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In Memoriam: Sharon Elizabeth Butler (1942-86)


A Remembrance by William P. Stoneman

Sharon Butler died at her home in Toronto on August 17, 1986 as the result of complications arising from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, perhaps better known as Lou Gehrig's disease. Her death deprives the community of Old English scholars of one of its most vital members. She is sorely missed by her many students, colleagues, and friends; she is survived by her father and mother, four brothers and a sister.

Sharon received her B.A. from the University of Puget Sound in 1964, her M.A. from Oklahoma State University in 1967 and her Ph.D. from the University of Western Ontario in 1976. She joined the staff of the Dictionary of Old English Project at the University of Toronto in 1977. As a teacher of undergraduate and graduate students she was much in demand. Her energy and charm endeared her to the whole University.

She was the editor, with Richard L. Venezky, of A Microfiche Concordance to Old English: The High Frequency Words, Publications of the Dictionary of Old English 2 (Toronto, 1985). With Bruce Mitchell she was the author of "Some Lexicographical Problems Posed by Old English Grammar Words," in Alfred Bammesberger's (ed.) Problems of Old English Lexicography: Studies in Memory of Angus Cameron (Regensburg, 1985). Sharon's scholarly interest extended beyond lexicography; some of the implications of her thesis are summarized in "The Cynewulf Question Revived," NM, 83 (1982), 15-23.

Sharon's home was well known to a wide range of scholars; visitors to Toronto were often treated to her medieval banquets and to the accompanying joyful conversation. Sharon was a creative artist with words, with music, with pen and brush, and with food. She was the author with Constance Hieatt of Pleyn Delit: Medieval Cookery for Modern Cooks (Toronto, 1967) and more recently of Curye on Inglysch: English Culinary manuscripts of the Fourteenth Century, published by the Early English Text Society (London, 1985). Of Curye on Inglysch a recent London reviewer has remarked that "Hieatt's and Butler's work on these texts is beyond praise." The reviewer did not knew, as Sharon by then knew, that her course would be tragically interrupted. We echo his concluding words: "For what has been set before us, may the Lord make us truly thankful."