Beverly’s oldest resident, Fred Butler, had to leave school when he was in eighth grade to help his mother raise his five younger siblings.
But on Monday the 106-year-old Butler will be awarded the high school diploma he was never able to get.The special ceremony will happen in in the Beverly High School library.
Butler lives in a nursing home, but gets out from time to time and even reads the Salem Evening News every day with the help of a magnifying glass. He recently toured the newly renovated Beverly High School, and was impressed.
“He’s extremely bright and inquisitive and certainly could’ve acquired a high school diploma and beyond, were the circumstances different,” said Cathy Butler, the honoree’s former daughter-in-law. “The fact that he’s still here is something to celebrate in itself.
“Why not, if we can, formalize something and honor the life and legacy and commitment and just the story of a person who overcame so many things and lived a really nice, humble life,'' said Cathy Butler. "He’s a very grateful person. Everyone matters. It’s quite something.”
Cathy Butler has spearheaded the effort to get Butler his high school diploma. Cathy Butler said Fred has always loved talking about how his grandchildren are doing well in school, getting a good education
“It’s part of his story, which says I never made it past the eighth grade because times were tough,” Cathy said. “That’s what it really came down to. He didn’t really have a choice. And then life gets in the way.”
Butler was drafted into World War II when he was 34. While overseas, he continued to send any extra money he had to his mother.
When he returned home he got married, started working for the city of Beverly’s Water Department and had five children. When he was 68, he retired from his job at the Water Department.
“It’s pretty clear that he liked to work,” said Beverly Mayor Bill Scanlon. “And for him to get this now, at this age and still know what’s happening to him, it’s really terrific.”
Beverly City Council President Paul Guanci is going to be the master of the ceremony on Monday morning.
Although the city has never honored a resident in this way, Guanci said he’s very excited to help provide Butler with this gift.
“I think it’s a great thing,” Guanci said. “Just hearing about the guy that left school in the eighth grade to take care of his family. He has values that you don’t see anymore.”