Local fitness guru Doug Butt dies at 67

By From page B1 | October 10, 2012

Doug Butt

Doug Butt compete in the Davis Half Marathon on February 8, 1987. But set the course record that year with a time of 1:14:36. (Provided photo)

FAIRFIELD — Doug Butt was not a large man, but he was a titan on the fitness scene in Fairfield.

Butt, a longtime physical education teacher at Laurel Creek Elementary School, umpire, soccer referee and – perhaps most famously – distance runner extraordinaire, died at his Fairfield home Monday night after a short battle with the blood cancer multiple myeloma. He was 67.

It’s hardly a secret what an impact Butt had on the lives of thousands of young people, whether they were his students, the athletes for whom he officiated, or the hundreds of elementary school children who have competed in the 35 annual Doug Butt Run events to date.

Family and friends agree he was one of the most visible citizens in Fairfield and, perhaps one of the most influential, given his lengthy teaching career, never mind his involvement in running, golf, officiating and tireless promotion of fitness.

Always one to mark his milestone birthdays with big events, Butt took part in 40 different athletic events in eight days leading up to his 40th.

For his 50th it was a 54-mile bike ride and on his 60th it was running 60 miles in the preceding week.

All of that was in addition to the 75,277 miles he ran from July 31, 1964 to Dec. 31, 2004.

“Everybody knew Dad as a runner, they saw him around town,” said Butt’s daughter Lisa Padayao. “One of my friends always said that my dad was willing to run farther than my friend was willing to drive. He was just a staple that way.”

Always a proponent of fitness, especially for young people, Butt remained active almost to the end, taking a golf trip to Scotland in June.

“If you spend 20 days with someone and you still like them at the end, you’re pretty good friends,” said Jim Saylor of Napa, a longtime friend and golf partner of Butt. “We were actually closer at end of trip than when we started. It’s something I will always remember.”

Mourning a friend is never easy.

“It is pretty bad. We go way back to when we played softball together, well over 30 years,” Saylor said.

The pair met when Saylor joined Butt’s softball team at a co-worker’s behest.

“We played softball for years and when I got too old for that, I took up golf,” Saylor said.

Monthly dinners and nearly weekly golf games continued for years.

“I’m a coach, he’s an umpire,” Saylor said, noting the two made quite a pair.

Butt was left-handed, Saylor is a righty. Butt stood around 5 foot, 5 inches, Saylor is taller than 6 feet.

Paraphrasing baseball great Jackie Robinson, Saylor said, “The measure of a man isn’t what he does, it’s how many lives he touches in a positive way.”

There’s no way to know how many lives that totals, but it’s a lot, and it started early.

“I’ve known Doug since my junior year in high school in 1966,” said Mike Dailey, former Fairfield High athletic director and Butt’s former neighbor.

A distance runner, like Butt, Dailey met his future neighbor at an open-course race in Marin County going from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach over Mount Tamalpais.

“Doug ran for Marin Athletic Club – I raced against him in a lot of different races – I ran with the Redwood City Striders,” Dailey said. “I saw him and said, ‘Follow that guy, he knows the course.’ Doug knew the shortcuts. I finished fourth and Doug was sixth.”

That blossomed into an enduring friendship and working relationship as well. Butt coached distance runners at Armijo, when Dailey was coaching track at Fairfield.

“I have nothing but respect for Doug, he’s a class guy. A neat guy,” Dailey said. “You always saw him around town running. In 45 years I know he only missed a handful of days running. It was a very, very sad day when I saw him (Monday). We lost a great man and a great ambassador to the community for physical fitness-type stuff.”

Butt reached so many as he promoted fitness, but it always started with his family, including wife Aileen Butt, Son Kevin and daughter Padayao.

“My dad was just a picture of fitness. I’ve never seen him drink a drop of alcohol. He always took medicine as a last resort. Of course, no smoking. He was a great role model,” Padayao said. “Thanks to my dad, I met a lot of my friends from middle school and high school that way. They had him for PE in elementary school, so a lot of friends knew about me before I knew about them.”

Wherever he went, Butt commanded respect, especially from coaches and players when he was on the field.

“The first time I met Doug was at a baseball game in 1976,” said Brad Hanson, president of the Fairfield Expos Baseball Association. “We were playing with a time limit on the game. I can just picture him saying, ‘We got one minute left.’ ”

Hanson said he hopes to find some way to honor Butt’s memory next season.

“We want to recognize him for all of his contributions. His contributions went way beyond the scope of baseball,” Hanson said. “He probably touched the lives of more people in the community than anybody In the city.”

A feeling Saylor shared.

