Bruce A. Butterfield, retired English professor at SUNY-Plattsburgh, died in Plattsburgh on Dec. 18, 2017, five weeks after his seventy-seventh birthday.
Bruce was known for his fine critical faculty, for a sense of humor that could make people laugh and wince at the same time, and for the patience and kindness he showed to his students. He was so committed to teaching people to think and write that, for forty-five years, he put extensive critical comments on every student exam or paper.
Because Bruce's life was fruitful, rich, and complex, different people saw different sides of him. Some knew him as witty story-teller, college classmate, grad school buddy, loyal friend, or party-goer. Others knew him as world-traveler, museum-lover, pianist, vocalist, or patron of the arts. Still others knew him as a very demanding teacher, skillful editor, or expert on the modern novel. He was all these things and more, and in the right company he could even be flamboyant and outrageous.
As if to weave together the strands of this complex personality, Bruce embraced (Some would say "weaponized") the Modernist style. He detested fuzzy thinking and dedicated himself to cutting every sloppy sentence down to its bare bones so that it might become a real idea. He liked short, declarative sentences in the active voice in which the verbs did most of the work. This devotion to Modernism required him to perform radical surgery on other people's writing or oral expressions. Such surgery was often painful, but his students benefited greatly from it.
Though Bruce lived alone, he was extraordinarily social and devoted to friends and family. Many people will sorely miss Bruce and remember him lovingly, especially his brother Bob and sister-in-law Keiko; his niece Sarah; his nephew Kenji, Kenji's wife Yoon, and their sons Nikko and Koji; and his niece Rachel, Rachel's husband Jimmy, and their daughters Arianna and Alexa.
We will celebrate Bruce's life at 11 a.m. on April 21, 2018, at Saranac United Methodist Church, Rte. 3, Saranac, NY 12981. Then at 12:30 we will gather for lunch at Weatherwatch Farm.
Bruce donated his grand piano to the Plattsburgh Memorial Chapel, commonly known as the Base Chapel. Your donation to this 501(3)(c) organization will help maintain this fine instrument.
To share a photo, story, or condolence with Bruce's family, please visit www.rwwalkerfh.com.
Arrangements have been entrusted into the care of the R.W. Walker Funeral Home, 69 Court Street, Plattsburgh, NY 12901.
Published on December 30, 2017