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Nov 14, 2017 3:38 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

William Butler, Former Captain Of The 'Lazybones' In Montauk, Dies October 31

William Butler on his boat, Captain Willie, before it was renamed Lazybones. COURTESY NATHANIEL BUTLER
Nov 14, 2017 3:45 PM

William Butler, a former captain of the Lazybones party boat out of Montauk, died on October 31, eight days after his 81st birthday.Mr. Butler was born on October 23, 1936, and grew up in Patchogue. “Boating was in his blood,” said his son Nathaniel Butler, whose father was barely out of his teens when he started piloting ferry trips to Fire Island with the Davis Park Ferry Company in the 1950s.

Mr. Butler attended Brown University and then graduated from Hofstra University before starting a career in education, teaching English at Patchogue High School.

In 1963, Mr. Butler, his high school sweetheart-turned-wife, Lynn, and the three children they had at the time moved to Montauk.

“Fire Island got too crowded when they got electricity,” the younger Mr. Butler said. “We moved to Montauk for the lifestyle. We were all involved in the beach community.”

William Butler jumped into community involvement by serving as an East Hampton Town Trustee from the 1960s through the mid-1970s. His son said that he had a strong focus on environmental conservation at a time when Montauk was starting to grow in popularity.

“During that time, all the local people were drawn to Montauk, and they wanted to preserve that for future generations,” Mr. Butler said. “It was at a crucial time frame for how development and growth could’ve gone either way.”

Mr. Butler also was an English teacher and junior varsity basketball coach at East Hampton High School throughout the 1960s.

“He enjoyed being a mentor of sorts to the kids,” his son said. “High school is an influential time period for young adults, and he enjoyed the stewardship for those young adults.”

But Mr. Butler’s longest legacy still cruises out of Lake Montauk today in the form of the Lazybones half-day fishing trips.

According to Mike Vegessi, the current captain of the 50-foot wooden fishing vessel, it was Mr. Butler who suggested that the boat should tend to the increasing family market in Montauk by offering shorter-term fishing trips, from 8 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m., rather than day-long trips exclusively.

When Mr. Butler planned to retire from captaining the Lazybones, he personally asked Mr. Vegessi if he’d be interested in buying the boat before anyone else.

“He was very engaging and very nautical,” Mr. Vegessi said. “He liked to sit in the corner of the boat to watch what was going on and take it all in.”

“A lot of great friendships were created with bringing the families and kids out fishing,” said Nathaniel Butler. “Dad really liked Mike, because he kept to the tradition of the boat being a family attraction.

“Dad really took pride in the family atmosphere,” Mr. Butler continued. “The big slogan at the time was, ‘Bring your lunch, catch your dinner.’

“He was the king of these cheesy slogans like, ‘When the noon whistle blows, Captain Willie goes.’ He was catering more to having a fun day in the water with the family. Those memories created a special bond over the years.”

Mr. Butler captained the boat from the early 1970s with help from his friends and family until his retirement in 1985. After stepping away from boating, he found himself back in education, teaching incarcerated people in Florida.

“He felt strongly about people,” Nathaniel Butler said of his father. “Sometimes, we’re dealt a bad hand and we need some guidance. He was a very caring person.”

Mr. Butler is survived by his wife of 60 years, Lynn, sons Rhett and Nathaniel, daughters Jennifer Butler and Alisa Sanabria, 13 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

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Willie was a wonderful. Rest In Peace. And the Vegessi family has done a wonderful job keeping what Willie put together for over 30 years. Kudus to both families.
By Dayo (33), Sag Harbor on Nov 16, 17 3:26 PM
Willie was a wonderful. Rest In Peace. And the Vegessi family has done a wonderful job keeping what Willie put together for over 30 years. Kudus to both families.
By Dayo (33), Sag Harbor on Nov 16, 17 3:26 PM