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Veteran celebrates 100th birthday, presented with Quilt of Valor

This Quilt of Valor was created over a nine-month period by quilt topper Helen Ruiz of Dover, Del., to award to a U.S. Navy Seal to give him comfort in his recovery from war wounds. (U.S. Air Force Photo / Released / Courtesy photo/Ms. Helen Ruiz)

Tom Butler has lived 100 years, served in the U.S. Navy during World War II as an electrician on destroyer ships, traveled the world, and in general celebrated life.

On Saturday, he was awarded a Quilt of Valor to thank him for his service at a birthday party held at the Colonnades Club House in Lakeland.

JaNeanne G. Miles, a volunteer with Quilt of Valor, presented the quilt she made for Butler, which also had stitching by her mother, Ruby Goff of Alturas.

The Quilts of Valor Foundation is a grassroots group of over 10,00 quilters from all across the nation whose sole dedication is to give quilts to all active service members and veterans.

The foundation was created by Catherine Roberts in 2003, when her son was deployed in Iraq. Since then, over 200,000 quilts have been presented, said Miles.

“We honor you for your service, for your willingness to leave all you hold dear and to stand in harm’s way in a time of crisis for all of us. We know that freedom is never free, and our quilts are meant to say thank you for your many sacrifices. We hope this quilt offers you comfort. When the dark memories return or you just need a hug, wrap this quilt around you and know that you were never forgotten,” Miles told Butler.

When asked the secret to his longevity, he said, “The good Lord above.”

According to Butler’s wife of 32½ years, Durinda, Butler never misses a Sunday in church, eats right, takes vitamins and exercises.

“I didn’t drink nor smoke,” Butler added.

Durinda said both she and Tom had been married and divorced twice. They met in St. Petersburg when she was a greeter at a little church there, and fell in love. When he proposed to Durinda, he asked her if she, being 27 years younger than he, would take care of him in his old age.

She said she would, and the two have been together since.

“He is committed, loyal, easy to get along with and he is quiet,” she said.

Butler was working on the railroad in St. Petersburg when he joined the Navy.

“The Army was after me,” he said with a smile, “So I joined the Navy. There were 10 of us that signed up, and they chose me,” he said.

Anyone who wants to nominate someone for a Quilt of Valor may do so online at

Kathy Leigh Berkowitz can be reached at [email protected] or at 863-802-7558. Follow her on Twitter @kberkowitzthel1.


© 2019 The Ledger (Lakeland, Fla.)

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.