Elbert E. “Butch” Ott passed away on October 10, 2008 at the Billings Clinic Hospital from a year-long battle with kidney cancer. Butch was born February 24, 1943 in Eufaula, Oklahoma. On May 18, 1963 Butch married Nancy McPherson in Oskaloosa, Kansas. They have one son, Shane, and special daughter-in-law, Joy.
Butch graduated from Topeka High School and attended Washburn University. He was a graduate of the Industrial Development Institute at the University of Arizona at Tucson and the University of Oklahoma at Norman. He was a City/County Planner in Shawnee County, Kansas for 18 years followed by four years with the Topeka Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Division and as Acting Director. He was a past member of the Board of Directors of the American Economic Development Council.
Butch and Nancy moved to Billings in 1984 when Butch was recruited to launch the “Forward Billings” Economic Development Program. When “Forward Billings” became part of the Billings Chamber of Commerce, Butch became its President and CEO until his retirement in December of 2004.
Butch’s contributions to Billings and the state of Montana were many. He was a longtime member of the Billings Rotary Club. Butch was a proud member of the Yellowstone Art Museum Board of Trustees from 1998 to 2007, serving as its Chair from 2004 through 2006. He volunteered for the American Cancer Society Relay For Life and served on the American Cancer Society Advisory Council of Yellowstone County.
He was a member of the Montana Professional Economic Developers Association, the Montana Ambassadors and Montana Association of Chamber Executives.
Butch was a man of many talents in both his professional and personal endeavors. In 2004 Montana Governor Schweitzer presented Butch with the distinguished Montana Ambassadors Plenipotentiary Award for meritorious service to the industrial and economic development of the State of Montana.
He was an avid fly fisherman and loved fishing with his son and special friends on a variety of Montana Rivers, especially the Boulder. He was a master at tying flies, a great photographer, and a strong advocate for artists. He and Nancy enjoyed traveling to art auctions throughout the West. They also shared wonderful memories from their many visits to Yellowstone National Park.
He is survived by his wife, Nancy, son Shane and daughter-in-law Joy; his mother Mary Sheppard of Topeka, Kansas; sister and brother-in-law Judy and Bill Cantillon of Rossville, Kansas; sister-in-law and brother-in-law Dr. Jerry and Jane Young of Topeka, Kansas; three nieces, two nephews, five great nieces and fout great nephews, and his special “furry” grandpups, Winston and Sizzle. He was preceded in death by his step-father Ernest Sheppard, his mother-in-law and father-in-law, Mabel and Willard McPherson.
A Celebration of Butch’s life will be held at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, October 15, 2008 at the Alberta Bair Theater with a reception following at the Yellowstone Art Museum. Memorial contributions may be made to the American Cancer Society Relay for Life or the Yellowstone Art Museum.
Our memories go back to June 6, 1966 when a big tornado devastated Topeka, Ks, and we first met Butch, Nancy & Shane. We watched the moon landing together, several breakfasts at Wimbleton (watching and later playing tennis), family vacations in Colorado, traveling together in Europe shortly after the Berlin Wall came down, and seeing scenic Montana with the Otts as guides. We cherish these many memories. Marilyn & Rod Thompson, Omaha, NE.
To Nancy, Shane, family and friends: I was so saddened when Jerry called and told me of Butch’s death. Although I didn’t see Butch much the last several years, I have always considered him one of my favorite people – a true friend. I look fondly back on those years he and I spent such great times together talking about all manner of things while enjoying good cigars. He was a good man and a wonderful friend. I will certainly miss him. All my best to all of you; you are in my thoughts and prayers. Phil Wolfe
I’ll always remember Butch as one of the most genuine people I know. He had an amazing way of making difficult situations seem so simple to handle. He was a mentor and example to many, including me. He’s done so much for this community. We’ll miss you, Butch.
Jeremy & Haley Vannatta
To Nancy, Shane, family and friends: I have known Butch for approximately 10 years. He was such a gentleman. He was a mentor and a great resource for me as a new economic developer. I will miss his quick smile, and his witty sense of humor. Many prayers for you as you mourn the loss of this great man. Blessings, Leslie Messer, Sidney MT.
