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In Memoriam

Eugene (Butch) Brown - Class Of 1966

Eugene (Butch) Brown

Eugene (Butch) Brown II class of 1966, 73, of Glendale, AZ passed away peacefully on July 8, 2022 after an extended illness. Butch was born 10-11-48 in Paintsville, KY to Anna D. Cochran and Eugene P. Brown. His family moved to Lansing, then Okemos, Michigan where he graduated from Okemos High School in 1966. He loved acting in high school at The Barn Theatre and worked at the Okemos hardware store. Later, he worked for Montgomery Wards in hardware as well. In high school, he met and then married Elizabeth Joann (Betty) Gilliam on Feb 3, 1968, and had two beautiful children, Lucy Jean Brown and Jason Andrew Brown. Butch and his family moved to Arizona in March of 1972 and he went to work at Entz-White Lumber Co., where he enjoyed his love of woodworking and met many lifetime friends.

Butch’s family went on many camping and backpacking trips, as Butch always loved the outdoors. In 1976, he began his mortgage banking career working for several companies while being active in the Lions Club, as well. He joined the Balloon Club in 1977, and became a pilot and then a flight instructor. Butch took time off to fly hot air balloons for the Unicorn Company in Aspen, Colorado, and the Bombard Society in Europe. Butch was also an avid professional photographer, and even had his classic photo of a hot air balloon rising through Monument Valley on the cover of Arizona Highways in 1982.

Butch and Betty divorced in 1991. He later was married to Jennifer J. McLaren-Owens February 1995 through June 1998.

In 2011, Butch retired from the mortgage business to begin a second “career” volunteering, and returning to his love of acting. He was the High Lord Mayor for 18 years at the Arizona Renaissance Festival. In fact, his image was used extensively in their marketing, becoming the face of the festival. He also enjoyed performing with The Improve Group.

Butch met his last partner Mary Schulte in 1984, they became friends while working in banking and reconnected in 1999, eventually becoming life partners and enjoyed 23 years together.  Butch became a surrogate grandfather to Mary’s granddaughters, Adeline Sepulveda and Samantha Burke, and recently became a great grandfather to Minnerva Louise Sepulveda.  Throughout the years, they worked together in the mortgage business, lived part time in Payson, Arizona where he worked at Chase Bank as a mortgage banker.  Butch and Mary enjoyed doing the Renaissance Festival together and traveling. He particularly loved seeing the fall colors in New England. Butch was a member of the Phoenix Men's Group/Trusting You are Loved and the Phoenix Mens' Group for over 30 years. Butch and Mary attended their Trusting you Are Loved monthly meetings for 20 years together.

Butch served on the Board and was active in the Glendale YMCA, and in recent years with the Hemophilia Association, where he would attend their youth camps serving and entertaining. He was a member of the Payson Elks and was very involved with the Payson Rodeo Committee, serving each year.  

And of course, most famously, he was known and loved as Santa Butch. He was the most incredible Santa, not just at Christmas but lived as Santa all year long, bringing much joy and laughter to all those around him. Not only was he Santa for hire, but many of his visits were volunteering for various hospitals, nursing homes, shelters, veterans, and was a welcoming beacon for all of his daughter Lucy’s large art shows. Butch was a member of the Arizona Santa’s Mrs. Claus and Elves and the International Brotherhood of Real Bearded Santas (I.B.R.B.S.) and even awarded the Western Regional Charitable Santa of the Year in 2016.  He was a member of the Salvation Army Rubber Band group of carolers bringing joy and Christmas cheer. Butch traveled with the American Legion Riders Post 62 to deliver gifts and Christmas dinner to so many Veterans and their families in need. 

Butch is survived by his daughter and her husband, Lucy and Richard Dickens, their daughters, Alicia and Amanda, his son and daughter-in-law Jason and Julie Brown and their son Jaxson. He is also survived by his sister and her husband, Pat and Bill Trommater, and their children; Matt and Valerie and their children Liam, Logan, Owen, Ben and Christy, and Tim and Erin and their children Jacob, Weston, and Melodie. Butch is also survived by his partner Mary, her daughters Sharlene and Lori, granddaughters Adeline and Samantha, and great granddaughter Minnerva.

Please join Butch’s family to celebrate his life on Friday, September 9th at 2pm at Christ Church of the Valley, CCV, 7007 W. Happy Valley Rd. Peoria, AZ. Reception immediately following sharing your favorite stories and memories.

Instead of flowers, please consider a donation in his honor to one of the following charities important to him or your favorite charity:

Arizona Hemophilia Assn https://www.arizonahemophilia.org/  Salvation Army https://arizona.salvationarmy.org  American Parkinson Disease Assn. https://www.apdaparkinson.org

We are fortunate that Santa Butch had the foresight to post many photos across the span of his life. Please click on the link above, to his OAA profile for additional photos. Articles and photos below were collected through Newspapers.com and posts Butch posted in our Okemos Alumni Association Facebook group. 



Brown, Eugene Butch OHS1966 1960-01-24 LSJ Cavanaugh School hobby show
















1960s - Okemos Barn Theater, Eugene Butch Brown as Homer Cady


























30 May 1965 LSJ  - MIdnight in Paris prom (Butch was on the committee)




















"Photo by Butch Brown, class of '66. photographer/commercial balloon pilot in 1977, I shot this from another balloon 1/2 mile away.

BIll and Georgia Miller flying the " Mariah " Raven Balloon. The south end of Cly's Butte in Monument Valley. Photo appeared on the cover of Arizona Highways ....

Happy times...."













August 1977


Probably the craziest thing Santa Butch has ever done. CAT sets 30 meter antenna, Butch climbs 175 ft tower. Weather conditions perfect, 1 of 2 lineman was a no show. I volunteered.      Butch Brown, OHS '66"






























1984 Affiliate of the Month Unicorn Baloon Co.





















19 Apr1993 - AZ Republic Phoenix 



























12 May1989 AZ Republic Phoenix - Volunteer Friends of Channel 8





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12/13/22 11:24 AM #1    

Laurel Winkel (1968)

This is the link to the Celebration of Life for Santa Butch:   https://youtu.be/3DlfZX6Zjw0

Butch also blessed us by posting many photos of his life to his Classmate Profile.

The world is better because of Butch. 🎅

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