Charles Henry (Butch) Downs of West Tisbury died Saturday, Oct. 19 at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. He was 69.

Butch was a Martha’s Vineyard native, born in Oak Bluffs and raised in Edgartown. He dedicated his life to being a pilot, having been taught to fly at the age of 13 by Steve Gentle at the Katama Airfield. At 16 he enlisted in the Air Force and served two tours of duty as a Ranch Hand in the Vietnam War. He is an honored veteran, whose plane, Patches, currently sits in the Smithsonian; it was the second most shot at plane in fighting action of the war. The love of flying stayed with him after his service. He had a long and varied flying career that led him around the world and culminated in nearly two decades as a pilot for Edgartown Air, which later became Cape Air. He often told his son that his favorite thing about flying was watching the sun rise and set from thousands of feet above the earth.

Butch was also integral in many aspects of the Island. He worked as an able-bodied seaman for the Steamship Authority, had a (very brief) career as Duke’s County deputy sheriff, was past commander of the VFW, and was a pioneer in swordfish spotting — his fishing buddies always appreciated his expert eye in the sky — from his Piper Cub. Butch also played the guitar and banjo, and loved the natural beauty and history of the Island. He amassed a vast collection of found native artifacts, including his prized woolly mammoth tooth.

Butch was a rare, true husband, father, son, brother and friend. He wouldn’t hesitate to give you a piece of his mind, but he would also be the first person to give you the shirt off his back.

Butch is survived by his loving family. Oct. 28 would have been his 31st wedding anniversary with his wife, Carolyn. He was a caring father to his son, Captain Andy Downs, and his daughter in law, Valerie. He rarely missed an evening without speaking on the phone with his son. He was also a loving, loyal and devoted “big” brother to John Downs and his wife, Kathleen, as well as a proud uncle and great-uncle.

Visiting hours in the Chapman, Cole and Gleason Funeral Home, Edgartown Road, Oak Bluffs were held Tuesday, Oct. 22 from 5 to 8 p.m.

A graveside service was held on Wed., Oct. 23 at 11 a.m. in the New Westside Cemetery, officiated by the Rev. Michael Nagle with military honors provided by the Veterans of Martha’s Vineyard. Following the service family and friends gathered at the VFW in Oak Bluffs.

Donations may be made in his memory to the Animal Shelter, P.O. Box 1829, Edgartown, MA 02539.

Butch, you are irreplaceable. You will be missed.

“For no one in our long decline so dusty, dirty and divided, had half such pleasant friends as mine or loved them half as so much as I did.”

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