Jonathan Matthew Butler

April 18, 1970 to January 17, 2019


Jonathan left us suddenly on January 17, 2019. Loving husband of Reema, beloved son of Emma and James, adored brother of Jim (Charlotte), Jodene, and Alison (Jay). Loving uncle to Jason, Matthew, Stella and Russell. Cherished son-in-law to Praveen Bhasin and loved brother-in-law to Sandy and Shawn. Predeceased by his father-in-law Subhash Bhasin whom Jonathan adored. Jonathan leaves behind heartbroken cousins Susan and Kellie and many friends he loved including Stephen Lewis and David Gravender. Also countless other kind and caring friends and other family members will miss and fondly remember Jonathan.

Jonathan had the kindest heart and the brightest mind. He was a professor, a writer, a poet, and not a bad golfer. He had the most amazing sense of humour and opened his arms to everyone.

Jonathan received a joint honours BA in English and Philosophy from Memorial University and completed his PhD in 2001 at the University of Toronto. He adored teaching American literature, for which he had such a passion, to students in Canada, Taiwan, and the U.A.E. Along with many academic publications he also published novels, short fiction, poetry, and essays in both Canada and Taiwan.

Jonathan was a remarkable individual with a beautiful and exuberant spirit. He was a kind, caring, and loving husband, son, and brother. Jonathan was a true and loyal friend to the many souls who had the honour of sharing his journey with him.

The family wishes to express love and sympathy to the many people who are left heartbroken by his departure. We must all strive to keep the world brighter to compensate for the loss of his light and to honour his memory.



   for Jonathan Butler 

The ball knocked high with consummate skill,

Dead straight for the flag, risen to the pitch

Of perfection, beyond grasp, out of reach,

A moonshot of the cleat-clogged will,

Winks and will not ever settle down.

In the shadow beneath

A clapboard city cuffed by the brute Atlantic

And a young man exercised by fate

Testing the air with fledged wings

To follow where his thought has flown.

– David Gravender


Donations in his memory may be made to the library of one’s choice in recognition of Jonathan’s love of literature.

Visitation to be held at Carnell’s Funeral Home, Freshwater Road on Monday, January 21st from 2-4pm and 7-9pm. A Celebration of Jonathan’s life will be held at the Carnell Memorial Chapel on Tuesday, January 22nd at 1pm.



2-4 p.m. on January 21, 2019

7-9 p.m. on January 21, 2019

Carnell’s Funeral Home
329 Freshwater Road
View on Map

Celebration of Life

1:00pm, Tuesday January 22nd

The Carnell Memorial Chapel
329 Freshwater Road
View on Map


I am deeply saddened by the loss of our friend Jonathan. I will always remember our good times together in Concord. My heart goes out to his wife and family.

I enjoyed seeing Jonathan at the Thoreau Society Annual Gathering. Our annual Sunday paddle on the river was made more pleasurable for me by his company and conversation. Jonathan was a thoughtful and kind soul and a bright intellect, very likable, and I valued our conversations. I am sure he will be sorely missed. Heartfelt condolences to Jonathan’s family.

So sorry for your loss i remember john going to school he was a very nice person he would make you laugh or cry god rest his soul R.I.P JOHN

My condolence to family and loved ones. Jonathan was a grand Thoreau enthusiast who enjoy attending and participating in Thoreau Society Annual Gatherings. The world has lost a lovely, energetic young man. Peace.

Michael J Frederick
Executive Director, The Thoreau Society

I was surprised, yet gratified to see so many condolences for Jonathan on this page — surprised in that our friendship was so rich that I hardly imagined there would be space in his life for so many other good friends – gratified, in that I am glad to see that so many others shared the company of this wonderful man.

I met Jonathan at a conference on Henry David Thoreau at Walden Pond. We both lodged at a charming Bed and Breakfast near the pond, run by a fine woman in her nineties. We had great conversations in the mornings with her and one or two other guests. Typically, Jonathan had run about 10 miles before breakfast (!) and likely taken a swim in the pond. His crack-of-dawn exercise was lucky for me, because it wore him down to the extent that I could almost keep up with him for the five to six miles of hiking we would then do together before, during, and after listening to conference papers. I was about twice Jonathan’s age, and I appreciated his thoughtfulness at matching his pace to mine so that we could have endless conversations about nature, Thoreau, and other things that matter. I now recall those walks in terms of both of us coaxing the other, “Say, look at this.” This swamp, this water lily, this dilapidated shack in the woods.

