FORT LAUDERDALE – Raleigh Israel Butler Sr., a pioneer in the funeral business in the Bahamas, has passed at 81. Having owned and operated Butlers’ Funeral Homes and Crematorium, along with his wife Rose Marie Butler, for 60 years, the longest surviving funeral director and embalmer died Aug. 9 at Kindred Hospital in Fort Lauderdale.
Born Dec. 30, 1931, Butler was the eldest son of Sir Milo and Lady Caroline Butler. He met and married the former Rose Marie Taylor the same year he began his business, and the two of them were able to build the business and raise seven children: Clarice, Denise, Valarie, Raleigh Jr., Claudette, Loretta and Craig.
Butler proved to be a leader in the field, keeping abreast of new and innovative ideas and techniques and ensuring they are implemented in his establishment. He introduced pre-arrangement plans, tried his hand at burial insurance, was the first in the Bahamas to install a crematorium and owned the only wholesale funeral supply business. His distinguished service included training many young Bahamians who today own and operate their own businesses.
Perhaps the greatest hallmark of Butler’s career was the realization of his daughter, Loretta Butler-Turner, following in his footsteps and becoming the first female funeral director and embalmer in the Bahamas.
Butler also found time to be active in Saint Matthew’s Anglican Church where he was a past president and founding member of the Anglican Church Men and former Vestry member.
He was a longstanding and active member of Rotary Clubs International, served as a director of Saint Andrew’s High School, on the Doctors Hospital board, and on the boards of Woodlawn Gardens, the Disabled Persons Organization and Milo B. Butler & Sons, the family business. Despite the onset of age-driven medical complaints, Butler continued business as usual, arriving at 7 a.m. or before to open the business.
Funeral services were set for Thursday, Aug. 22 at St. Matthew’s Anglican Church, Nassau, Bahamas, with interment to follow in the family plot of St. Matthew’s Cemetery.