New Brunswick

Prominent Saint John artist Ray Butler dies

Ray Butler, a prominent Saint John painter and art teacher, died at the Saint John Regional Hospital on Tuesday at the age of 83.
Saint John artist Ray Butler died on Tuesday. He was 83. (CBC)

Ray Butler, a prominent Saint John painter and art teacher, died at the Saint John Regional Hospital on Tuesday at the age of 83.

Butler, who was born in Grand Falls, earned many distinctions in his career, including an honourary life membership in the Saint John Art Club, the Canada 125 Commemorative Medal and the New Brunswick Day Art Award.

Bernard Cormier, Saint John's cultural affairs officer, said Butler’s death is a significant loss for the city’s cultural community.

"He's affected a lot of lives, he touched a lot of lives, not only through art, but even through some of the legacy pieces that are left behind," Cormier said.

For instance, Butler painted the mural of the Second World War ship on Main Street. He also had several other murals around Saint John.

Cormier said Butler produced several iconic pieces in the city, including a series of large paintings marking the 150th anniversary of the Irish famine.

But Cormier said Butler’s greatest legacy is the many students he taught over the years.

"They just adored him. He was just a nice person and he was patient and kind and always said the right things and always tried to encourage his students. They were very loyal to him," he said.

"In fact, many of the students who started taking classes from him maybe 20 years ago remained loyal and continued to take those classes because of the fun that they had, but also the instruction they received from Ray."

Harold Wright, a local historian, said he was friends with Butler for more than 30 years and worked with him on several projects, including the paintings surrounding the Irish famine.

Wright said Butler helped inspire his passion for history.

"I was very impressed with the type of artwork he did, which was so much based on Saint John's past," Wright said.

"So in my room, I have seven of his works hanging on the wall right now. I'm surrounded by his artwork and that's a constant reminder of who he was and what he did for me in terms of inspiring me."

Wright said Butler had a keen eye for detail and his work was always historically accurate.

Butler is survived by Shirley, his wife, several children and grandchildren

Visitation will be held on Wednesday and Thursday at Fitzpatrick's Funeral Home where some of Butler's murals commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Irish famine are on permanent display.

His funeral will be held at St. Peter's Church on Friday at 11 a.m.