I am a historian of national parks, and Jonathan hosted me for park visits abroad in both Taiwan and the United Arab Emirates. In Taroka National Park in Taiwan we hiked along a trail beside and within a cliff overlooking a mountain stream and climbed about 1000 steps on a metal stairway up a mountain. We talked every step of the way, though I often had to stop to catch my breath. After touring in the United Arab Emirates we had a lovely dinner at a restaurant with his wife, Reema, who had often entered our conversations before I met her.

Now that Jonathan is gone, I often find myself thinking idly of what adventure we will undertake next…. Then I check myself, and I experience our loss of Jonathan with great sorrow. I want this hurt to go away, but then I tell myself, this gap in my life and in so many other lives is our tribute to our dear, dear friend.

My deepest condolences to Reema and Jonathan’s family. This is such a terrible loss!
It doesn’t make sense that Jonathan is gone. We still had so much to discuss, and our most recently planned hike, that I had been putting off, will now never happen.
Jonathan inspired me to live life more fully through his passion and insight into the splendor of nature. I saw this for the first time on a hike up Lala Mountain in Taiwan. For him, it wan’t just a place of scenic beauty but a truly sacred place with it’s grove of ancient red cedars and living water (brimming with healthy microbes) that he bottled and hauled back home to drink. I saw this again with his attention to tiny fossils embedded in the rocks at Jebel Hafeet and with a pair of oddly shaped trees bent over the steep trail up Yangmingshan’s Seven Star Peak that he imagined as gods guarding access to their sanctuary.
I will remember Jonathan as someone who cared intensely about beauty in nature and language, his family, his students, and his integrity. He made the world a better place.

Very, very shocked and saddened to hear this news. Jonathan was my colleague at Soochow University in Taiwan for only one year, but I considered him to be a friend and not just a co-worker. He was popular with students and teachers alike, and being the only other Canadian on staff a kindred spirit and someone I could talk to about our homeland. I was very happy he had returned to Taiwan after the UAE but had managed to have lunch together only once. Very sad news. My deepest condolences to all his family, friends and students. Many will miss him.

To Emma Bulter and Family,
So, sorry for your loss. Will be thinking and praying for you all.
He is with the angels now.
The Drysdales

Dear Emma,

so unbelievably sorry to hear this news. I have such glowing memories of my time with Jonathan. I can remember us jamming to U2 covers in the basement one day, him making sure I had those basslines down, then years later was so enthusiastic about the music I was making on my own. He had such energy and vitality to him I don’t doubt he left a deep mark on all those who knew him. Rest in Peace Jonathan

My deepest sympathy to the family. I was a student of his in UAEU. He was one of the greatest teacher I ever had. He had a passion for the students that shined brightly and made you want to be the best student you could be. Some of my fondest memories include the times I spent in his class. His passion to teach was matched only by his compassion for his students. He taught us Edward Paul Abbey and other famous naturalist in literature. He was certainly a special person and I am a better person for having known him. May God bless and keep you in peace as you mourn your loss.

To The Butler Family
Our deepest sympathies to you All.
Gary, Janet and Family

Truly sorry to hear of your loss. Please accept condolences from long time visitor to the Emma Butler Art Gallery

Dear Emma,

I’m so sorry for your loss.

Thinking of you, and sending you love.

Remembering his wonderful and gentle soul will forever remain in our hearts . .

May God bless and comfort you during this time of grief. Please accept my sincere condolences.

Dr. Jonathan taught me two classes in English Literature major at UAE University. He was an amazing teacher, very kind and supportive. I would never forget the way he was encouraging me . . the way he was pushing me to be better and better. . Dr. Jonathan believed in me and my abilities . . There are not enough words to express my appreciation to him. I’m saddened to hear this tragic news ..
May his soul rest in peace ..


Sending you love, you have been in my thoughts and will remain there.

To Alison and the Butler family,

I’m so sorry for your loss.


