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Family and friends remember local actor and director Gerry Butts

'He had many friends, many opportunities and he took every single opportunity offered to him and even took the time to enrich other people'

Gerard 'Gerry' Butts is in the spotlight as friends and family remember the longstanding Guelph resident for his humour, honesty and talent.

An actor with Guelph Little Theatre, Gerry starred in the Elephant Man in 1987Over time, he went on to direct and produce award-winning plays for the theatre company and others across southern Ontario. Gerry's service, skill and work ethic led him to be designated a lifetime member of the GLT.

"To become a lifetime member, that means you have done everything from acting to producing to directing, writing, box office and many hats," said Lynne McIntee, an actor and publicist who was a member of the GLT with Gerry.

"He was gifted, I think he was very giving of himself and unassuming, but gifted in the sense that he was very gracious in sharing his heart and of his gifts and talents."

On Oct. 22, Gerry passed away at the age of 68 at Guelph General Hospital. He is predeceased by his daughter Samantha and older brother John, who passed away two days prior. On Sunday, the Guelph Little Theatre will be holding a memorial service for Gerry from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at 176 Morris St.

Janice Butts, his wife, said Gerry had been suffering for a longtime before finally choosing to let go.

"I was beside him the whole way, because that's what you do when you're married for life," said Janice.

Gerry's passion for performing came at an early age. Growing up with five siblings, Gerry and his two older brothers were involved with drum core. While attending Bishop MacDonell Catholic High School, Gerry starred in four productions.

Lifelong friend Lorne Bennett participated in one of those plays with Gerry. Bennett said his father was the best man for Gerry's dad and he grew up visiting the Butts family. 

"If there was something he wanted to do, he did it and that's got to be inspirational to some people," Bennett said about Gerry.

While at Bishop MacDonell, Gerry met Janice. They were both 15 when they began dating shortly afterward. The couple married after Gerry finished his first year at the University of Guelph.

"I was the best man at his wedding and he was the best man at my wedding, so I guess the tradition continued," said Bennett.

After graduating with a degree in biology, Gerry took a few jobs before settling into a 30-year career with the Canadian Cab company. Janice said the role allowed him to continue to pursue his love of acting. When he wasn't working, Gerry enjoyed camping, birding and watching movies.

"The crossover is pretty cool," said McIntee. "People know him through Canadian Cab, but they really do know him through acting and directing, and often you'll get people coming out from that industry to the theatre because Gerry was there."

While involved in Guelph Little Theatre, Gerry was also part of other theatre groups in Elora, Owen Sound and Galt. Many of Gerry's plays were in the Western Ontario Drama League festival, where he either acted or directed. Janice said his acting career led him to meet many people who were impressed by his honesty and work ethic.

Buddy Brennan directed Gerry in a play called On the Golden Pond a few years ago. In an email, Brennan said Gerry's reputation preceded him and felt he would have to raise his game to keep up with his skills. 

"More important than his tremendous abilities as a thespian, was that he was a wonderful man.  As I got to know more about him I realized that Gerry  was a man of true depth. Those who had the joy of knowing him were in the presences of integrity and goodness - to his core."

"He had many friends, many opportunities and he took every single opportunity offered to him, and even took the time to enrich other people," said Janice, adding Gerry led acting classes and if the GLT needed someone to help with lights or the box office, he was there to help.

In his personal life, Gerry was known for his empathy and integrity. In 1989, Janice's twin sister passed away suddenly, leaving her and Gerry with her children. She said Gerry loved those kids like they were his own. 

"When we had our own daughter, our world was so full and so challenging, and he never backed down," said Janice. "He never said, 'No, sorry I can't do this,' he never backed down when things got tough."

While the couple has gone through challenging times together, Janice said they loved each other and that is what mattered. 

"We've been together for 47 years. It's been ups and downs like every other relationship, but I wouldn't have spent it with any other person."