Tuesday, May 15, 2001

A father’s promise
is fulfilled at last

A terminally ill man is able
to visit the Arizona Memorial

By Rosemarie Bernardo

SCOTT BUTLER'S father had promised him a trip to the Arizona Memorial since he was a child.

When Doug Butler died in January, that promise went unfulfilled, but Scott Butler's lifelong wish became a reality yesterday.

With the help of a CBS television show and a letter sent from a friend, Butler, who is stricken with a rare terminal disease, arrived in Hawaii last week.

Rear Adm. Robert T. Conway, Navy Region Hawaii commander, took Butler, his mother Leann and her co-worker Connie Griffith on his private barge to the USS Arizona site. Conway presented Butler with honorary naval coins and a Navy baseball cap.

"Scott felt like the president," said Leann, an administrative secretary for the Knox County Board of Education in Barbourville, Ky.

The 23-year-old Butler had wanted to visit the Arizona Memorial and pay his respect to those who lost their lives after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

Rear Adm. Robert T. Conway Jr., commander, Navy Region
Hawaii, helped Scott Butler off the admiral's barge. Butler
and Conway toured together around Pearl Harbor yesterday.
Butler has been diagnosed with ataxia telangiectasia,
a terminal disease.

"It was truly an emotional experience for him. ... His expression was total reverence," said Leann.

She said her son was taken with the long list of names etched in marble on the memorial wall.

At age 10, Butler was diagnosed with ataxia telangiectasia, an incurable disorder of the central nervous system that attacks the immune system. Butler, now 23, has since suffered muscle deterioration in his lower body and is wheelchair-bound.

Eight months before Butler's father died, his grandfather Glen died of a stroke. A year earlier, his grandmother Genell died after her battle with lung cancer.

Leann said, "This has been good to help us overcome that and to know that they're up there, pleased with what we're doing."

Scott takes medication and makes regular visits to a pulmonary specialist, an immunologist and family practitioner for his condition.

"We take it day by day," Leann said.

During their six-day vacation, Butler enjoyed a panoramic view of Diamond Head and Waikiki Beach from their suite at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. Along with visiting the memorial, Butler visited the Polynesian Cultural Center, Sunset Beach and Pipeline.

"They made me feel like royalty ever since I've been here," Butler said.

"The Early Show" on CBS featuring Scott Butler is tentatively scheduled to air on Friday, May 25 at 7 a.m.

Butler's mother planned to take him to the Arizona Memorial but did not have the money for the trip. Last month, Griffith learned "The Early Show" was hosting a "Week of Wishes" series and saw the opportunity to write a letter on Scott's behalf.

The letter impressed producers at CBS. Butler became one of five people whose wish was granted.

His fascination with the Arizona Memorial stemmed from his father, Doug, a military history buff. Since Butler was a child, his father shared his knowledge of historical events such as the Korean War and the Battle of Midway.

Together they visited the USS Alabama at Mobile's Battleship Park in Alabama and the USS Pensacola in Florida.

Leann said: "This is the only time he's seen a memorial without his dad. That hurt me the most.

"I know he's sharing it (the tour) with him," she said.

Butler said, "He's alive with me in my heart and in my mind."

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