William Williams Keen Butcher, 97, of Chestnut Hill, CEO of the former Philadelphia brokerage firm Butcher & Singer and former chair of the Committee of Seventy public watchdog group, died at home Wednesday, May 15.
A U.S. Army major who served in World War II, Mr. Butcher - who went by W.W. Keen - was a philanthropist and active member of the Republican Party at the national level who had U.S. presidents to his home for dinner.
"I can think of several instances when we'd come home for dinner and the president would be there," said Noel Butcher Hanley, a daughter who lives in Bryn Mawr. "He'd have them for dinner - the first George Bush, Ronald Reagan, Jerry Ford."
Mr. Butcher was a delegate to the Republican National Convention twice and served on the Committee of Seventy for 60 years.
"He instilled in us civic responsibility," Hanley said.
Born in Ardmore, Mr. Butcher was a 1934 graduate of the Hill School in Pottstown and a 1938 graduate of Williams College in Massachusetts. Once out of school, he became a "runner" for the former Butcher & Sherrerd investment bankers - which his father, Howard, co-founded - taking documents and stock certificates on foot from one firm to another and to the banks, said another daughter, Madeleine Pagon Brownell, who lives in England.
Mr. Butcher volunteered for military service with the First Troop Philadelphia City Cavalry, 28th Infantry Division as a private. He was sent to Europe during World War II as a second lieutenant in the 34th Infantry Division. His division, which was in Italy and North Africa, was in action for 517 consecutive days - the most of any American division of all wars.
After the war, Mr. Butcher returned to Butcher & Sherrerd, which later became Butcher & Singer. He retired in 1984. The company did more municipal bond underwriting than any firm in the state, according to Mr. Butcher's youngest son, Williams Keen Butcher. The firm has changed names and owners several times over the last 20 years. The former main trading house of Butcher & Singer at 15th and Walnut Streets is now a restaurant by that name.
Mr. Butcher's children, who gathered at the family home Sunday night, cited their father's strong business ethics, sense of humor, and devotion to family.
"Everybody who ever met him felt he was straight as a string," Brownell said. "If you speak with anyone in the business world who knew him, they would rely upon Keen Butcher's integrity."
He also had his lighter side.
"He loved stories. He loved limericks. He loved laughter," Brownell said.
Mr. Butcher's family made regular visits to the Eatons Ranch in Wyoming. He rode horses all his life and was still riding as recently as a year ago, when the family visited the ranch. His children took pictures of their 96-year-old father astride a horse.
The eight children included five from Mr. Butcher's wife's first marriage, two from his first marriage, and one son the couple had together.
"It wasn't until I was 12 that I knew there was a difference," Williams Keen Butcher said. "He integrated the whole family. He introduced all of them as his sons and daughters. There was no difference."
Mr. Butcher served as a trustee of the Penn Presbyterian Medical Center for 40 years and as chairman and trustee of the Foreign Policy Research Institute for 36 years. He and his wife, Madeleine Kilvert Butcher, who died in 2004, helped in the redevelopment of Chestnut Hill in the early 1970s. The couple made major donations to the Morris Arboretum and other schools and organizations, his children said.
In addition to Brownell, Hanley, and Williams Keen Butcher, Mr. Butcher is survived by sons Garrett Dunn Pagon, Somers Keen Butcher, Marshall Watters Pagon, and Nicholas Abbott Pagon; daughter Alexandra Kilvert French; 22 grandchildren; and 11 great-grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at noon Wednesday, May 22, at St. Thomas Episcopal Church, 610 Church Rd., Fort Washington. Arrangements are being handled by the Jacob F. Ruth Funeral Home.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Madeleine and W.W. Keen Butcher History Institute at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, 1528 Walnut St., Suite 610, Philadelphia 19102