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.