Dear Emma

I send sincere sympathy and much love to you. My thoughts are with you there in St John’s at this very sad time.
Love from Joanne

Dear Emma, So immensely sorry for your loss. There are not enough words to express my sympathy. Thinking of you and your family. Sending love and hugs. Ann

Dear Reema,

My deepest and most heart felt condolences for the passing of Jonathan. I always cherished his company and the nights out we spent drinking and talking together. He was one of the very few people here in the UAE who’s conversation made one laugh and invoke deep insightful thoughts in equal measure. Bless your gorgeous soul my friend Jonathan …

Dear Reema,
We were so saddened to hear about Jonathan’s untimely passing. Please accept our deepest sympathy on your loss.
Jonathan played a very important role in our joint MECO-Kainan University (Taipei) Scholarship Program. His advice and timely interventions during the entire program ensured the successful completion of the 4-yr. College courses for our fifty (50) Filipino scholars.
Thank you again, Jonathan, for being there; for your caring nature and generosity of spirit.
May you rest in peace in God’s loving care.

Nayoung and I are shocked and saddened to hear this tragic news. Jonathan was a lovely man. I remember his humor, his unique perspective, his colorful clothes, his passion for fitness, and his warm heart. It’s a terrible loss. Our thoughts are with you, Reema.

Dear Reema

Both Sibel and I were terribly saddened to learn of this awful news. Jonathan was such a lovely, kind and thoughtful man. Please know that you are in our thoughts.

Martin Endley and Sibel Calik Endley (Al Ain)

Dear Reema

We are so saddened to hear of Jonathon’s passing. We only met you and Jonathon a few times but you were both so sweet and lovely. Our deepest sympathies to you and all your family members.

This is the most heartbreaking news we have heard today. May god give the two families to bear this huge loss. Our prayers and thoughts are with you all at this challenging time. God Bless 🙏🙏

Rama & Sheru Asnani

Our deepest sympathies and condolences. Sending you prayers and love Reema and Praveen, Sandy, Shawn and the Butler and Bhasin families.

Santokh, Surinder, Sasha, Puja, Timmy, Pooja and family.

Emma, I am so sorry to hear this news. I send solace and sweet ease as Jonathon goes on ahead… surrounded by love. I send you mine… no comfort at all in such a moment…but there if you need it.

Alison, Jay, and family, I am so very very sorry. Hold onto the love. J

We are so saddened to learn of Jonathon’s sudden passing. Much too young.
We are out of the province at the moment, but we are thinking of you all. With our sympathy.
Ginny and Randy

Reema, Parveen Auntie, Sandy, Shawn…so sorry for the loss. Reema–I still remember your wedding and how you both looked at each other with such love. We are all here, your extended family, to give you any support you need.

Jonathan was part of our main group in high school and in fact we shared a locker together in grade 10. He was a friend and reached out to me during a difficult time in my life to offer encouragement when I found myself alone and depressed. He physically came to my home and made me go out with him telling me everything will be ok. I remember we visited Tim Huntsman, and it was a start to my recovery. Funny how that was 30 odd years ago and yet today I remember it like yesterday. That’s my story, one of many for sure, he was a great beautiful guy…

I am so sorry to hear of Jonathan’s passing. My condolences to his family and friends.

We are extremely saddened to hear of Jonathan’s passing.

Our thoughts are with you all.

Love from Charn, Neeru, Senna and Kesh Gill

Alison, Caring thoughts and prayers are with you and your family at this difficult time. Sincere condolences to all.

“Death is not extinguishing the light…” Some thirty years ago, now, during his first year at Memorial University, Jonathan was a student in a Creative Writing course that I taught. He was utterly outstanding — erudite, earnest, open, and generous; a remarkable radiance; an abundance of goodness. I am deeply shaken and saddened by his passing. To Jonathan’s family and friends, I extend my sincerest condolences.

Your family is in my thoughts as you go through such a sad time.

I’m still reeling from this news. Jonathan was such a vibrant personality, with a pronounced sense of humanity and a real hunger to engage with those around him.

My deepest condolences.

I am truly heartbroken to learn of Jonathan’s passing. I was very fortunate to share some time with him in the UAE, cycling, philosophizing and rejoicing in life, the natural beauty of the world and being alive. He was a truly kind and compassionate man with a brilliant mind that could still see the magic in things…

My sincere and heartfelt condolences to those most close to Jonathan, both friends and family.

