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Chester County Press

Butler family celebrates 80th reunion in Nottingham

07/12/2022 12:49PM ● By Richard Gaw

Photo by Richard L. Gaw                    The Butler family celebrated its 80th family reunion on July 10 at Nottingham Park, a tradition that dates back to the early 1940s.

By Richard L. Gaw

Staff Writer

Soon after the death of their father William Henry Butler in the early 1940s, his 10 children made a decision that they would celebrate their mother Emma’s upcoming birthday by bringing the entire extended family together in Concord, Pa.

Nine decades later, in a bond formed by tradition, 67 siblings, sons and daughters, cousins, aunts and uncles enjoyed the 80th Butler family reunion at Nottingham Park on July 10. Beneath sunny skies, they arrived at Pavilion #7 from Chester County and Delaware, as well as from New Jersey, California, Tennessee, Virginia and Arizona for a long day of food, conversation and a cornhole tournament.

Two of the three surviving Butler children – 99-year-old Lillian Weeks and 84-year-old Henrietta Coulborn – were in attendance, while their 97-year-old sister Irene celebrated from her extended care facility in nearby Elkton, Md.

For the first several years of the reunion, events were held at family homes and at Clayton Park in Glen Mills, but Nottingham Park has played host to the family for the past 30 years. The reunion has a nearly perfect record; they have held the event every year except for 2020, which was postponed due to COVID-19.

“The day after this reunion, I will reserve this pavilion for next year,” said Irene Ferguson, who reunited with her sister Emily Boulden, who traveled 10 hours from Tennessee. “Everybody knows that the reunion is always the second Sunday in July.”

Ferguson said that the strength of what has become a yearly ritual was first formed by the unbreakable bond of the 10 Butler children.

“There were seven girls and three boys in the family, and after they left my grandparents’ home, they all raised their families nearby and remained very close,” she said. “Eventually, there were 31 cousins, and at some of the earlier reunions, we as kids would play as many as 10 traditional games, and we all loved it.”

In retrospect, the logistics of both organizing and attending a large-scale event such as a family reunion one that has reached as many as 120 in attendance in past years and drawn relatives from around the country – seem relatively simple when measured against the common denominator of family, Ferguson said.

“We all love each other a lot, and we have done this for so long that it has become a part of our lives,” she said. “Soon, we’re hoping that the next generation is going to take over and keep our family tradition alive.”

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].