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Sunday, April 02, 2006

In Memory of Donnie Clint Butler (1974-2005)

Faithful Colleague, Loyal Friend, Loving Brother, Blessed Son...
Taken from us too soon...

Born - December 19th, 1974
Died - November 1st, 2005

The following is the eulogy delivered on November 8th, 2005 at his funeral service at St. Ann's Evangelical Church, Ariapita Road, St. Ann's. He was cremated at the St. James Crematorium, Long Circular Road, St. James.

The Good Lord saw it fit to bless us with Donnie Clint Butler on December 19th, 1974. I didn't know him growing up. He was a world away from my Diego Martin in his St. Ann's. While I recall seeing him at our parents' office building in Port of Spain, his CIC was enemy and anathema to my QRC. But when I did see him, he was always cordial, always pleasant, and always had a nod and a smile.

It was many years later that we would meet again at 3B Chancery Lane, where we would link as colleagues. Here, I would come to find that Donnie had begun his career with RBTT at the former Charlotte Street branch, moving on later to Park Street. Eventually he became a member of a select team preparing the organisation at Chancery Lane for the Year 2000 challenge. To most, he is more than just a co-worker or another employee on the roster or someone sitting one cubicle over. Generally jovial, non-judgmental, slow to anger and always helpful, sometimes to his own detriment, Donnie touched hearts and minds. He befriended many of his working contacts, both locally and throughout the RBTT Group's overseas units.

More than being a cheerful co-worker, Donnie is an exemplar for all of us. My friend was always dapper, articulate and soft-spoken, and put his customers and colleagues ahead of himself. When volunteers were required for any effort, Donnie was always present, whether it was running shuttle with his car for Chancery Lane's Creche opening, or it was to help host colleagues from overseas on training in Trinidad. He especially enjoyed family day where it became the expectation that year on year he would don costume to be his team's mascot. In that regard, many of us fondly remember Bunny Dutler in full rabbit costume, and Donnie-in-Diapers, he having offered to provide a comical counterpoint to a baby shower. Clearly, as many of us who knew him well were aware, he was never afraid to laugh at himself.

That fearlessness worked its way into every aspect of Donnie's life.

His couture was always on the bleeding edge, but never crazy, always classy. He was never afraid to try combinations like an orange shirt and green tie, which to be honest, actually looked good given the material and colours he selected for his tailor. Another friend recalls Donnie in pink socks and thinking to themselves that they wouldn't wear them, but that they didn't look at all bad as part of the outfit that he had composed.

Moreover, just as he did with fashion, Donnie challenged life with courage, almost with a cavalier attitude. He was never daunted or intimidated by people or places, and he operated with a confidence that belied his stature. I recall thinking Donnie crazy that he would leave Trinidad in December 2002 for the United Kingdom with passport in one hand and baggage in the other, not knowing where he would rest his head when he got there. In true Donnie style though, by his third day, he was living rent free above the Scandinavian restaurant in which he had secured a promotion from sandwich board boy to chef. His absurd wit, charm and boldness had once again won someone over, forcing them to take his crazy self into their world.

It was those things and the genuine love that he had for people that would draw many to him. And at the end of the day, the fact of the matter was that Donnie knew everybody. Many of us have complained quietly about the trial that walking down the road with him tended to be. A trip from Independence Square to Queen Street corner could take upwards of an hour because he would stop to chat with some one of us that he had not seen in a while. He could not just stop to chat either, but had to inquire into the welfare of your parents, siblings, cousins and pumpkin-vine relatives, all of whom he amazingly managed to remember by name. It spoke volumes about his genuine care and concern for others in his world.

Donnie's world wasn't small either. He has covered more ground in his near thirty-two years than many of us will cover in our lives. His feet have trod paths in many destinations in Western Europe, and he has wandered much of the Eastern United States. Closer to home, he has been up and down the Caribbean chain, and knows much of our own Trinidad and Tobago like the back of his hand. And everywhere he went and in every situation, Donnie made friends. I remember him telling me of the one time I think I ever heard him say that he was afraid. He had boarded a bus just to be able to say that he'd taken a cross-state trip. He'd fallen asleep and later awoke in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. With water before him, water behind him, water to the left of him, water to the right and no land but the bridge in sight, Donnie could not help but be concerned. It was minutes though before he was comforted by and befriended his seatmate. The person turned out to be a Trinidadian that had left Toco for New York at the age of four. The only reason that Donnie didn't reach Toco to look for the woman's family on his return to Trinidad was that he'd lost their contact information. And believe me, we would have made the long drive to personally extend love and greetings, and probably deliver two or three New York souvenir t-shirts. Donnie's willingness to give of himself and his time made errands like that easy.

Donnie was selfless to a fault in that he would extend himself for just about anyone like this. Further, if there were but one destitute person in a town of a ten thousand, they would find Donnie. He would listen intently to their plight, no matter how incredulous, and he would do what he could to help them. At some point much later, he might shrug his shoulders on realising that he may have been had, but that didn't matter. He was satisfied simply to do what he could for a fellow man.

Donnie treated with all of us in that unselfish manner. With the people that he counted as friends though, this was all the more so. If we needed help, he was there. If we needed uplifting, he was there. If we wanted company, he was there. If we didn't want company and wanted to wallow in our misery, he was still there, annoying the France out of us, yes, but making sure that we were all right. He was almost clueless in his desire to be attentive, and you couldn't help but appreciate him for it at the end of it all.

When I think about Donnie the friend, I think myself fortunate that I can count him as one of mine, and many of us should as well. I find myself more fortunate that someone like him, someone as special as he was, would count me as one of his friends. Many people have said that they have never seen Donnie angry, unsettled, or without a smile on his face. Many have said that they knew that they could lean on him at any time and know that he would be there for them. But there are a few of us with whom Donnie felt comfortable unburdening himself, sharing secrets and uncertainties, of whom he asked advice, and with whom he allowed himself to be human. Donnie too had hopes, dreams and fears, frustrations and loves lost, and opportunities that he missed and those that he craved.

I will miss this Donnie most. He was my annoying younger brother and best riding partner. If you saw one of us, the other was not far away. There are secrets between us that will remain untold, because I shall never tell.

There were very few people though closer to Donnie than this.

To my friend, his brothers Osei and Wayne can do no wrong. He loves them with all his heart, supports them in all that they do. He is there with them to share in their successes and is always on point when he can be to help then to clean up. No one could worry about his brothers or put things quietly in place for their benefit as Donnie could. Even in his sometime frustration and emotion, you could hear the love in his voice as he ranted over something that his brothers did or didn't do. Then he'd sigh, get into action and try to put things back into order.

At the centre of his universe though is the woman that is responsible for everything that Donnie is and what he represents. We must credit and praise his mother for the Donnie that she has shared with all of us. He loves her with all his heart, and his one desire above all else is to make sure that she is always happy and taken care of. His excellence is borne of her desire and insistence that he always does better. His love and compassion are borne of that which they have for each other. His humility is bolstered by the memory of what they have risen from together, and makes him appreciate everything that they have achieved. Her sacrifices for him helped to forge and form the young man that we are all proud to know. Know all that it is the love of a mother for a son and a son for his mother that made Donnie who he is.

Faithful colleague, loyal friend, loving brother and blessed son, for many of us, for all of us, Donnie is gone too soon. Donnie has touched each of us in some way, with his kindness, thoughtfulness, gentility, caring support and patience. Let us honour his memory by taking the good things that he has done for us and let us do them for someone else. Even if we touch but one person, we will have all, like Donnie, made the world a better place in which to live.

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