Jonathan always had a smile and kind word to say to his colleagues. I am saddened to hear of his sudden passing, and I wish peace to his family.

I am just another one of those who liked Jonathan a lot as a colleague and as a person. I wish I had known him longer and better. My heart goes out to all those who did.

Jonathan was a dear colleague and friend. I remember, in particular, our trip to the literature festival and celebrating a common friend’s 61st birthday. Much love and strength to his family,
Doris, Amir & Yann

Jonathan was my friend. One of the good guys, sensitive and sincere. My family is heartbroken. Love to Reema.

Dear Emma,
We are thinking of you and all the family with loving thoughts and prayers.
Steve and Toni Fuller

So sorry to hear of Jonathan;s passing.It seems like only yesterday that I saw him as a young boy when I spent so much time on Symond’s Place.That young boy went on to do great things ….in literature and in sports……and my memories of him although from long ago , are of a young man …always with a smile. Thinking of you all during this sad time. Sincerely Bob Dyckson

Dear Jim and family,
Thinking of you during this very sad time. I will always remember Jonathan at the track with a big smile and a twinkle in his eyes.
With sincere sympathy,
Jennifer Stender

Emma and family , so deeply sorry and saddened to learn of Jonathan’s passing . It is never easy to lose the ones we love . My thoughts are with you all at this very sad time . Jonathan will be in your hearts forever .sending you hugs and love , Muriel

Emma and Family
The passage of time will not erase a Mother’s love for a son or a sibling’s love for a brother. May you all long remember all that was beautiful in Jonathan’s life and may knowing that others share your grief at this time bring you some small measure of comfort.
Keeping you all in our warmest thoughts at this time.

Emma and family,
So sorry to hear of the passing of Jonathan. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.
Ever remembered ever loved

Off to the dance floor in the sky. having hung out with you fewer times than I would have liked – I was always happy to see your smiling face, swap stories and share laughs together. you will be missed as much as you were loved. Rest in power Johnny B.

To Emma & Family,

So very sorry for your loss.

I am so sorry for your loss. In recent times I used to run into Jonathan walking on Rennies Mill Trail. He would always stop and have a chat to catch up. It was great to see him. My thoughts and prayers are with you during this difficult time.

Dearest Emma
I am saddened to hear of your loss. I hope that you can find peace through the memories of your extraordinary son.

Dear Emma and Alison and family,
Deep peace to you all. Beyond heartbreaking.

So sorry to hear of your loss. Jonathan was a special person who will be sadly missed. My thoughts are with you during this difficult time.

Alison, I was saddened to learn of Jonathon’s passing. Please accept my deepest condolences at this tragic time.

To Alison and Jonathan’s family, we are so very sorry for your loss. We hope you can find some comfort in the wonderful memories you have of Jonathan.

Peace be with you all.

Leigh and Tammy Puddester

I am shocked and saddened to hear of Jonathan’s passing. I remember him in junior high and high school with the same big smile. He was great friend to all who had the chance to know him. Please accept my sincere condolences.

“His life was gentle, and the elements
So mixed in him that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world, ‘This was a man.’”

Jonathan was in my French class at Bishops College…and although more than thirty years have passed, I still remember him with great fondness as being “uniquely exceptional”.
I was not at all surprised to read of his prodigious accomplishments in life.
Please accept my condolences on your great loss!

Alison and family,

It is a very beautifully written obituary.

Jonathon was such a big part of my high school life and teen years. I can still see him walking the halls of Bishops College – friends with absolutely everyone.

I am so saddened about this news and offer my sincerest condolences to you and your family.

So very sorry for your loss Emma and my deepest sympathy to all of Jonathan’s family.

I’m so sorry for your loss. We knew Jonathan through our Track and Field activities over the years. A great person. Thinking of you during this challenging time.

Sending condolences to family and friends of Jonathan. I have very fond memories of him throughout our school years; especially that smile. So saddened to hear.

I am so sorry to hear this news Emma and family.

