The SPCA Says Goodbye After 38 Years of ‘Butler Service,’ as Joe & Fran Butler Retire
August 28, 2019
By: Gina Lattuca, SPCA Chief Communications Officer
This week, we at the SPCA Serving Erie County say goodbye to a husband and wife team whose names are practically synonymous with the organization. Joe Butler, a 38-year employee and former dog control officer in the town of Evans, and Fran Butler, a 33-year employee, will be retiring August 30 after a history with the SPCA that brought them to three different shelters: Pontiac Rd. in Angola, Ensminger Rd. in Tonawanda, and now Harlem Rd. in West Seneca.
For 24 and 23 years respectively, Joe and Fran managed the SPCA’s satellite shelter in Angola. Because they lived nearby, the two often worked around-the-clock helping thousands of animals along with thousands of people (many who were known to knock on the Butlers’ door at all hours of the night). They were involved in animal cruelty investigations, rescues, adoptions, admissions, public relations, special events…every single aspect of shelter work was handled by Joe and Fran, along with their small team of staff members and volunteers.
When that satellite shelter was closed, the two relocated to the Tonawanda shelter (Joe had worked there prior to the opening of the satellite shelter) and eventually to our current West Seneca site. Here, their important work with animals continued in the Behavior & Training and Adoptions Departments.
Last week, I asked Joe and Fran a difficult question…consider the last 30+ years at the SPCA and share with me something you love now, or a favorite memory. For Joe, a significant time was in the early 90s, when the SPCA started performing early-age spay/neuters. Fran is thankful for the fact that the Adoptions Department is like a group of family members who can count on each other for help.
For the 29 years I’ve known her, Fran continues to teach me the importance of making a human connection no matter how busy you are. I’d watch her at a very busy Angola shelter adoption desk with several people waiting for attention; no matter how busy she was, she took the time to look each patron in the eye, thoughtfully respond to questions, and in doing so, made each and every patron feel valued. I still see her doing this today in West Seneca. That is a gift, and it’s one she shares with all of us.
I was a little afraid of Joe when I first met him. I was 24 and even in heels had to look up at this serious, steadfast man who was in charge of our Angola shelter. It didn’t take long to realize I now knew one of the most genuine, determined people I’d ever meet in my life. The love he exhibited for animals was unsurpassed, as evidenced by the work he did 24/7 (not an exaggeration), and I’ll always be thankful for his never laughing at how much I didn’t know, and how he helped me learn about the most difficult parts of the job while becoming acclimated to a small, insightful, tightly-knitted staff.
Sheila Foss, SPCA educational farm manager and 34-year employee, says, “When I think of Joe and Fran, the words that spring to my mind are respectful, dedicated, concerned, thoughtful, humble, gracious, helpful, humorous, calming, and mentors.”
She adds, “Fran & Joe demonstrate these descriptors to everyone they encounter: each other, co-workers, visitors, and patrons. I am blessed to have had the pleasure of being on their team, and hope their journey continues to bring forth an abundance of treasures, small and large.”
SPCA Petique Retail Store Manager Jessica Tyler, a 12-year employee, says “Over the last 12 years at the SPCA, I’ve had the pleasure of knowing these two. Joe is so knowledgeable and passionate about what he does here, and his love for animals shows.
“I worked with Fran doing adoptions for nine years, and we shared many laughs, many tears, and overall had a great time at work,” Jessica said. “She is more than a co-worker; she is family to me. She’s always there for me, and….I will miss talking to her and seeing her smiling face every day. Joe and Fran will be missed, but it’s time for more fun to happen!”
The impact Joe and Fran have made on the SPCA, its programs and services, its staff members and volunteers, and most of all its animals, will not be forgotten.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
Thank you, Joe and Fran, for spending nearly four decades putting others’ happiness ahead of your own, and for living lives that truly made a difference in our community!
