Denis Butler, ex-pol from boro, dies at 83

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Former state Assemblyman Denis Butler, who held elected office in Astoria for 24 years, died last Thursday at 83. The cause of his death was not disclosed.

“On behalf of the people of Queens, I extend condolences and heartfelt sympathy to his widow, Mary, his children and his many friends and colleagues,” Borough President Helen Marshall said in a statement.

Butler was born in Astoria July 26, 1927, the fourth son born to the Butlers. Growing up, he was a resident of St. Joseph’s Parish in Long Island City and went to school there with his brothers. Other schools he attended included the LaSalle Academy and Cathedral College, St. Joseph’s Seminary, the State University of New York and Columbia University.

Before becoming an assemblyman, Butler was a volunteer for the Lighthouse for the Blind for 20 years and was president of the St. Joseph’s Home School Association. He was also Democratic district leader from 1970-2000.

Butler was elected to the Assembly in 1976. During that time, he served on the Rules, Aging, Economic Development, Labor and Oversight, Analysis and Investigation committees, as well as on the Joint Budget Conference Committee’s Subcommittee on Higher Education and as chairman of the Assembly Subcommittee on the Special Problems of the Aging. While assemblyman, he became assistant speaker pro tempore in 1993.

Butler retired from the Assembly in December 2000. He was succeeded by Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria).

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio knighted Butler into the Papal Order of Saint Gregory the Great in Brooklyn’s St. James Cathedral Basilica in 2009.

Marshall said she will miss Butler.

“He was first and foremost a gentleman, who headed the Queens delegation and played a major role in issues that affected everyone from youth to seniors,” Marshall said. “He was a native son of New York who was steadfast in his commitment to serve his constituents. He was interested in everything from toy drives to increased police protection and prescription drug plans for seniors to quality education for students.”

In addition to his wife Mary, whom he was married to for 49 years, Butler is survived by his children Kathleen, Denis and Thomas; his daughter-in-law Lisa; and four grandchildren. He was predeceased by his parents, Denis and Annie Butler, and his brothers Brian, John, Thomas and Matthew.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

Updated 6:25 pm, October 10, 2011
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