Our hearts break for you .
Tom and Paul
Washington DC

My sincere sympathy to the family and friends of Jonathan. I am shocked and saddened to learn of his passing. In my teenage years, I was a sitter of the Butler children. We were all fortunate to grow up in the “family-like” neighbourhood of Symonds Place. Jonathan has clearly left a beautiful mark. May your wonderful memories and stories comfort you through your grief and offer you peace.

Jonathan came into John’s and my lives ten years ago when Jonathan started spending June through August in the house that is across the street from us, here in Toronto. Jonathan must have been thirty-eight when we met; John and I were in our early fifties.

He appreciated the quiet in that house across the street from us during his summers, using its stillness to read, write, collect his thoughts, and, yes, golf and cycle and share meals and beloved Scotches with his cousins and old school chums here in Toronto.

Jonathan was an athlete … and a lover of nature. Often after a run, he’d quietly let himself into our backyard – towel slung over his shoulder- to swim a few laps in the pool to cool off, and then float, staring up at the undersides of the leaves on the huge white oak trees that ring our yard, marvelling at the beauty and power of old trees. His gratitude was magnetic.

Many dinners followed after we first met. Jonathan would come across the street – proudly carrying a spectacular bottle of Scotch! – we’d trade stories about travel, he’d talk about the Thoreau conferences he visited every summer in Boston, John and Jonathan would compare running injuries. Or he’d pop over when he heard the music pouring from our kitchen windows and we’d introduce him – this exotic Newfoundlander – to our guests. Jonathan fit in with all of our friends and family, immediately. It was like he’d always been ‘our people’. He listened intently to music and conversations. It was joyous to watch him engage, to see him be moved to tears or passion by a phrase in a song, or in prose.

Always, too soon, the summer would end and Jonathan would be leaving again for the airport, but first, dropping off the key to #57 to us, to hold onto for him, until the next summer.

I’ll leave you with this, my favourite memory of him: it was on one of those exceptionally hot summer afternoons that first summer, ten years ago, while we – fifty-ish John and I, and thirty-eight year old Jonathan – stood talking in the heat of the late afternoon sunshine. Our feet were in the shallow water on the stairs of the pool, we were all nursing beers. Somehow we ended up talking about one of my favourite Star Trek episodes, “DARMOK”. That particular episode featured aliens who spoke a perplexing language based on metaphors and imagery. “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra.” “Shaka, when the walls fell.”
Our new friend, Jonathan, broke into an entire scene of dialogue from that episode, and then he deconstructed the language, all of us delighting in the gorgeousness of the writing. Jonathan’s joy in the imagery and metaphors was palpable. This whole moment probably lasted twenty minutes, but it is etched in my memory.

Jonathan was sunshine and light, but he was also, apparently, darkness. My friend Susan said it well: “I don’t know where to put the questions”.
But what I do know is this: Jonathan was loved. And he will not be forgotten.

A very tough loss for you all, our thoughts and prayers are with you, Doug and Daphne

Some of my best high school memories include Jonathan. I don’t think I’d have made it through chemistry if I didn’t have Jonathan there to make it fun. So very sorry for your loss.

My thoughts are with all of Jonathan’s close family and friends. He was one of the most brilliant and funny people I ever knew. He commanded a room in the most friendly, fun way possible.

Emma and Reema and Sandy and Shawn and Praveen, our hearts are with you during this very difficult and sad time in your lives, we are so so sorry for your lose, Johnathon will be missed by all who all knew and loved him. Hold all your memories close to your hearts. God Bless.

Maxine (Lawrence) Drake & Wade Drake

Emma we are very sorry to hear of your loss .Our deepest sympathies and condolences are sent to you.

Jonathan was an amazing person, full of life and positivity. We are all shocked and deeply saddened. We pray for strength for his family and friends during this very difficult time. Our condolences to Reema, Praveen, Sandy and Shawn Bhasin and to the entire Butler family. Sending lots of love and prayers.

Emma, Alison, and all the family, I am so sorry for your loss. My heartfelt condolences.

I met Jonathan in the early 90’s at Memorial University. He was quite the character. He was extremely intelligent, funny and kind, and I liked him from the moment I met him. I will always remember him with a smile. Rest in Peace.

Alison, I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your beloved brother, Jonathan. Sending condolences and sympathy to you and your family during this most difficult time.

