By Jesse Robitaille
On Nov. 18, the Philatelic Specialists Society of Canada (PSSC) hosted its 62nd Annual Banquet at Toronto’s Old Mill, where nearly 50 of the club’s 120 members gathered for a night of philatelic fun.
Before a presentation by guest speaker John Walsh – the owner of Walsh’s Philatelic Service in St. John’s, N.L., and publisher of the Newfoundland Specialized Stamp Catalogue and British North America Specialized Stamp Catalogue – there was an award presentation to PSSC Program Co-ordinator Peter Butler.
Mike Walsh, the publisher of Canadian Stamp News, presented Butler with the award, which was an oversized, framed front-page cover of CSN; however, instead of the usual news of the week, this front page included photographs of Butler alongside text from the various speeches given by his colleagues.
“Where to start in paying tribute to Peter Butler?” asked Royal Philatelic Society of Canada (RPSC) President George Pepall. “That dynamic energy level that he brings to all his philatelic activities? Maybe the jolly laugh that comes out whenever something one of us says or does makes no sense at all? How about his keen interest in what’s up with the Blue Jays, but always a day or two behind the latest developments? Or, most dreaded of all, that bone-crushing handshake that I have to brace myself for each time I meet and greet him?”
But these are “outward signs of inner characteristics,” or things that hint at who he truly is, Pepall added.
“I’m going to opt for his determination – and I mean with a bulldog-like focus and dedication – to bring our hobby into the recent 21st century and leave the more confining ways of doing the hobby safely behind in the 20th century.”
Another prominent philatelist, Michael Madesker – a Fellow of both The RPSC and Royal Philatelic Society of London (RPSL) – couldn’t attend the banquet but sent an astounding speech that was shared by Margaret Schulzke, RPSC National Office Executive Assistant.
“With a vibrant philatelic community, some activity is staged in the Greater Toronto Area, practically every weekend,” wrote Madesker. “To mention a few, with apologies to those not listed, there is the GTAPA (Greater Toronto Area Philatelic Alliance), the North Toronto Stamp Club, The Credit Valley Association and the venerable Philatelic Specialists Society of Canada.”
“All these draw crowds, and the one face you will see at all of them, is the avuncular countenance of Peter Butler accompanied by the Eminence Grise of his success, his wife Susan Butler.”
Madesker said Butler is not just a stamp collector but a “devoted philatelic organizer.”
“His activities included running stamp exhibitions, guiding stamp clubs, aiding neophytes, working with kids, speaking at club meetings, and many other activities that I will not enumerate out of lack of knowledge and for fear of getting my head into a spin. His activities stretched across the Canadian spectrum and extended into the United States, notably with the American Philatelic Society. All that with a smile on his face and a good-natured manner.”
Madesker said Butler has done a “marvellous job” as PSSC program co-ordinator as well as “all his other endeavours.”
“Simply witness the many interesting seminars and presentations during his term in office,” he added.
Another speech was given by Sheila Moll, a librarian at the Harry Sutherland Philatelic Library.
“Peter Butler was a vital force in shaping the appearance of the Harry Sutherland Philatelic Library (as well as making the librarians use its correct name),” she said. “We wanted display shelving for the periodicals, but it is very expensive and we weren’t sure where we were going to put it in the limited space.”
Butler offered to fit slanted shelves onto the existing metal stacks and “did an amazing job,” Moll said.
“He was always anxious to improve the appearance of the library: framing pictures; making signs; fixing broken things. And when he wasn’t around, his desk was where you found tools so you could try to do it yourself.”
Another Fellow of The RPSC, Garfield Portch, who’s also a member of several of the society’s committees, said he met Butler in 2001 after sending an invitation for representatives of stamp clubs to meet to consider options for promoting philately in the Greater Toronto Area.
“The result of that meeting, and a few following, was the adoption of the Constitution of the Greater Toronto Area Philatelic Alliance,” said Portch. “The GTAPA continues to be a driving force for the hobby today.”
“A consequence of the GTAPA was the reactivation of Stampex,” Portch added. “I had the honour of co-administering Stampex shows in Toronto in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006. In 2007 we acted as the hosts of Royal*2007*Royale, which was followed up with AmeriStampExpo in 2008.”
Portch said without Butler “being the catalyst,” none of this would have happened.
“We all, therefore, owe a debt of gratitude to Peter.”