‘He does a lot for the community and . . . he does it under the radar’
The most frequent word heard whenever the discussion turns to Butch Zindel is how much this county “depends” on him. Fortunately, nobody takes him for granted.
“Butch’s deeds alone do not furnish the full measure of the man,” says Dennis Barry of Washington, a Lunch Bunch regular who dines frequently with Butch, their group’s Keeper of the List.
The question is how Butch finds time to eat.
“He is involved in almost every aspect of Rappahannock,” observes band conductor Col. John Bourgeois. “Butch Zindel is the ultimate volunteer. And in the meantime he sells real estate.”
Woodworker and onetime Washington Mayor Peter Kramer has known Butch for decades: “From our first moment of meeting, Butch’s care and concern about the county, its resources, and its future, has been more than apparent. His high energy and willingness to contribute time and energy has benefited many aspects of life here in Rappahannock County and the town of Washington.”
“Butch,” adds RappU founder Doug Schiffman, “has admirably served both our country and our county, and it is high time that Rappahannock acknowledge his many contributions.”
In full agreement, and to that exact end, the Rappahannock News is pleased to announce that Louis G. “Butch” Zindel III is its 2018 Citizen of the Year.
And who better to tell us more about the worthy recipient than Butch’s wife of 53 years, Jan Zindel. The couple married in 1965, she says, albeit two years later life for the newlyweds took an unexpected turn when Butch was drafted into the Army and sent to Vietnam. He earned the Bronze Star Medal for heroic service in a combat zone, and fortunately for everybody he came back home.
Butch is a longstanding citizen of Rappahannock, he and Jan having moved to Amissville in 1978 where they raised their three children, one of whom, Luke, remains in the county.
Several years ago, to be closer to his Washington-based real estate firm, the couple moved to a smaller house off Fodderstack Road. Butch, 75, remains extremely active to this day as both a real estate broker and builder. Through Rappahannock Real Estate, LLC he has represented countless buyers and sellers. His construction company holds a Class A Virginia contractor license.
“Butch has welcomed many to the county,” Barry notes. “He has not deemed his job done when the closing papers are signed, but instead continues to provide advice and support to new residents as they settle into life in the country. For some of us, this includes basic advice on dealing with refuse, wells and septic systems, back-up generators, and referrals to plumbers, electricians, roofers, etc.”
In addition, Butch is praised for his home renovation knowledge and skill, that is if he’s not building entire houses from the ground up. He puts money back into the county by hiring and contracting with local carpenters and tradesmen.
For his entire time in the county, Butch has been involved in all manner of volunteer and governmental activities, far too many to recall. He joined the Amissville Ruritans in 1979, serving in several posts during his twenty-year membership. He also helped construct the Ruritan building, where he volunteered the labor and furnished out-of-pocket the roofing supplies.
He’s been heavily involved with both the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, including as leader of the Amissville Cub Scout Pack and Scoutmaster for Troop 50 in Amissville.
His support of children’s activities extended to coaching Babe Ruth League Baseball. He arranged for Rappawan & Compton’s Excavating to enlarge the Stuart Field in Amissville, adding another baseball diamond, and making certain the field was upgraded to meet Little League standards. Butch also contributed materials for the field’s concession stand. The Sperryville softball field similarly benefited from Butch’s labor, and he donated building materials for the team dugouts. And on a cold December day he made sure the Child Care & Learning Center, where he’s served on the board, had a new playground.
And behind a mask that gets spookier every Halloween, one will find Butch in front of his office providing adrenaline rushes and treats for appreciative children.
For years, the county’s impressive fireworks display depended on Butch’s initiative, organization, and contributions. And he was on the initial Board of Directors of the Rappahannock Association for Arts and Community (RAAC), continuing in that role until 2001.
His extensive volunteer work has been recognized all the way to the state capital in Richmond. He was named Scoutmaster of the Year for the Piedmont region in 1990; he received the Governor’s Award for Volunteering Excellence in 1990; and in 1991 the Piedmont Association of Realtors recognized Butch for “Outstanding Service to the Community.”
His community service didn’t end with the accolades. Recently, Butch contributed flooring for the U.S. military band performances at Washington’s Fourth of July concerts; and he joined other contractors in contributing labor and building supplies for the original exterior sign of the county high school.
“While Butch did not create the Lunch Bunch, a group of men who have met daily for lunch since the late 1970’s to discuss world affairs and less weighty matters, he has undertaken for years the coordination of this unwieldy group,” Barry states, “including its involvement in the annual holiday parade, sponsorship of a competitor in the Soap Box Derby, and participation in the Breast Cancer team walk.”
And wherever he shows up, Bourgeois points out, Butch is the “Gentlemen’s Sartorial Best Dresser.”
As for public service, among other posts he has served on the county’s Board of Zoning Appeals for 15 years, and during part of that time he sat on the County Planning Commission.
Very few individuals or businesses in Rappahannock can match Butch’s generosity in responding to requests for contributions from many charitable organizations, from the Benevolent Fund to the annual Christmas Parade to plenty more. Butch’s name or that of one of his companies can be found on just about every donor roll in Rappahannock County.
“He does a lot for the community and nobody knows about it. He does it under the radar, ” explains his office colleague Joan Culmer Platt. “Butch is one of those unsung heroes.”
“Very committed to this community,” says real estate agent Emily Moore. Ditto, adds realtor Beverly Atkins: “Butch is an individual whose priority was to provide service to his country, his community and his business.” And says agent Judi Burke: “Completely fair, and a pleasure to work with.”
“In big ways and small, often behind the scenes and never looking for credit, Butch loves to help people and the Rappahannock community at large,” praises Washington Mayor John Fox Sullivan. Says Butch’s neighbor Nick Smith: “Butch is a man of his word who helps out others whenever possible. He’s a true asset to Rappahannock County, and his dedication to it is second to none.”
As Barry sums up the 2018 Citizen of the Year, “Butch is friendly, welcoming, hard-working, and lives the ‘golden rule’ of treating others as he wants to be treated . . . He is not without opinions and he will share those opinions, but he can respect and be friends with those with opposing viewpoints. Butch’s conduct is a model of civility for everyone in the county.”
“Butch is what every ‘come here’ should aspire to be,” quips Jason Brady of Union Bank.
Of all these sung praises for her husband, Jan states: “There are people who know Butch as the ‘go-to guy’ for information, decisions, solutions, opinions. Some know him as ‘Mr. Fix It,’ one who can fix almost anything, and if he can’t he knows who can. I know him as ‘awesome.’”