In memory of

Cato K. Butler, age 84 of Helena

October 29, 1929 – June 12, 2014

On June 12, 2014, Cato Kay Butler, 84, passed away in his sleep, in his hometown of Helena, Montana.  Cato Butler was the youngest son of Dr. William John Butler and John Ozella (Cato) Butler, born in Helena, Montana on the day of the Great Stock Market Crash: October 29, 1929 – a day in which his father lamented financial losses, yet celebrated the birth of his new son.

Cato’s first foray into Journalism was at 8 years of age as a Cub Reporter and Publisher of the “Mount Helena Bugle”: a newspaper of extremely limited circulation, which focused exclusively upon the local news of the upper West side of Helena.  What the “Mount Helena Bugle” lacked in advertising dollars, it make up for in hard-hitting investigative journalism: such as un-covering the latest news concerning the wanderings of local neighborhood dogs.   Understandably, it was a short-lived publication, but Cato’s vocational destiny was indelibly established: he was meant to report action-packed stories to an enthralled audience in a succinct, yet memorable, style.

He attended Hawthorne Elementary School, Helena High School and the New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell, N.M. and graduated with the Helena High School class of 1947.  He went on to attend Carroll College, Montana State University, and the Journalism School at the University of Montana.

In a ceremony held on the Two Medicine River in 1939, Cato Butler became an adopted member of the Blackfeet Tribe, and Chief Yellow Kidney bestowed the name “Eagle Child” upon him.  Since that date, he was intrigued with Native American culture, and became an avid collector and appraiser of historic Native American artifacts.   He was a life-long scholar of Montana history and later edited a book, “Montana in Miniature”, which linked a series of paintings by Great Falls artist, Olaf Seltzer, with epic moments in Montana history.  He always enjoyed judging the historic floats in the annual Vigilante parade with Historian, Jon Axline, and his High school classmate and close friend, Artist, Bob Morgan.

Cato’s introduction to broadcast journalism was accidental.  As a Junior Fullback at Helena High School in the Fall of 1946, he was sidelined by a broken collarbone.   The injury rendered him unable to play, but he was asked to broadcast the football games on station KPFA while he recuperated.  His play-by-play commentary led to further work for Ed Craney’s XL network, which boomed powerful radio signals across the peaks and prairies of Montana.  Barclay Craighead, manager of KXLJ then tasked Cato with providing instantaneous live coverage of Montana’s football, basketball, and track events.  He went on to broadcast some of the great Montana College and High School athletic contests of the 1940’s to the 1980’s. 

The Class “C” basketball tournaments were Cato’s favorite annual event, owing to the enthusiastic fan base of smaller Montana communities.  On each morning of the Class “C” tournament, Cato hosted a Coach’s breakfast, where, through the clanging of plates and clink of glasses, listeners would hear Cato draw out interesting insights from Montana’s coaching legends.  At each basketball game, the radio audience heard Cato give a first-hand account of unfolding suspense and gripping drama on the hardwood.  Cato described the fast-paced action with alliterative phrases such as: “he heats the hemp”; “he mauls the manila”; “he cans the casaba”; and “he fractures the fabric”.  At long last, in every game, Cato would leave no doubt as to the outcome, when he announced: “the cat’s in the bag, and the bag’s in the river”!  He would then sign off with: “It’s time to saddle up and ride”.

While attending Carroll College in 1949, he met nursing student, Dora Marjorie Hauck of Philipsburg, Montana.  They married in September of 1950, and they remained inseparable for 63 years: raising three children and four grand-children. 

Cato was the News Director at KCAP for many years, and for 24 years co-hosted a live morning radio program “Open Line” at the KCAP radio studios with Stan Morrison, whom Cato nick-named “the Pit Bull”.

In 1960 the National Federation of Sportscasters named him as Montana Sportscaster of the Year.  In 2010, Cato was inducted into the Montana Broadcaster’s Association Hall of Fame, having been nominated by CNN’s Senior Vice President of Operations, Jack Womack.  His distinctive style and unique phrasings made him a radio icon.

Cato Butler is survived by his wife, Dora Butler of Helena; daughter, Cheye Ann Butler of Libby, and son-in-law, Robert Slomski; daughter, Sioux Roth of Helena, and son-in-law, Timothy Roth, and their sons, Tyson Roth and his wife Aubree and Samuel Roth and his wife Dani; son, Tommy Butler of Helena, and daughter-in-law, Nancy Butler, and their daughters, Megan Butler and Sarah Butler.  Cato Butler is pre-deceased by his parents; and his brother, Dr. Hugh Cato Butler.

The Butler family extends its thanks and appreciation to all of the staff at St. Peter’s Hospital and Hospice for their care, friendship, and kindness.

