Louis Butler had no idea his wife and four daughters nominated him for the 2019 Senior Illinoisans Hall of Fame Award until he found out he’d won.
“My daughters and wife Monica were having a little cookout over the summer and they gave me a mocked-up letter congratulating me on the award,” Butler said. “I thought they were pulling my leg.”
His family had received word he had won but wanted to surprise him before Butler received the official letter from the Illinois Department on Aging, which arrived a couple of days after the cookout.
“I was quite shocked and very moved that my daughters and my wife thought so highly of me that they put my name forward,” Butler said. “The girls and Monica paid me a huge honor.”
On Nov. 2, in a small ceremony at Giordano’s surrounded by close friends and family, he accepted the award from Illinois Department on Aging Director Paula Basta. Butler chose to have the ceremony at Giordano’s because “everybody likes pizza.”
He is one of four people this year to be inducted into the hall of fame, which recognizes contributions made by people over the age of 65 in Illinois. Last year’s winners included Sister Jean of Loyola University, who became a media sensation when the school’s basketball team played in the NCAA Final Four.
“That’s not bad company to be in,” said Butler, who has served the public his entire career, spanning three decades. He worked as a staff attorney in the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, enforcing civil rights legislation within schools. Before that, Butler was a staff attorney in the Illinois Department of Human Rights.
In 1989, Butler worked as associate general counsel for the Chicago Housing Authority. He also worked as village attorney in Maywood and currently works as deputy general counsel within the Department of Financial Institutions, protecting consumers by holding financial institutions accountable.
“I couldn’t say that one job was better than the other,” Butler said. “I’ve been fortunate to have worked with very good people over the years through good times and bad.”
Butler is proud to have gotten the award. “I don’t pat myself on the back a whole lot, but I’m thinking of retiring in the next year or so, and I think this is quite the accomplishment,” he said.
“My philosophy in life is that I want to be a better husband, father, lawyer every day,” Butler said. “I go into work and put one foot in front of the other and try to serve whatever constituency I happen to be representing at that time.”
Butler’s wife Monica had the idea to nominate her husband last January after she got an emailed newsletter from the governor’s office. “It had an announcement about the Department on Aging awards and, as I was reading through it, I thought, ‘Oh, I know tons of people who would be eligible for something like this.'”
Monica thought that Butler would be ineligible for the award this year because he didn’t turn 65 until April. “Then I realized that the applications were due after he turned 65,” she said. “I thought, ‘We should do this!'”
To make the deadline, Monica enlisted the help of their daughters. The application process was divvied up among the five of them. One of Butler’s longtime friends, also a public servant, wrote a letter of recommendation.
“Little by little, we pulled it all together,” she said. “We definitely mentioned Louis’ mom and dad in the application and their dedication the workforce.” Butler’s father was a steelworker. His mother worked for the Chicago Board of Education.
Governor J.B. Pritzker will recognize the inductees at the Illinois State Fair in August.
“I’m so proud of him. It’s going to his head though,” she joked. “We started teasing him last night, calling him ‘King Louie.’ We’re making it the year of Louis.”