Bill Butterfield, who made innumerable friends in and beyond the Wood River Valley during almost four decades as a golf pro and ski instructor, died Wednesday at St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center in Ketchum. He was 79.
Butterfield came to the Sun Valley Ski School in 1948 already experienced as an instructor in his native Vermont. During 38 years with the ski school, much of it as assistant director, he helped Director Sigi Engl and Assistant Director Sepp Froehlich guide it into the modern era.
"Without Bill, Sepp and Sigi, this ski school wouldn't be what it is today," then-Director Rainer Kolb told the Mountain Express in 1987 at a party held for Butterfield's retirement.
Julie Webb, an instructor who organized the party, said in an interview Thursday that Butterfield managed to make working in even adverse conditions a joy.
"There are some people who stand out in your life when you work with them and Bill was one of those," she said.
The fact that Butterfield was asked to lead the ski school's annual Christmas torchlight parade for years after he retired was a sign of the high esteem in which he was held.
Butterfield began playing golf while growing up in Manchester, Vt., and competed for a while on the professional level. Beginning in 1954, he went to work on the Sun Valley golf course, playing golf in the mornings and doing the grass watering duties and shop attendant chores in the afternoons. Two years later he was promoted to Sun Valley golf pro.
Butterfield's success was due as much to his gentle personality as to his athletic abilities.
"Bill is one of the most pleasant, nicest and most consistent human beings I've ever met," Sun Valley General Manager Wally Huffman said at the 1987 party.
In an interview Thursday, Huffman said the intervening years had not changed his opinion a bit.
"Bill was the penultimate gentleman," he said. "They don't make them like that anymore.
"It's very sad to have these people who were part of the generation that built Sun Valley move on. We should always appreciate the things they did."
Memorial services for Bill Butterfield, 79, of Sun Valley, will be at 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 20, 2005, at Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Church in Sun Valley. A reception will follow.
Arrangements are under the care of Wood River Chapel of Hailey.