Funeral services for Cato Butler will be held on Wednesday, June 18th at 1:00 PM in St. Peters Episcopal Church, 511 North Park Avenue, in Helena, Montana, with the Very Rev. Heidi E. Kinner, officiating.  Immediately following the services, a reception will be held at the Montana Club, 24 West Sixth Avenue in Helena, Montana. Please visit Retzfuneralhome.com to leave a condolence for the family or to share a memory of Cato.

 

Memories

Read the thoughts and memories, then feel free to add your own.

  1. Terry W Bass says

    A true gentleman. Legend broadcaster. Good husband and father. Rest in Peace my friend. God bless he and all his family..
    I will miss him.
    Terry W Bass

  2. Wally & Donna Peel says

    Cato may be best known for his unique style of broadcasting, but the man behind the mike was so much more. He was a kind and thoughtful man who deeply cared about others. His wit and wisdom will be greatly missed. Peace, Prayers and Blessings to the Butler family during this most difficult time.

  3. Laura Fix says

    My deepest condolences to the entire Butler Family. I loved listening to Cato, and on every occasion of meeting him, he was so kind and humble. God’s speed Mr. Butler, you were a real and true Gentleman. Prayers to your family at this difficult time.

  4. Stacy Morrison says

    Cat was a pleasure to work with and such a kind and caring man. The city of Helena and Helena radio won’t be the same without him.

  5. Judy Butler says

    Dear Dora, Cheye Ann, Sioux and Tommy and all the Butller and Roth families:
    We are saddened to hear of Cato’s passing. Our hearts are with you all. I like to think that Hugh and Cato are embracing…with much to talk about free of worldly cares. Cato made our lives so very colorful and always had a kind word to share. John and Dan will be at the service on Wednesday…the rest of us will be there in spirit.
    Much love,
    Judy

  6. “May the Great Mystery make the Sunrise in your Heart”. Cat’s opening line on Open Line radio show. It says so much. Cato was passionate about radio. From the “Cats in the bag and the bag’s in the river”, to “One ping and One Ping only”, his enthusiasm and energy boomed through the air waves! I was fortunate to be Cato’s side kick on open line for many years. He was an amazing mentor. We loved radio because of him. Great, great man and friend. He is missed. Lynn’s and my thoughts are with you Dora and family. Love, Pitbull

  7. Richard Van Nice says

    A voice for fun, intelligent, caring, introspective, enjoyable, historical and thoughtful people in and of Helena and Montana. He will be missed but with very warm memories. Hugs to
    Dora, Cheye Ann, Sioux, and Tommy, and to all of Clan Cato. Much Love.
    Van

  8. Pat Kelly says

    Cato added so much to the experience of playing basketball for the Saints. I played with one of the Cat’s great nom de plumes, the “Joliet Josler”. We all cared greatly for him and he always will make each of us smile for being a great “part of our team”.

  9. Denae Frieling says

    My husband and I left Helena 34 years ago but we still use the phrase “the cat’s in the bag and the bag’s in the river” all the time. I can still hear it in my mind, with that distinct voice and cadence. Thanks for the memories, Cato, and our condolences to your family.

  10. Bob & Nelljohnson says

    Dora and Family:
    Cato’s death was a great loss as he was one of Helena’s
    Treasures and Legends. It was a great privilege to have known him and he will be remembered by all. My deepest
    Sympathies to you and your family.

  11. Dick and Neva Porte says

    We have known Cato from high school days. He and Dick were in the National Guard
    together, and we still tell stories of Cato’s antics. What a super guy and friend he was
    to us, and most of Helena. We feel blessed to have known him and lucky, too. With
    great love to his family. He will be missed. The Portes

  12. John Lee says

    A few years ago I was in Helena and got to talk to Cato. I had not seen him in probably 30 years or so but he still remembered me with no prompting. It’s like I had never been gone. Super guy and loved every minute of life. He will be missed and talked about for many years. Love to all his family….He was a great guy. John Lee

  13. Thomas Eagle Redfeather says

    The “Cat” and I spent the last 20 years at the local Gun Shows & Antique Shows together.
    He was a fine gentleman and a true friend. We use to spend hours talking about Montana & Military History and I think I learned more from him than I did any book.
    Montana has lost a Living Treasure. Gods Peace my friend, we will miss you.

