Friday, April 23, 2010

Lottie Butts Finds Happiness at 72

From the Chariton Leader June 14, 1932
Life is More Worth Living If You Keep Busy, 
Blind Russell Choir Leader Finds As She Looks
At Life Through Fingertips

Miss Lottie Butts Finds Happiness at 72 in Aiding others
by Donald Norberg

Although for over twenty-three years Lottie Butts has looked at life through the tips of her sensitive fingers, it has not passed her by.  "Giving up in the face of difficulties," she says,  "does not lead to a happy existence.  Life is more worth living if you keep busy".  Lottie Butts keeps busy.

I will admit that I had some moments of hesitation as I walked the path to the door of her quaint, old-fashioned home on the edge of Russell.  I had read and seen much of people physically handicapped who "carried on" through life, but with a philosophy that was hypocritical or with a dogged resentfulness.

Rapid footsteps answered my knock, and a smiling, smartly-dressed, grey-haired little woman accepted my introduction and led me to the parlor.

"Wait here," she requested, "until I finish arranging the fresh bouquet of flowers that "Uncle" has picked me.  Quickly and attractively the flowers were placed in the center of the table.

"I hestitated somewhat about permitting you to come," she said as she took a chair near mine.  "You see, I have no desire for publicity, but your friends who arranged the interview said that you wanted writing experience, and I am very much interested in young people and their ambitions."

There is one word that comes immediately to mind in the description of Lottie Butts, she is "sweet".  Mentally I kicked myself for my previous thought.  Lottie Butts faces life squarely, and her philosophy rings true.

"I will answer your questions for the good that it may do others who face difficulties.  I do not think my accomplishments very wonderful.  Always in my mind is the realization that whatever I do there is a higher power somewhere, watching and helping.

Miss Butts was born in New York state.  Her father, like many easterners of that period, took "western fever", and the family moved to Russell in 1867.

"There was not much to Russell at that time," she said.  There was a shack for a depot, and a platform.  The station agent and the section foreman had small homes, and our house made three-and Russell.  One of the most popular amusements of the day was watching the train pull in, and people came daily from miles around.  Before our coming the station agent had taken the mail from the train in his hand.  After that he needed a sack.  The amount of mail that our family received was the talk of the country side."

It was her intense love of literature that led to Lottie's blindness.  Her eyes began to fail in early youth, and continuous reading under all sorts of light rapidly decreased their strength.  Although she did not become totally blind until 1909, her eyes were practically useless for many years before.

While at a sanitarium in the east, recovering from the use of the strong medicines doctors had used in treating her eyes, she met a vocal teacher who trained her promising voice.  For more than a half of a century she has been in the choir of the Russell Baptist church, serving much of the time as leader.

She also took a course in physical culture, and maintained classes in the county until the illness and death of her parents kept her at home.

To demonstrate the results of keeping faithfully to her exercises through many years, she stood, and with knees stiff, touched the floor with her palms.  I was glad that she didn't ask me to try it.

"No", she said.  "I have no objection to revealing my age.  I am seventy-two".  She looks no more than fifty, and her agile movements would shame many much younger.

"My hobbies?  Music, cooking, letter-writing, and I must not forget my bread.  You see, "Uncle" and I are fond of homemade bread, and I like very much to bake it.

No story of Lottie Butts would be complete without mention of "Uncle".  She says of him:  "He has lived with me since the death of my parents many years ago.  I love him - everyone does - he is so kind and good and patient.  His name is really Uncle Albert Butts, but everyone calls him just "Uncle".

It is this seventy-two year old's uncle who helps her prepare the lessons that she teaches in the Baptist Sunday school each week.  He also helps her to memorize the words to many hymns.

"He is quite an expert at deciphering handwriting." she continued, "as he has to read all of my letters.  I do all of the housework, cooking, baking, canning, laundry and sewing, but "Uncle" has to do the frying.  Sometimes, you see, I might turn the eggs or buckwheat cakes to the top of the stove instead of in the pan."

She corresponds with many friends in various parts of the country, and demonstrated her novel method of handwriting.  Placing a ridged pad beneath paper, she followed and guided the point of the pencil with the first two fingers of her left hand, and wrote my name more legibly than I do myself.

She laughingly stated that she had not yet patented her method, and continued:  "I used to write considerably on the typewriter, but it was an old model and the letter "E" finally refused to work.

"The State Commission for the Blind recently made an offer of a radio to the blind of the state, but I couldn't quite muster enough nerve to ask if they would make mine a typewriter instead."

It is from the State Commission that Lottie receives the twenty-five towels that she so neatly hems each month.

"I owe much of my happiness to friends," she said, "and believe that I realize more fully than many the true value of friendship.  I have many of them, and they have always been kind and considerate."

No, life has not passed Lottie Butts by.  She voted in the recent primaries.

I like you, Miss Lottie Butts.  I would like to visit with you and "Uncle" again, and permit you to ask the questions, if you'll allow me some of that home-made bread spread with butter and a bit of sugar between the answers.

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