“We couldn’t go to dinner without (seeing) one of his former students,” Saylor said. “He made a big impact on Fairfield without a doubt. How many people have a sporting event named after them. I don’t.”

Butt’s final months began with shoulder trouble on the Scotland trip.

Hip trouble and back injuries finally sent him to the doctor, where tests eventually revealed the extent of the cancer.

Padayao said Butt was diagnosed on Aug. 22.

“The symptoms didn’t seem anything out of the ordinary, typical running injuries,” Padayao said. “Stiffness in his hips. He had some back pain in mid-July. It was just ‘Put some ice on it, take some Tylenol.’ When it kept getting worse, he went to the doctor.”

Padayao said doctors also found a number of tumors, one of which doctors said Butt may have lived with for as long as 20 years.

“That just proves to you how strong my dad was. It speaks so strongly about what a fighter he was.” she said.

Butt came home from the hospital for the last time on Oct. 1. Padayao said she went to check on him Monday night when he stopped breathing.

“I saw him take his last breath.Then I just sat there and held his hand for four hours until they took him away. I just couldn’t let him go,” she said. “He was so loved.”

Reach Mike Corpos at 427-6979, or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/mcorposdr.


Discussion | 33 comments

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  • Christine in FFOctober 10, 2012 - 9:04 am

    We are very sad to hear about Mr. Butt's passing. He was an awesome man and an inspiration to many. His family is in our thoughts and prayers.

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  • Rev. Bill McDonaldOctober 11, 2012 - 1:09 pm

    I knew Doug way back at Sunnyvale High School - his sister was in my class and he was one year ahead of us. He was always one of those good guys - well respected and someone who you wanted to be friends with. He was a track star in his own rights at school and it seems he never stopped running. It is so wonderful to read the story and all the comments to learn how well he had lived his life and how much he gave of himself to his community. All of his "old friends" from Sunnyvale send our prayers and love to his family. It was our honor to have known him when he was a younger man and to have been one of his hundreds of friends. God bless all those who mourn his loss.

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  • Scott ShermanOctober 10, 2012 - 9:47 am

    Thank you Mr. Butt for leading my son and daughter through Alan Witt Park annually during their formative years. You touched their lives and countless others in the most inspirational way possible; leading by example. God Bless you and your family!~

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  • PamelaOctober 10, 2012 - 10:37 am

    Mr. Butt was my P.E. teacher at Fairview Elementary School in the early 80's, he was the best P.E. teacher I ever had! I always thought he was the strongest man in the world, so to hear of his passing at such a young age is a shock! I hope that everyone realized the impact this man had on so many children's lives, especially mine! One of my best memories of being a kid was Field Day at Fairview...and then receiving our ribbons! Rest in Peace Mr.Butt. Your presence will be missed! My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.

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  • eddie sOctober 10, 2012 - 11:24 am

    Mr Butt was the man. 5 yrs of P.E with him at Laurel creek then was lucky enough to play baseball for another 15 yrs in FF. Lucky for me i was a catcher and had the pleasure of him umping our games. Any one that had him for a ump will never for get the doug butt " stikeeee" call with the fist going straight up in the air. Thanks for the memories, you will never be forgot

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  • Krissy Paine ClarkOctober 10, 2012 - 2:13 pm

    Mr. Butt was my P.E. teacher in the early 70's at Fairview Elementry. I joined every sport there was and Mr. Butt was always there to encourage me rather it be soccer or flag football. He was a very short man but he was larger than life to all of us that knew him. I remember attending his wedding to Aileen. How many children attend their teachers weddings. Our teachers are soo important in our lives and lets be real they are parents to many of us. Over the years I would see him running at Allen Witt Park or just pass him on the street. Rain or shine he was dedicated. One of the neatest things for me he was also my daughter Delaina's P.E. teacher at Laurel Creek. He would tell her many stories about me as a child. We had many laughs together everytime we would see eachother. I would always tease him of being so short. To this day I call him Mr. Butt eventhough I could have called him Doug. The respect I have for him will be forever. Today is a sad day for me and so many. To his family I wish you much peace and please know you are soo blessed to have him as a husband and father. He was and always be an amazing person. He will truly be missed.

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  • Phyllis McKinleyOctober 10, 2012 - 3:05 pm

    I had Mr. Butt at Fairview Elementary in the 80's. He was encouraging of boys and girls to participate in sports. I appreciated him pushing me to go beyond what I thought I could do. He challenged me to be my best and gave me opportunities to rise to the occasion. He was one of my favorite teachers.