Susan Royce, Administrative Financial Assistant:
Fran is one of the kindest people I have ever had the privilege of working with. When I stepped into my position of Administrative Financial Assistant I was constantly going to her with questions regarding Adoptions procedures and the reports they generated. She was always right there to help me with a kind heart and gentle demeanor. She is the Adoptions matriarch and her retirement will leave such a void; knowing Fran she will make sure that the staff is well-prepared in stepping in and picking up where she left off. A sweet, kind and genuinely nice person. I am going to miss her terribly!
I learned so much from Joe in how to handle and work with dogs. He was always there to answer any questions with dogs and delivered information in a succinct and clear method so even a novice dog handler could understand. It was always a comfort knowing that he was on the job taking great care of the animals, comforting the dogs who came in frightened and unsure. The admiration and respect I have for him is huge, and he will be missed in so many ways. Here’s to a job well done!!
Stephanie Pepper, Shelter Manager:
Fran has an amazing way of treating every adopter/potential adopter with kindness. I have never seen Fran frazzled; she always remains calm with a “can- do” attitude…no matter what came her way. I love how she refers to every animal while going over adoption paperwork as “your baby” – always made me smile!
Fran was a great asset to the Adoptions Department. Every morning Fran comes in, and she cleans and prepares for the day. There is so much that Fran does behind-the-scenes that having her gone will definitely leave a void. Every morning when I come in I always said, “Good morning Fran!” I will miss her!
Krissi Miranda, Adoptions Supervisor:
Fran, you have the kindest heart of anyone I know! I’m going to miss the way you called every animal being adopted the adopters new baby. From coming in early every morning and making sure we were ready to hit the ground running as soon as the doors opened, making sure this place didn’t look like it went to the dogs, to working from the moment you came in until the moment you left, this place will not be the same without you!!!
I will miss your smile and your kind heart. I am so excited that you are retiring and able to do the things you enjoy most! I’ll miss you but you deserve to retire while you’re still young enough to enjoy it!!!!!!
Joe, you have a kind heart and it shows in the love you have for your family. The thousands of animals whose lives you changed I’m sure would thank you if they could. This place will not be the same without you. I am so excited for you and Fran and in some way I’m envious of you both. Take care, live large, and enjoy your golden years! You deserve it!!!!
Jennifer Grzeskiewicz, Adoptions:
One thing I have learned from Fran is that there is no “I” in team. Teamwork is a very important part of our jobs and without it we wouldn’t be able to function the way we do. I love that Fran welcomed me into our Adoptions family – without them to talk to or rely on for help, things would be much more difficult.
Tina Corcoran, Adoptions:
I remember bringing my daughter Devan to the Angola shelter when she was young. We would walk the dogs and even adopted our second family dog named Bojangles from Fran and Joe!
Sandy Comes, Adoptions:
To Fran: I will miss the morning stories and jokes; you always made the mornings silly! Thank you for always being there as a co-worker and a friend to help me when I was stuck with anything. You always made it seem easy. I will miss you my dear friend. You were a joy to work with and honor to become friends with. I hope you and Joe get to enjoy all the wonderful things retirement offers! Always remember you can volunteer anytime as a greeter! Love you!!
To Joe: Over time I got to know you and learned what a wonderful person you really are. You have done the work of many in this shelter and I am sure [there were times that were not] easy, so please enjoy your retirement! You have more than earned it!
Julia Walsh, Lipsey Clinic & former Veterinary Department Assistant:
Joe and Fran are very passionate and dedicated to the SPCA.
I look up to them and am inspired by their relationship- it must have not always been easy to work with your spouse for 30 + years 🙂 !
I looked forward to Fran’s warm greetings every morning. It has been a pleasure working with them both! Best wishes!
Lydia Stineman, Veterinary Technician/Lincoln Memorial University Program Support:
I [had heard] about “Fran and Joe from the Southtowns” and when that shelter closed, heard they were coming to the “Northtowns” shelter [in Tonawanda]. I was excited to meet them, because I had heard so much about them but had never seen them! Fran was so sweet, and we connected right away. Joe is a big teddy bear! He gets right to the point, and that’s THAT! It was awesome working with them, and I will miss them both! 😘