This story has a special writer- Phyllis Butterworth, John’s widow. It was an honor to have her share her memories of John, both are great examples of what it means to be MarionMade!
It was September 2013 and John Butterworth sometimes wondered if he might be losing ground in his fight against the cancer that would eventually take his life on February 20, 2014.
Still, that fall, his thoughts were of others and not of his own fate. He often thought of patients he met who were less fortunate, and he was troubled.
Even as he was fighting for his life, Butterworth was determined to help others. His dream to do that became reality in October 2013 when the Marion General Hospital Foundation Board of Directors approved the establishment of the Spirit of Hope Cancer Fund. Today, seven years later, John Butterworth continues to give back to the hometown he loved, even in death.
Butterworth often joked he was a “cow country sheriff,” yet anyone who knew him knew that he was anything but. Despite growing up in a small town, Butterworth was equally at ease with everyone he met regardless of whether they were a frontline worker, an astronaut, a corporate CEO, or president of the United States.
The longest-serving sheriff in the history of Marion County, Butterworth never apologized for his love of community. He was born and raised in Marion, growing up on Franconia Avenue and graduating from Harding High School. As sheriff, he proudly served the residents of Marion County. His love for public service came naturally as his father, Frank, was a city firefighter.
Butterworth often said that of the numerous accolades and honors he received, the one that meant the most was being inducted into the Harding High School Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame.
The Sheriff’s ability to immediately connect with people and envision the future of law enforcement created a career path that would take him places far and wide, but always circled back home. As a law enforcement executive, he served as president of the Buckeye State Sheriffs Association (BSA) and was a member of the National Sheriffs Association (NSA), serving on numerous committees.
During his tenure as sheriff, Butterworth facilitated the growth of the Marion County Sheriff’s Office into a modern, forward-thinking law enforcement agency with extensive local, state, and national reach. Under his leadership, Marion County’s first 911 emergency system was implemented.
It could be said Butterworth was born to do this. Ironically, though, his career in law enforcement was accidental. He began his career at the Marion County Sheriff’s Office as a dispatcher. He was a college student and needed a job that enabled him to work nights so he could attend class during the day.
As time went on, his interest in law enforcement deepened. Eventually, he quit college to pursue a law enforcement career. He progressed through the ranks, being promoted to detective and sergeant of detectives. He was elected sheriff in November 1980, allowing him to do what he loved for the community he loved. Apparently, the Marion community loved what he did, too, electing him to an unprecedented six terms in office.
Throughout his tenure as sheriff, he authored the Ohio State Sheriffs Qualification Act that became state law. He also authored an NSA position paper that was used as testimony before the FAA and the Transportation Security Administration. In retirement, Butterworth formed JP Henry Consulting, LLC, a firm with clients across a wide spectrum of law enforcement disciplines, and he was a regional coordinator for the Ohio Department of Homeland Security.
Butterworth’s contributions to Marion’s nonprofit organizations and causes were well known. Among the organizations, he served over the years were Turning Point, Marion County Children Services, and Marion Technical College. His community always came first with one exception: Family.
He was the proud father of two sons, John and Robert, both of whom followed in his law enforcement footsteps. He loved being a grandfather and father-in-law.
He liked to say he was Phyllis’s husband and when talking about his wife, he often claimed that he “married up,” which often prompted an eye roll and a smile from her.
Together, their dedication to community and service became part of their love story. After all, not only was he a hometown boy, but he also had married a hometown girl.
John worked with many state, national and international people of note, like John Glenn, pictured at the Marion Airport. John Butterworth knew Glenn for many years and treasured this photo.