In Memory

Henry "Butch" Wolff VIEW PROFILE

Henry Butch Wolff

Date of death:  August, 2009

Cause of death:  Complications following coronary by-pass surgery.  Doctors failed to revive him after the operation.

Residence at time of death:  Saddlebrooke Resort Community near Tucson, Arizona

Profession:  Butch trained and worked as a plumber, then founded his own re-modeling company in the Chicago area

Family:  Wife, Mary; two daughters, Amy and Jennifer.  Henry's brother Terry is a member of the HPHS class of 1961.

Henry's Life:   Known to most of us as "Butch," he was a standout guard and linebacker on the Little Giant football teams, who crunched opponents with vicious tackles and blocks, and once even got into a roll-around-the-ground scrap with the head coach during practice the final week of the season,  a tussle which would become a legend among HPHS players.  That day Butch saw an injustice in the way the coach was calling penalties on senior players scrimmaging against juniors and sophomores.  He spoke up and didn't back down an inch when things got  physical.  That was Butch.

Another time, outside the gym during a varsity basketball game against Proviso, fisticuffs seemed certain after a Proviso lad shouted out his challenge to beat up anyone from HPHS who thought he could fight.   Butch accepted the invitation, stepping toward the aggressive visitor, all the while preparing himself for the encounter by removing the false teeth from his mouth.   The sight of Butch's choppers being cast aside caused the boy from the visitor's school to realize he faced an adversary whose pugilistic skills had been finely honed in the school of hard knocks.   The Proviso toughie, abandoning his taunts, vanished into the night as Butch's pals clapped him on the shoulders.

After high school Butch went into the Army, volunteering for paratrooper duty with the famous 101st Airborne Division, known for -- what else? -- toughness and courage.  After  the service he returned to Illinois to start a successful plumbing business.  Eventually, his company grew to become a re-modeling firm as Butch and Mary settled down in Crete, Ill., and raised their two daughters.  At the 1999 reunion Butch looked prosperous, physically fit and a trifle embarassed any time old teammates reminisced about the time he wrestled with Coach Burson on the same field where Saturday games were played.   But those who had played ball with him noted, "He's still got those eyes -- like Ray Nitschke," the famous Green Bay Packer linebacker.

He was, as his friend Roger Zanarini puts it, "One of those larger-than-life figures."  But he never showed off, never swaggered and, once off the football field or wrestling mat, he showed a friendly, gentle face to the world.  Many of our classmates have retired to Arizona to enjoy the year-long sunshine.  Butch and Mary joined this desert migration a few years ago, after his retirement.   Butch stayed in touch with old HPHS friends, and, even though he didn't play golf, he was a regular attendee at the annual "Highwood Open" tournament played in Phoenix.   He also volunteered at a Tucson charity called the "Golden Goose," which takes donations of household items for re-sale as a way to raise money for worthwhile causes.   We are told that when a heavy item needed lifting in the store, the other volunteers would immediately turn to Butch to do the job.   Anyone surprised at that?

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08/16/09 08:11 AM #1    

John Scornavacco

Butch was everything good and tough about football. He was a great teammate with a strong will to win. He was hard hitting and fun loving with a kindness that you could feel, but somehow surprised you. He certainly looked the part of a linebacker and lineman. He was a rock and I have an action photo of Butch ready to lay a hard block on an opponent that I will now value more than ever. John Scornavacco

08/16/09 03:19 PM #2    

Michael Addison

I played football and wrestled with Butch. He was a gifted athlete and a great teammate. At the last reunion, I had a chance to chat with him and found out that he was even a finer human being. I wish I had known him better but happy to have known him at all.

My condolences to his family on their great loss

08/16/09 06:15 PM #3    

Charles Cretors

Playing football was one of my best memories of HPHS. Butch was one of the guys that made those good memories. I played in the line with Butch as either guard or tackle. Football is about teamwork and you always knew you could depend on Butch to give 100%. It was a great pleasure to play on the same team with him. He has left us too soon.

My condolences to his family.