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  • Doug DOctober 10, 2012 - 4:58 pm

    Mr Butt was my PE teacher in the early 70's and what I remember most is that he would let us run with him before school we would run from Fairview to Oliver road and back and as time went along more kids would show up every morning to run then I would have him as an umpire and he would always tell me you better beat that grounder out cause I know you are fast.Mr Butt I would just like to say Thank You for everything you did for me and all the kids that crossed your path in life

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  • Jim DaltonOctober 10, 2012 - 5:01 pm

    As a fellow lefty golfer Doug will be greatly missed. He touched the lives of everyone he met in such a great way. His family is in our thoughts and prayers!

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  • Rick RodriguezOctober 10, 2012 - 5:08 pm

    Doug is recognized as an avid and active participant in the Northern California Left-Handed Golf Club. I, too, was with Doug in Scotland this summer, and recall playing a practice round with him at City West Golf Club in Dublin, Ireland in 2005. I remember the day vividly and memorialized it on video. But, what I recall most of that day was arriving into Dublin and to the hotel and not knowing anyone but there, to my surprise and delight, was the one and only Doug Butt near the Pro shop! With a smile, Doug said "Hey Rick, wanna play a practice round?" and just like that Doug Butt and me were off looping a small speck of green earth in the wonderful country of Ireland! I was lucky to know this man and this weekend as we celebrate the Northern California Left-Handed Golf Club's annual Club Championship, Doug will be there with us.....

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  • CarrollOctober 10, 2012 - 6:24 pm

    I had the honor to teach with Doug at Laurel Creek School. He was always interested in motivating students to do their best no matter what size or shape. He was instrumental in helping our school in receiving our California Health and Physical Education Excellence award. Doug was also a bowler and bowled with the FSUSD teachers league. I was blessed to be his team-mate for the last 15 years. Doug was not only a great coach to many. He was an inspirational friend.

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  • ClaudiaOctober 10, 2012 - 6:44 pm

    Doug Butt was one of my best friends. We started teaching as Elementary PE specialists in 1974. Amy Blanc vs Fairview indoor soccer matches were legendary. Finally, to solve the intense rivalry, he was "convinced" to teach at Amy Blanc when the enrollment doubled in the 80's. We team-taught until Laurel Creek opened up... and new rivalries started. There are hundreds of Doug Butt stories, all focused on his dedication to his profession, his family and his love of sports. He truly has touched thousands of lives.

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  • Roland RobinsonOctober 10, 2012 - 7:24 pm

    I had Mr. Butt as my P.E. teacher in the 80's at Fairview Elementary he taught me every thing I know about sports and fitness he will be dearly missed by me and many more but I'm sure he's still running in the sky.

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  • Theresa Donahue CrossOctober 10, 2012 - 7:39 pm

    He was my math and P.E teacher in 70 and 71 I think his first years of teaching. Fairview elementary school. He was then and through my school years my favorite teacher.. He was a wonderful person and will truly be missed. He also had my son in 6th grade. Rest in peace Mr Butt...

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  • Shawn SimmonsOctober 14, 2012 - 1:30 pm

    Claudia Wilde and Doug Butt changed the lives of thousands of students by building a spirit of fun and competition in sports. Doug will always be honored as a Fairfield legend.

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  • PhiOctober 10, 2012 - 10:41 pm

    Mr. Butt and his family welcomed me to Fairfield seven years ago as I started my military career at Travis. Thank you for all the wonderful memories/family gathering/fitness tips. I will dearly miss him. Praying for you guys. Thank you for a great story of a kind, loving man.

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  • LeslieOctober 10, 2012 - 11:17 pm

    Mr. Butt was the best PE teacher, coach, mentor, and friend. I'm so glad I was able to stay in touch with him over the years. I will miss our phone calls where we talked about his golfing. our running, and teaching. Mr. Butt supported me as a student and athlete, and continued to be there for me as an adult. He was always there to give me advice or just to listen to me talk about running, teaching, coaching, and the many joys of being a parent. Mr. Butt I will always think of you when I'm out for a run or teaching my PE class. God Bless Your family.

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  • David TuazonOctober 10, 2012 - 11:36 pm

    I really wanted to tell him i teach gymnastics for some reason. I wanted to tell him that I knew what it was like to teach a fitness class. It would have been nice. Thanks for the years of teaching, for trying to teach my baseball and for explaining how pull ups would get easier if i tried everyday. I will pass on your message to my students. Thanks again.

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  • Justin BiglerOctober 10, 2012 - 11:46 pm

    I only met Doug a few times as he was a supporter of out American Cancer Society golf fundraiser. From what I knew of him he was a great and caring man. I will miss his sense of humor and the way he dressed. Thoughts and prayers to his family and friends. Next year, we will honor Doug at our golf tournament as well.

