Robert “Butch” Eller, age 66 of Pennsville, NJ, passed into heaven on Wednesday, January 19, 2011 at his residence surrounded by his “Little Darlin” and wife, Jeanie, and loving son, Ryan, as well as family and close friends. Butch was diagnosed with the rare cancer (GIST) Gastro-Intestinal Stromal Tumor in November of 2003.
Born on September 1, 1944, to the late Bertha “Sis” Keen Eller, Butch was a lifelong resident of Pennsville. He graduated from Pennsville Memorial High School with the class of 1963 he enlisted and served in the US Navy from 1963-1967, a veteran during the Viet Nam War era. He also served with the US Army Reserve and the Delaware Air National Guard retiring as a Staff Sergeant from the US Air Force in 2004.
Butch worked for his brother-in-law, Stu Stephens (deceased), for three years at Stephens Plumbing & Heating and continued as needed for many years afterwards. In 1970 Butch joined the Pennsville Township Police Department as a Patrolman. In 1975 he was assigned to the Detective Division, was promoted to Detective Sergeant in 1976, and was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant in 1989. In April 1994, Butch was named Chief of Police of the Pennsville Police Department, which was his life long goal achievement, retiring in July 1997 with 27 years of service.
In January 1995, Butch attended the FBI National Academy in Quantico, VA for an eleven week professional course for Advanced Investigative and Management Training for law enforcement officers in executive positions. In March 1995, he was a proud graduate of the 180th session of the FBI National Academy.
Certified in scuba diving Butch, along with friend Ted Vengenock, founded the Salem County Dive Team. He also initiated the “Citizens Police Academy” where township residents got an inside look and understanding of police work through training and classroom instruction. During his law enforcement career he obtained certification in his Arson Investigation and Fingerprinting. Butch became a New Jersey Certified EMT and he received his degree in Criminal Justice from Salem Community College in 1991. Butch was a long time member and past President of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the South Jersey Police Chief Association and the Retired Police Officer’s Association. At his recommendation, the project on the new FOP building was implemented.
Butch’s other achievements and affiliations include being a member of the Millwright & Machinery Erectors Union – Local 1545 in New Castle, DE, he received his CDL w/Hazmat endorsement. He volunteered as a Little League coach in Pennsville and the Habitat for Humanity in North Fort Myers, FL. Butch, along with his brother Jack, became Master Masons of the Masonic Order Excelsior Penns Grove Lodge #54 F.N.A. Butch also belonged to the Pennsville VFW #1952 and American Legion, the Salem County Sportsman Club, and the Salem County Chapter of the American Red Cross. He was also a member of the Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) and Jersey Gems Camping Club.
From 1984-2002, Butch owned and operated BJ’s Video Production Service along with his wife. Butch and Jean also co-owned and operated, with his sister Bess and her husband Arthur, the Bay Country Campground in Rock Hall, MD for seven years. During that time he served as Secretary for the Rock Hall Business Association and MD Campground Owners Association. After retirement Butch worked for Ross Fogg Oil Company in Salem, Taylor Construction in Pennsville, Bay Shore Ford Truck Sales in New Castle, DE, and most recently for Lucas Greenhouses in Monroeville, NJ.
Over the last two years Butch was under the care of Dr. Jonathan Trent at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX. Dr. Trent and Butch formed a special type of bond that is not typical in your normal doctor/patient relationships, he considered Dr. Trent not only a fantastic caring doctor but a valued friend and mentor. Butch was able to honor Dr. Trent as Clinician of the Year at the Life Raft Convention in June 2010. During the ceremony Dr. Trent turned the tables on Butch presenting him with a true Texas cowboy hat and honored him as the GIST Patient of the Year. Dr. Trent was inspired by Butch’s determination and positive never give up attitude.
Butch loved life and enjoyed his (so called “retired” years) traveling in his motor home, taking cruises with his crazy friends, going to Myrtle Beach and Florida, and spending time with family and friends. Butch would make friends no matter where he was and would often turn to a stranger and ask, “Where are you from?” During his years battling cancer any negative circumstance in life was “just another little bump in the road” and he was often telling other cancer patients to “never give up!” No matter what the circumstance Butch always remained
positive! Butch was an inspiration to many with his smiling face which sometimes could cause an opposite effect.
Butch will be dearly missed by his loving wife of 32 years Jean Elaine Finlaw Eller, his loving son Ryan Thomas Eller, and faithful dog Coop. He was a devoted son to his mother the late Bertha “Sis” Keen Eller. Surviving are his siblings Bess Engle and husband Arthur of Chestertown, MD; William Eller and wife Kae of Eldora, NJ; Nancy Stephens and husband Robert McGuire of Newark, DE; Janet Jeager of Punta Gorda, FL; Patricia Woolbert of Woodstown, NJ; Jack Eller of Hockessin, DE; Linda Poeta and husband Raymond of Cape Coral, FL; and sister-in-law Kay Finlaw Creel and husband Maynard of South Riding, VA. Butch also leaves behind his aunt Ethel Keen Jones, of Georgetown, DE; numerous nieces, nephews, great- nieces, great-nephews, great great nieces and many close friends all over the country will miss him. Predeceased by his Grandpop Harry Keen, his Uncles Norman Keen and Warren (Steven) Keen (and wife Florence), his Aunt Mildred Keen Layton, brother-in-laws Stuart Stephens and Clarence Woolbert, and his very close friend Charlie Jeker. Butch also leaves behind a mentor and dear friend “Chief” Thomas A. Dwyer whom he considered his “FATHER” and who also hired Butch to the Police Department in 1970.
Over the years Butch enjoyed jet skiing, snow skiing, running, scuba diving, golfing, playing rec league softball, tennis, crabbing, eating crabs, gardening, vacationing all over the world, and spending lazy afternoons on his front porch with his Little Darlin’ Jean and best 4-legged friend Coop. He enjoyed spending time at their farm on the beautiful Chesapeake Bay in Rock Hall, MD. Butch cherished watching his loving son Ryan’s many sporting events, his family gatherings, police department picnics, and many FOP functions. There will be many fond memories of the FOP golf tournaments which were first organized by him in the 1980s and continue today. He was also instrumental in organizing and planning many Super Bowl parties.