, flying to London, Columbia, Argentina, Singapore, all of that travel with Girl Guides,” said Wilton. “She did a lot of training on how to be a leader. She was self-taught, for her it was common sense. She was a very bright and articulate woman.
“My mom would have always set this example: you keep going; if you come up against a challenge you just do what you can. She really was one of the most determined advocates who wouldn’t win popularity contests. If she knew something was the right thing to say, she could get the point across. She was strong, determined, a force to be reckoned with. She was an advocate for what she believed. She would also listen. You can’t achieve what my mom did without listening.”
Wilton recognized that for her mother, what mattered wasn’t about her or what she was doing. What mattered was family, friends, the organizations she believed in and doing everything possible to nourish, build them up and help them thrive.
“We come from a family of very high-functioning women: her mother, my maternal grandmother — a train of women that have come along. I’m proud that I’m one of those women. My grandchild will be hearing these stories. She loved my sister and I, she encouraged us both to do what we wanted to do. We all knew how valued and loved we were.