    Thomas E. Redfeather
    AKA: The Colonel

  14. Jack womack says

    What a life well lived. The ultimate dad and husband. He inspired all of us to be better. He cared so much for people and made everyone feel so important. In the 1970’s the State Class C Basketball Tournament was a huge deal in Helena. After districts and divisionals and regionals these small towns would come to the huge city of Helena to play in front of a sold out house at HHS and later the Carroll P E Center. Cato was the voice of the State Class C and heard all over the state. From Thursday through Saturday night the work was non stop. He hosted the “Breakfast With The Coaches” program live from the then Village Inn Pancake House. It was a big deal for the coaches from these small towns to get invited and be on the air live with the Cat. He looked out the window just before the program started and asked the coach from one of the schools to please go out to the small bus that was in the lot and invite the bus driver to please come in and have breakfast and be on the show. It made that man’s day!!!!!!!!!! He cared about everyone and made everyone feel important That same tournament he was so moved at the end of the championship. Some small school ( maybe Antelope) worked so hard and I think lost a close game that I looked over and there were tears running down his cheeks. He just felt so bad for the kids that lost. A man with an amazing work ethic that all of us looked up to. Going to miss that smile and that laugh. I miss you my friend and I would do it all again exactly the way we did it. Sure is hard to let go but I promise I will ( and do) replay those incredible memories.
    See you on the othere side Cat! We all love you with all we got! Shotbuck

  15. Diane Pedersen says

    Nancy and the Butler family,

    I was sorry to learn that Cato passed away. Helena has lost a wonderful and colorful character and he will be missed by all. My thoughts and prayers go out to your family at this difficult time.
    With deepest sympathy, Diane Pedersen.

  16. Maura Eagan Moody says

    Dearest Butler Clan, We were so saddened by this loss. Cato charmed us all, and his humor and generosity will be missed. Our hearts go out to you all in this sad time. But I know what he would have said, with that irrepressible twinkle in his eye…”Powder River let ‘er buck”!

    Love to all from the Eagan Clan

  17. Brad Bomar says

    Sorry for your loss. I first met Cato when I was in high school and got a part-time job at kcap radio in 1986. I enjoyed listening to him about how radio has changed through the years. I also used to enjoy listening to him and Stan in the mornings. He will be missed.

  18. Patricia Kind Wallace says

    So sorry to lose yet another classmate from the class of ’47. Always enjoyed listening to Cato on the radio. My sympathy to the family.

  19. Dutch Meyer says

    Cato was a very good friend of mine back in the day. We did a few games together as well as with John Campbell. Cato – R. I. P. and be sure to visit there in Heaven with John, Barclay, and Ed Craney, and all others from the Z bar Net and Xl Network.

  20. Jim Macmillan says

    Although I was never privileged to hear one of his broadcasts, I cherish the memory of Cato from the days I spent with him in high school, college, and the National Guard. I was with him, but I forget where, when he and Dora walked slowly down the railroad tracks hand in hand. On their return he announced with much flair and exuberance that he had proposed to Dora and she had accepted. I moved from Helena (Army, California, New Jersey) but never stopped telling stories about Cato. He jokingly used an expression which some of you may remember. Such a SWEEEET BOY. That’s Cato.

  21. John and Aggie Frankino says

    Our condolences to the Butler family. May you find comfort in your memories and one another. We have so many happy memories of time spent with Dora and Cato.
    God bless,
    John and Aggie Frankino

  22. Robert E Wynia says

    Dear Dora,
    Our sympathies reach out to you and the family.
    Getting to know Cato and you was a real pleasure for me. He was a Helena historian par-excellent and he concise in his answers.
    He was always pleasant in spite of his health symptoms.
    I hope that in some small way I was able to help him.
    Due to my problems getting around, I’m sorry I will be unable to attend.
    Thanks for your friendship

    Robert E. Wynia M.D. and Winona

  23. Jerry C Wobig says

    My deepest sympathy to the family of Cato. A very great loss to the world. I only knew Cato from Gun Shows and visited with him when he came back to Minnesota to go to the Mayo Clinic, but I’ve never met a more pleasant man to visit with and always looked foreward to seeing him. Always a smile and a pleasant word. He will make a treasured addition to Heaven.

  24. Mike O'Herron says

    Tommy:

    Very sorry to hear about your Dad.

    -Mike O’Herron

  25. Ken & Karen Benner says

    Cato and I worked together at KCAP in the early 1960s. He always had a warm, friendly word of greeting for everyone. I will never forget his remarkable ability for a lively quick-wit ad lib for any topic when he was live on air. As I recall he was inducted into the Montana Society of Broadcast Legends a few years ago. If ever there was one truly worthy of that honor it was him. A most remarkable broadcast talent who wiil be long remembered. Our most sincere condolences to his family.

  26. Matthew "Scott" Carlton says

    Cato is/was a great mentor to me. I had the opportunity to work with him from the 70’s and all through the mid eighties at KCAP radio… His sense of humor was of a kindly curmudgeon, and he never failed to let me know that I was AOK with him, even when he was bawling me out for bungling “clearing the wire” for his morning newscast. He showed me so much and his friendship was genuine and all encompassing. We even had a little time to discuss philosophy. And that was a rich experience indeed. Fare thee well, Cat. You are my hero.

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