Douglas Jerome Butler Sr. was born in Los Angeles and returned home to the Lord on November 18 in Ridgecrest, where he spent 54 years of his life.
Upon graduation from Burroughs High School in Ridgecrest, he served in the Army. After his honorable discharge, he went into automotive sales, ultimately owning and operating a Ford Lincoln Mercury dealership with his wife of 56 years, Rosie.
As Rosie told The Sheet, they met at a dealership. Doug was in sales while Rosie worked in the office.
As sidelights in a colorful career, the Butlers owned race cars, race horses and even befriended a little-known musician at the time who used to play the dealership’s Christmas parties—guy by the name of Merle Haggard.
Upon retirement, Doug and Rosie moved to Crowley Lake full-time 19 years ago. Never one to sit still, Doug operated both a firewood supply business and a fishing guide business. As Rosie said, “Doug always felt obligated to be doing something.”
Doug had a gift for making people feel comfortable and welcome. If you had just met him, you could have sworn you’d known him for years. It was this personal warmth which made him such a popular fishing guide. “Doug thought well of people,” said his wife.
He took great pride in helping others and was a big supporter of the Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra program. He would take “Wounded Warriors” fishing whenever he could, even in his final years, when his health wasn’t so good. “It’s not about me, it’s about them,” he’d say, and climb into his pickup truck and head down to the Marina.
Country and flag were very important to Doug as he got older.
At his funeral held in Bishop on Dec. 2, Rosie said many men approached her after the service and said they would’ve liked to speak, but they chose not to because they’d been afraid they’d cry.
“As he got older,” said Rosie, “he got sweeter, caring, grateful, appreciative … he’d sing to me and tell me he loved me four times a day.”
And then Rosie offered a little insight into just why theirs was such a successful union. “You don’t dwell on the shortcomings,” she said, “and in a relationship, if they’re [your partner] down and need you, you’re there. You’ve got to bury the past [or at least the parts that are irritating] and make the best of every day. I loved him with all my heart.”
Doug is survived by his wife, children Doug Jr., Janet (husband Ken), Michele (husband Michael) and Mark (fiancee Teresa), grandchildren Katie, Tanner, MacKinzie and Mason. He was preceded in death by his parents Charlie and Marti and brother Dan.
The following is from a July 2, 2005 Sheet profile of Doug Butler written by Mike McKenna.
You can learn a lot about a man—and if you’re lucky, mankind in genera— when you spend the day fishing with him, especially if the fishing doesn’t involve a whole lot of catching.
“Just want’d to let ya know that the fishin’s been slow the last few days,” said Doug Butler Sr. on Monday as dawn slowly cracked over Crowley Lake like eggs upon a greased frying pan. “But don’t worry. We’ll catch something. I’ve got a reputation to uphold.”
Butler is the owner and sole guide for D.B.’s ‘Fishon’ Guide Service. Most folks call Doug “D.B.” but that’s just one of his nicknames. Sometimes “Old” is added prior to his initials, as D.B. is 72 and one of the handful of old-timers —as he calls his longtime local fishin’ brethren—you can find on Crowley Lake on any given day during the season. Some of those old-timers call him “Pelican” because of his hatred for the big, aggressive, sparkling white birds known to steal fish right off the lines of unlucky fishermen.
Still others simply refer to him as a local fishin’ legend. When a couple of first-time Crowley Lake fishermen asked the man behind the counter what lures he recommended that morning, the shopkeep pointed over to Old D.B. and said, “Ask him. He’s our trolling master.”
“Needle fish are what I always use,” Pelican told them with the slow pace and slight drawl that isn’t heard all that often in most parts of the Golden State, apart from the Eastside. “I’ve been living around Okies all my life, I guess,” is how he explains his way of speaking. “I’m just a country boy and I enjoy life and I’m proud to be an American.”
D.B. grew up in China Lake. He and his wife of 46 years, Rosie (he calls her “Mama”) raised four kids in Ridgecrest. They’ve got a couple of grandkids living up in Washington state as well. D.B. has been fishing Crowley Lake since he was 12. He and Mama built their retirement home, complete with a breathtaking view of the lake, in the late ‘80s and moved up shortly thereafter. He’s been running a guide service on the lake for seven years. In the winters, he sells firewood.
“Some folks spend their time worrying about all sorts of stuff,” Pelican said, as he baited the rods for trolling. “I love life so much, I don’t want to give any of it up.”
His boat is a 20’ Trophy Bayliner, equipped with a set of downriggers, which he set to a depth of a dozen feet. The boat has no name, as D.B. doesn’t buy into the theory that boats need names just like dogs and children and pickup trucks do.
After an hour or so of trolling about the lake at no more than a couple of miles per hour, we finally “got the skunk out” as D.B. says, and reeled in a pound-plus feisty Rainbow Trout. A couple hours later, up came a small Sacramento Perch. Both made for a tasty meal that evening.
In between catching fish, there was lots of storytelling, a bunch of hits and a few that I failed to reel in all the way. But D.B. wouldn’t let me get down about the ones that got away. “You shouldn’t feel bad about what you didn’t do in life. You should feel great and be thankful for what you did do,” he said.
The thing about fishing with D.B. is that even if the catching isn’t great, the fishing—the views, the conversation, the company—is certain to be. After all, it isn’t every day that you get to try to catch dinner with a member of the Harrah’s of Reno Hall of Fame, or somebody who was once business partners with Willie Nelson. But those are stories for another day gone fishin’ with D.B.