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1923 - 2014

J. Walker Butin, M.D. (I ’52)

James Walker Butin, M.D., age 91, died Thursday, August 7, 2014. He was born Friday, July 13, 1923 in Fredonia, KS and moved with his parents, Dr. James A. and Mrs. Berenice Walker Butin to nearby Chanute in 1926.

Upon graduation from Chanute Senior High School in 1940, Walker was awarded a Summerfield Scholarship to the University of Kansas, graduating in 1944 with a degree in Zoology. He earned his MD from KU in 1947, followed by a fellowship at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.

He married the former Betty Belle Launder in 1949, and the two moved to Wichita to begin his medical practice at the Wichita Clinic. After Betty Belle’s death in 1981, Walker married the former Patricia (Lanning) Guinan in 1984. He often shared with his children how much both of his marriages brought him deep joy. His children remember him as patient, gentle and full of wisdom ideal father. Family was among his greatest joys and highest priorities.

From his first marriage are Richard Edward and wife Donna of Overland Park, KS, Philip Walker and wife Jan of Fayetteville, AR, Lucy Butin Ashby and husband Jeff of Atlanta, GA, and John Murray and wife Mary of St. Simon’s Island, GA. With Patricia, he raised Eric J. Guinan of Palm Springs, CA, and Kathleen (Kate) Brown (husband Rusty of Wichita). He treasured his fourteen grandchildren. His sister, Barbara Butin Shirley lives in Dallas, TX. A younger brother, Frank Edson, died in 1976.

In addition to his family, Walker was especially passionate about bird watching, music, his college fraternity, the practice of medicine, and his faith in God. Bird watching was a life-long hobby of Walker’s. A co-founder of the Wichita Audubon Society (1954), he received a meritorious service award in May of 2014 for his enthusiastic support. His love of nature was contagious, and he was intentional about sharing his love of God’s creation with his children and grandchildren. Favorite places included Chaplin Nature Center, near Arkansas City, the Lake of the Ozarks in MO, Grand Lake in Oklahoma, a Beaver Lake home in Arkansas, and a treasured historic pine cabin near Pikes Peak in CO.

Even in childhood, Walker’s home was filled with music. His parents met while performing with the Chautauqua traveling musical circuit. Jim was an accomplished whistler and bird call imitator, and Berenice was a concert-level pianist. Walker became accomplished on the flute and piccolo, playing in the concert and marching bands at KU, and finding much joy in concerts and solo appearances throughout his life.

Walker was a member of the Alpha Nu chapter of Beta Theta Pi fraternity at University of Kansas and served as president during the war years. His strong ties to his home chapter made him a major contributor toward their centennial celebration in 1973. Later, he encouraged and helped found the WSU Delta Gamma chapter of Beta in 1959 and served as Chapter advisor for 15 years. He was a frequent keynote speaker at their annual Founders Day Banquets, and at their 41st celebration he was named Alumnus of the Year and honored by a formal initiation ceremony. Singing Beta songs with his Beta sons and friends was a joy that continued into his final days.

Walker practiced medicine for nearly 50 years. He was deeply committed to his patients, and enjoyed their respect and admiration in return. After his graduation from KU School of Medicine in 1947, he completed his postgraduate fellowship training at the Mayo Clinic Foundation in Gastroenterology, earning a Master’s degree. His research included pioneering work in esophageal manometry, published in the Mayo Clinic Journal. Walker joined the Wichita Clinic Department of Internal Medicine in 1952. His professional associations included the Medical Society of Sedgwick County (Board of Directors 1964-7, President 1968). He was St. Francis Hospital medical staff president in 1963, and served on the Board of Directors and as hospital representative to the Council on Medical Education. He was part of a dedicated group that established the postgraduate training program which developed into the KU School of Medicine-Wichita.

Dr. Butin’s final years of medicine were spent in education; he was promoted to Clinical Professor at the school in 1991. His teaching was divided between the fields of internal medicine and geriatrics up to his retirement in 2000 at which time he was awarded the Distinguished Service Award from the Dept. of Internal Medicine. He was a Fellow of the American College of Physicians and valued his membership in the Christian Medical Association and the American Gastroenterological Association. He participated as an adjunct professor in the early days of the Physician’s Assistant course of the College of Health Professions at Wichita State University. Baptized and raised a Methodist, he came to love the Episcopal Church, raised his children there, and continued as an active member of St. James, St. Albans, and later St. Stephens parishes in Wichita. Hymns and church music were among his greatest joys, and he loved singing tenor in the church choir, playing his flute for worship, and studying the Bible and the Christian heritage. His faith was reflected in everything he said and did medical mission work in the Dominican Republic, family devotions at the cabin, a 40+ year commitment to his men’s prayer group, and a profound personal prayer life all served as powerful examples for his family and friends.

Published in the Wichita Eagle from Oct. 9-10, 2014.

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