Of Character: From farms are grown families, communities and pride that blankets generations
WARREN — A lot more is grown on farms and ranches than crops and cattle.
From farms are grown families, communities and pride that blankets generations.
That’s the way John Dee Butchee, 49, of Warren, sees life.
Take for example Butchee’s service with the Navajo Public Schools Board of Education in southwestern Oklahoma. He was appointed to fill a member’s unexpired term in the summer of 1992 and his last meeting will be this month — a commitment of more than 22 years.
Navajo has about 475 students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grades, he said. The district is a consolidation of four schools: Warren, Friendship, Headrick and Martha.
“The school itself lies in a very rural setting with no town surrounding it,” Butchee said. “The one thing that brings all of those small communities together is the school. Therefore our school truly is the heart of our Navajo community. It is the central hub for our communities and annually hosts many activities such as rural water meetings, rural electric meetings, and alumni activities for Navajo and its parent schools. Navajo is by far the largest employer in our area, which has a tremendous economic impact on Jackson County and southwest Oklahoma.
“My time on the Navajo board has been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life. Seeing our students and faculty thrive and succeed and watching our campus grow and improve has been very rewarding.”
To realize the strength of that statement, it’s important to consider a particular challenge these communities, and many others, have been facing since roughly October 2010 — drought.
Even in tough times
Butchee and wife, Dana, farm with their older son Dillon, 27, and Dillon’s wife, Katy, and their son, Boe, and Butchee’s younger son, Darren, 23. They raise cattle, hay, wheat and cotton.
“The drought has presented tremendous challenges for our family and farming operation,” John Dee Butchee said. “Our cattle herd has been cut in half due to a lack of grazing and drinking water and our crops have been greatly reduced sometimes to the point of complete failure. These challenges exist not only for our family, but for the whole state and region. Things we have taken for granted for generations are now not available to us. Things like well water for our homes and livestock, the water in Lake Lugert-Altus that was always a mainstay for irrigation in the Lugert-Altus Irrigation District and drinking water for our towns and communities.
“There is a greater power; God is in control and just as He promises, He will provide. We have our health, our homes, our families, our communities and we have not gone hungry. Praise be to God.”
John Dee Butchee is also the manager of the Jackson County Conservation District.
Butchee serves as a member of the Southwestern Oklahoma Development Authority Board of Trustees in Burns Flat, a member and elder of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Lone Wolf, as chairman of the Western Oklahoma State College Ag Advisory Committee, as a member of the Warren Cemetery Board, as a member of the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association and as a past participant in the Cattlemen’s Leadership Academy.
“All of these organizations are near and dear to my heart and I truly enjoy my involvement with each of them,” he said. “The blessings I receive from them is what inspires me to continue investing my time there.”
With his two sons having graduated from Navajo public schools, Butchee decided “it is time for me to step aside and make room for the next generation to serve (on the board).”
But he values his years of involvement with the district and the interaction it has brought him with those in the community — and that won’t end.
“I have been able to watch hundreds of children grow into outstanding young adults and to go on beyond high school and achieve great things,” he said. “I have seen our teachers grow as mentors and educators, watched them become highly qualified and have seen several of them achieve their national board certification. I have been a part of many building additions and new constructions and a new baseball and softball complex complete with lights.
“I was blessed with being part of the establishment of the Navajo School Foundation, which in its first year was able to fund the ball field lights, award several thousands of dollars in grants to teachers, partially fund a campus security camera system and aid in the funding of our storm shelter that is currently being constructed. God has graced my time on the board with countless blessings.”
That perspective has been a blessing to others, said fellow school board member Matt Muller.
“He has the humble demeanor, self-sacrificing service mind and honesty that is an asset to our community,” Muller said.
I have been able to watch hundreds of children grow into outstanding young adults and to go on beyond high school and achieve great things. I have seen our teachers grow as mentors and educators, watched them become highly qualified and have seen several of them achieve their national board certification.”