Charlie (Moose) Cretors

08/19/09 07:23 PM #4    

Eric Engberg

Our website received this message from Faith Farenzena Bull, who is a member of the HPHS Class of 1961 and who was a neighbor of the Wolffs in Saddlebrooke, Arizona:

"Saddlebrooke Community Outreach was conceived by a group of Saddlebrooke residents in 1996. It is dedicated to raising money to help support school children and their families in neighboring communities. Starting about five years ago Henry and Mary began working at the Golden Goose Thrift Shop, a re-sale store which has over 100 volunteers and earns 49% of the revenue utilized by Community Outreach programs. Henry worked at the store four days a week and was loved by everyone.

"I would like to quote from the email sent by our store manager to other volunteers the day Henry passed:

'Our dear beloved friend and colleague Henry Wolff passed away earlier this afternoon. Henry brought with him to the Goose a beaming smile, a heart of gold and the gift of laughter every single day. He is truly and deeply loved and will be profoundly missed. The Golden Goose will never be the same without him.'

"What more is there to say, and it is with a heavy heart that I respectfully submit this note to all his classmates.

Faith Farenzena Bull"

05/17/13 11:56 PM #5    

Jeffrey Levinger**

Butch was the 160-pound wrestler on the team when I was the 112-pounder as a Junior and Senior on the Varsity.   (I think I'm remembering we called him "Wolfie.")    He was tough;  friendly, humorous, and very tough.  He'd transferred into HPHS from some Chicago school, I believe, in a very tough neighborhood;  there was some talk about "gangs," about his having to transfer;  but i have no real data about that.

Two stories I still carry about Butch:  the first is not very humorous; but revealing.  We had moved outside the gym, after a practice, for some fresh air.  There was a little cement landing just outside the door, and 2 or 3 stairs down to the ground.  A metal-pipe banister protected the landing-&-stairs against anyone falling off the landing as they came out the door and down the stairs.   Butch and one or two other wrestlers stood on the landing with the coach;   Ostrander?  i'm uncertain i have the name right.  The rest of us were milling about on the grass-&-dirt beyond.  Someone out there, just "below" the landing, took a gym-shoe and threw it up at the group on the landing;  it hit Butch.  Big mistake:  in about a tenth of a second after the shoe hit him, Butch had leaped over the steel-pipe banister and was pounding the absolute s**t out of the fool who'd done it;  who offered no resistance whatsoever and kept saying, over and over, "I didn't mean it; I'm sorry!  I didn't mean it; I'm sorry!"   It took the coach and 2 or 3 guys to pull Butch off.  Where he had come from, no such affront could be tolerated in the least degree, nor any delay in response or punishing the offender.

The second story is much more humorous, at least to me.  Our heavyweight wrestler (I'm remembering a name like "Markey") was very big, a fact he used to his advantage in every meet:  although in all the other weight classes you never wrestled someone more than 2 pounds heavier (though there was a lot of last minute dieting), no such restriction applied to the heavyweights.  Many teams put up 180-220 pound wrestlers as their heavyweights;  "Markey" was more like 240-280; maybe more.

He also thought he was tough, and took Butch's attitude and reputation as a challenge.  So one day he did in fact challenge Butch in the dressing room  ---  not to wrestle, but to square off with fists, no other rules of any interest.  At first Butch smiled and demurred;  then asked if Markey were serious, really wanted this;  answer was yes.  So they started, right there in the aisle between the rows of lockers.  Butch feinted a left-foot-kick to the groin, and when Markey turned away and bent down a bit to avoid the hit, Butch smacked him hard in the left arm near the shoulder.  As Markey straightened up, intending to mount an attack,  Butch again feinted a kick to the groin, and when Markey again protected himself by turning away and bending down a bit to avoid the hit, Butch again smacked him hard in the left arm, likely in the same place as before.  This went on for at least a dozen or more repetitions, though I may have forgotten a few intermediate moves or feints on either part.   I don't recall Markey landing a single blow;  I'm not sure he ever got the chance, given Butch's aggressiveness and experience.     They soon agreed to quit this foolishness, smiles all around,  and remained, to my observation, friends and teammates throughout the year.

It was a great team all around; and we had some State champions!  

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