To the Family and Friends of Butch Ott: My memories of Butch go all the way back to the late 1950s, when we were both involved with Jr. High basketball in Topeka, Kansas. Butch was a star for Holiday Jr. High School, and I played forward for Boswell Jr. High. I still remember walking into the locker room when we played Holiday at home (1959). Coach Earl Elliot had taken a marker and written on the mirror “Ott is ready! Are You?” In later years I shared that story with Butch, and he got a big kick out of it. We were in the same class at Topeka High School, so I always enjoyed seeing him whenever our paths crossed in T-town.
He was a wonderful gentleman and a good friend.
Although my basketball days are in the past, I still compete in US Masters Competitive Swimming, participating in the Sunflower Games and the Kansas Senior Olympics. Henceforth, when I’m looking for additional motivation before my races, I’ll remember that “Ott is ready.” God bless him, he always was!
With deep sympathy,
James (Jim) McHenry, Ph.D.
Director of Development
The Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library Topeka, Kansas
Dear Nancy, Shane and family, We were so saddened to hear of Butch’s death, what a fighter he was. It brings back so many memories of times past that we enjoyed with Shane and Doug and all their group of friends and all our get togethers, New Year’s Eve’s and other times. You are in our thoughts and prayers. Jack & Mary Ann Hamilton Topeka
Nancy, Shane and Joy! Many blessings go out to all of you. Butch was a remarkable leader in our community. Someone to shadow! I am happy and grateful that he was part of my life. All of you are in my thoughts and prayers. Lynn Harper
Nancy – I have thought of you so many times over the years. I remember the times we had at Brosius and Slattery – or was it Brosius, Slattery & Meyer – or was it Brosius and Meyer? Or all three? I knew you better than Butch but know that he was a wonderful husband, father and citizen. I am so sorry to hear of your loss – what wonderful memories you have. Sincerely, Helen (Webber) Crandall, Topeka, KS.
Dear Nancy and family: My thoughts and prayers are with you during this difficult time.
You all have made Montana your home, but your family here in Kansas know your grief and loss. Our prayers and thoughts are with you. Sincerely, Linda Herring Shaver
Nancy, Shane, Joy and family,
A great gentleman, leader, angler and connoisseur. Butch always had a smile and a good word. It was always a pleasure to see him. We will always miss Butch. Our thoughts and prayers are with you all.
Bruce and Gayle Whittenberg
Nancy, Shane and Joy,
Thank you for the privilege of shepherding family and friends through the celebration of the life Butch lived. It was an honor to represent him in such a small way. Shane said it well when he said he was a “classy guy!” Those two words seem to sum up my perspective of him as well. Thank you for your friendship over the years. We will miss him dearly and we will pray for you when you come to mind, which will be often!
Special love to the three of you,
Marc for all the Johnsons
Nancy and Shane – Gary and I were so sorry to hear of Butch’s passing. Although it has been years since we have seen you, we have thought of you often. I enjoyed seeing Shane when he was here for a Campgounds ribbon cutting and trust that he brought “hellos” back to you and Butch. Our thoughts and prayers are with you. Sandy Kirk, Topeka, KS
I was very fortunate to have had the privilege to work for Butch for a few short months. I am forever grateful for the opportunity he gave me to work for the Chamber. Many of the friendships and relationships that I have to this day are because of the Chamber & Butch. I’m only sorry that I couldn’t have seen him to tell him this and thank him. He will greatly be missed by all!
Nancy, Shane and Joy,
We will always remember Butch for his wonderful smile, calm sense of humor, his love for life and people, and his interest in bettering the world around him. We are so blessed to have had those great days/overnights at the Ott Inn several years ago, enjoying baseball, art, the museum, good meals and conversation together. You are all in our hearts. Ken and Aleda Berry
Nancy, Jim and I were so sorry to read about Butch. We have fond memories of our times in Topeka on Lincolnshire Circle and our visit to Billings when you both were such gracious hosts. May your memories of the good time you and Butch shared help you through the dark days. Our prayers are with you. Carolyn and Jim Lillie
To Nancy, Shane, Mary, Judy and all of the family.
We were deeply saddened when we received the news of the passing of Butch. Although life’s path has taken us in different directions since we first became friends at Holliday Jr. High in Topeka, I have always valued Butch as a friend for life. He was always a leader, true gentleman and a person whom others were proud to follow by his example. It was this way in school and followed thru to his family and career.
Having know Butch’s parents and family during some of our school years, it’s easy to see why he retained the good human values that led him thru life. I am proud to have had a part in Butch and Nancy’s life.
Our heart felt sympathy.
Ken and Karen Stephens