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  • Cruz JuradoOctober 11, 2012 - 7:22 am

    Had Mr Butt at fairview in the 80s also, thanks for all the good memories Mr Butt! One of the best PE teachers I've had. Indoor hockey on rainy days or dodge ball or field day at the end of the year you made it fun for us! Thank you Mr Butt ! We will never forget you brother !

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  • Lynda & StuartOctober 11, 2012 - 1:58 pm

    We met Doug & Aileen for the first time in June at the World Left Handed Golf Tournament in June whilst in Scotland , When we ran the event. He was such a lovely guy and seemed so fit. He enjoyed his Golf and daily trips and was extremely helpfull on our trip to Edinburgh making sure everyone stayed together. We will remember him with fond memories from that event which he enjoyed so much. Our sincere sympathy goes out to his family for such a big loss. Lynda & Stuart Platinum Golf Scotland

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  • Jeff WilliamsonOctober 11, 2012 - 7:30 pm

    I was lucky to work with Doug and get to know him. He was a person of great integrity. The kind of person we all hope to be. I will miss his quick smile and warm heart. So many times I have seen him help others. Each time I think of Doug I will celebrate who be was and miss him I wish his family the best.

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  • Bill SoestOctober 11, 2012 - 7:56 pm

    As a fellow umpire with Doug, I know we have lost one true friend this week. His dedication to his students, his athletes, and officiating make him truly a role model. I will miss him.

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  • lisaOctober 11, 2012 - 8:03 pm

    He was my P.E. teacher in the 80's at Fairview.As much as I hated P.E. he made it fun. Last I saw him was almost 2 years ago when he empired my sons baseball game. He will be missed :(

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  • [email protected]October 11, 2012 - 10:29 pm

    I'm so very sorry for your loss Lisa. I will pray for strength for you and your family. I did not know your father, but it's clear he was am amazing human being, your Dad. Peace and blessings.

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  • Steve MetoxenOctober 12, 2012 - 1:12 pm

    Mr. Butt was my cross country and track coach for Armijo High School during the mid 70's. Coach Butt was totaly devoted to his runners and brought the best out of all of us, his intense training brought 3 runners (Kurt, Harry and myself) to nationals, my family did not have the money to send me to Houston so coach Butt started a fundraiser in which he raised enough money for all three of us to go. Coach Butt had the biggest heart not only to his runners but to everyone around him, coach Butt was not tall in stature but EVERYONE looked up to him, may good bless him and his family

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  • Susan CoteOctober 12, 2012 - 4:27 pm

    So sorry to hear the news of Doug passing away. He touched many lives epecially those of his students. I was fortunate to work with Doug and get to know him. I was saddened to hear he was sick and now that he passed away. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family during this difficult time. RIP Doug.

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  • kathie & jm schnabelOctober 13, 2012 - 2:00 pm

    Dear Aileen, it was a pleasure and a privilege to know and to play golf with Doug. It was great seeing you in Scotland too. I have to say I was surprised to see Doug coming back early on the second to the last day because he not a quitter,But he yelled up to me from the front of the building and said it was just to painful to finish.Jim and I are so sorry for your loss of a man anyone could see that you loved completely.Our prayers are with you and Kevin and Padayao. Love Kathie and Jim Schnabel

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  • MattOctober 15, 2012 - 1:37 pm

    In the 70’s, Mr. Butt was my 6th grade physical fitness coach. Mr. Butt was the first to inspire me to excel in fitness during our Presidential Physical Fitness testing. Mr. Butt also took his personal time to take us on weekend ‘road runners club’ runs, track meets, and cross country skiing. To this day I still have my box of ribbons and medals all made possible by Mr. Butt, but more important, I am still outside running around. Thank you for that Mr. Butt. Sending all my love and support to Mr. Butt’s family and friends.

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  • Christine in FFOctober 15, 2012 - 12:38 pm

    Was there an obituary? I haven't seen one and was wondering if anyone knows if there is/was a service for Mr Butt.

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  • Aileen ButtOctober 16, 2012 - 9:25 am

    For those of you that were asking about Doug's memorial service, it will be held on Saturday, October 27th at 11:00 a.m. at the Fairfield High School gym.

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  • Christine in FFOctober 16, 2012 - 5:29 pm

    Thank you!

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  • Linda KirtonNovember 15, 2012 - 8:48 pm

    I am not sure if this is the same Doug Butt I knew at Benner Jr High School in Sunnyvale, but for some reason, he came to my mind after some 54 years and decided to look him up. If this is the same young person I knew then, I will never forget him. I am so sorry that I did not continue the friendship. My deepest regrets to your family, Doug. You will forever live in my memory. I can still see you like it was yesterday.

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