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Steve Buttry, former Gazette editor, dies at 62

He led newspaper staff during coverage of 2008 flood

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The man who helped guide The Gazette through coverage of the 2008 flood died Sunday of pancreatic cancer. He was 62.

Steve Buttry died at his home in Baton Rouge, La., where he worked as director of student media at Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communication. Family members said a memorial service is to be held at a later date in Minneapolis, where Buttry’s oldest son, Mike, lives.

Buttry became editor of The Gazette in June 2008, just three days before the Cedar River crested at more than 31 feet.

He had brought with him to The Gazette a new blueprint for journalism in a digital world, which would later earn him Editor of the Year honors in 2010 from “Editor & Publisher” magazine.

The relationship with The Gazette ultimately didn’t work out, but Mike Buttry said by phone Monday that his father never forgot his time in the City of Five Seasons.

“He really loved Cedar Rapids and was very proud of the of the work he did there,” Mike Buttry said. “He still had the ‘Epic Surge’ headline up in his office.”

Love for journalism

Born Oct. 26, 1954, at Sampson Air Force Base in New York, Steve Buttry described himself in childhood as an “Air Force brat” who lived in Florida, England, Utah, Japan and Ohio. He documents this and the rest of his life story in a self-published obituary he penned for his online blog, The Buttry Diary.

He discovered a love for journalism in fifth-grade while living in Utah, he wrote.

While in bed, he’d listen to University of Utah basketball games and write up sports stories for a newspaper only he read.

Later, he worked as a paperboy for the Citizen-Journal in Columbus, Ohio, where he’d start his work early each day so he had time to read that day’s edition for himself before making his deliveries.

His first job in journalism was as a part-time sports writer for the Shenandoah Sentinel in Iowa. He’d go on to work for the Des Moines Register, Kansas City Star, Minot Daily News and Omaha World-Herald.

He spent his career as a reporter, editor and newsroom trainer, which became his passion, especially later in his career has he pushed his digital journalism ideas.

He was honored for his contributions to journalism with the Glamann Award from the American Copy Editors Society in 2015, the Rich Jaroslovsky Founder Award from the Online News Association in 2016 and the Chairman’s Citation from the National Press Foundation in 2017. He also will be honored with the creation of the Stephen Buttry Scholarship at the Manship School.

He was recognized in 2010 as a member of the Hall of Excellence at the Schieffer School of Journalism at his alma mater Texas Christian University.

Dedicated family man

Mike Buttry, 44, described his dad as a hard worker and dedicated family man.

“As good a journalist as he was, it can’t hold a candle to how good a father he was,” he said. “He worked like crazy and he loved to work, but he always made time for his family — his wife and kids.”

Steve Buttry and his wife, Mimi, had two other sons, Joe, 36, who lives in Las Vegas, and Tom, 34, who lives in Washington, D.C.

Mike Buttry said his dad was “very calm,” at least at home.

“I’m not sure he was that way in the newsroom,” he said. “At home, he never swore, never raised his voice, but one day at the Kansas City Star, it was Take Your Kid to Work Day. I saw my dad and another editor get into a screaming match and my eyes were as big as saucers.

“He said, ‘Don’t worry about it. That happens all the time.’”

Mike shared one other story he said illustrates the kind of man his father was.

In 1985, the family moved to Kansas City and got a season ticket package to Royals games.

“I was eight years old, an ideal age to fall in love with baseball and the team,” Mike said. “Every fourth game we were behind the first baseline.”

When the Royals made it to the World Series that fall, Steve Buttry got two tickets to Game 2 and Mike got some bad news.

“I remember where I was sitting when my dad sat me down to tell me he was taking my mom to the game,” he said. “I tried so hard not to cry in front of my dad.”

Mike said his father promised he’d take him “next time.”

“That was not a bad offer because back then, the Royals were really good and won a lot of games,” he said.

Turns out, the Royals didn’t make it back to the World Series until 2015.

But Steve Buttry made good on his promise.

“He paid $900 a ticket to take me and my brothers,” Mike Buttry said. “He should have just taken me in the first place. It would have saved him a lot of money.”

‘I still won’

In his blog, Steve Buttry wrote back in 2014 that he didn’t want anyone saying he “lost a battle” with cancer.

“I kicked cancer’s ass back in 1999 and lived a wonderful 15-plus years since my first diagnosis. If my second round doesn’t end as well, I still won,” he wrote in announcing he had been diagnosed with Stage IV mantle-cell lymphoma.

He already had beaten back colon cancer after being diagnosed in 1999 and he was able to do so again with lymphoma.

He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last April.

Aside from his wife and three sons, Buttry is survived by his mother, Harriet, brothers Dan and Don and sister Carol Devlin, as well as many in-laws, nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his father, Luke.

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