Emma, Alison, and family – there are no words for this immense loss. I hope that you are able to find comfort in the coming days. So many people are sending you love. May Jonathan rest in peace. Xoxo

It was such a pleasant surprise when Jonathan moved in next door last year. A sweet, kind and enjoyable neighbour. A small glimpse of the man everyone is missing.

So sorry for your loss my deepest sympathy to all the family

I was so saddened to hear this terrible news today. My sympathy and love to Emma, Alison and the entire family. Such a loss of a talented and kind man.

My condolences to the Butler family. I remember Jonathan from Symonds Place. He was a fun and caring person. Lots of memories of birthday parties and summers playing in the trailer camper parked in the driveway. My heart goes out to you all.

So saddened to hear of Jonathan’s passing. Such a bright and kind soul in high school. Sincerest condolences to his family and friends.

May your memories of Jonathan comfort you at this time. May his spirit live forever in your hearts and minds.

So sorry to hear of Jonathan’s passing. He will be sadly missed by so many people. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends. God bless you all! Rest in Peace Jonathan.

I am so sorry for your loss. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

My thoughts and prayers go out to all the Butler family at this very sad time.
Lots of love and peace.

Condolences to the Butlers and Jons family.
Rest in Peace old friend.

so sorry to hear of Jonathan’s passing. he will be missed by many. thoughts and prayers to his family and friends.

My heart goes out to the entire Butler family. Jonathan and I were early childhood buddies. The kids in the neighbourhood shared many great adventures. Symonds Place was a great place to grow up where we passed the time playing baseball, and having backyard barbecues, along with games of Kick the Can and Spotlight. Fond events like these helped shape who Jonathan and the rest of us became. I am grateful for these memories but saddened to hear of the news of Jonathan’s passing. As one of the kids in the neighbourhood, whose families helped raise us all, my thoughts go out to you during this difficult time.

Alison, Emma and family, so sorry for your loss. Our thoughts are with you.

My heart goes out to Jonathan’s family and many friends. So many fond, fun memories from our junior high and high school days. May he Rest In Peace.

So Sorry to read this today, I grew up across the street from this amazing family, many of my childhood memories are filled with the exposure to the arts community, games of dress up, and just old fashioned fun! To read of the amazing accomplishments of Jonathan is not surprising to me, the world is a sadder place today because he is not here. Thinking of you all at this very sad time,

So very very sorry for your loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with you at this sad time. Rest in peace Jonathan

So very sorry for your loss. May light pertetual shine on you Jonathan and may you rest in peace. Hubert and Marguerite Locke

Emma and family
We are both shocked and saddened to hear of Jonathan’s death. Such an incredible and devastating loss to your family. We remember him at our home with Diane and their “crowd” when they were in school. Take care of each other; we will be in touch.
Bob and Jan

Shocked and saddened to hear this, Jonathan was a very sweet guy in highschool. Not surprised to hear of his professional accomplishments, such a bright person.

My sincere condolences to all his friends & family.

So Sorry to hear this, Condolences to the Family!

I am shocked to hear about the loss of my old friend. I have fond memories of him. My deepest condolences.

It is very sad news to hear of the passing of Jonathan . I grew up living on the next street to the Butlers. I have such fabulous child hood memories of hanging at their home with all the local kids. My condolences to the family for your loss.

So terribly sorry to hear of this devastating loss, Emma. Please accept Paul’s and my deepest sympathies.

Sending love and sympathy to th family. I have so many wonderful memories of Jonathan from years ago. An incredible tragedy that he gone so early…I am so sorry.

My deepest Condolences to Johnathan’s family and friends. This comes at a great shock as I will always have great memories from Johnathan back in high school. Watching him grow as predicted a amazing individual and friend.
I will miss you old friend., you will be missed.

Sincere condolences to your family. Jonathan was a wonderful man loved by your family and many friends.

I am so very sorry to hear this news. I remember meeting Jonathon when Alison and I were at grad school. It was fun to go into Toronto and visit with Alison’s cool older brother who was working on his PhD at the time. I remember him as so charming and full of life. Emma, my heart is breaking for you; no parent should have to endure such loss. Sending much love to you all. XO