On June 3, 2019 Yvonne D. Butzon left us for a reunion with her loving husband, Dr. Roderick C. Butzon and her eldest son, Frederic M. Butzon. A few days after her death the world would remember the bravery and sacrifice that would lead to liberation for an occupied Europe. Yvonne was born on May 14, 1923, to Francis and Alice Saliou of Lyon, France. Her early years included family swimming excursions to the beaches of Dinard near Saint-Malo where she and her sister would swim in the Atlantic.
Later Yvonne would become an eyewitness to history and liberation. She would not speak about her war time experiences until prompted, but when asked she would relay stories of loss that included her mother who fell ill and could not obtain needed medical care under German rule. On another occasion she commented on seeing Nazi officers on the sidewalks of Lyon and how she and her fellow French citizens would cross the street so as to not come to their notice. Despite these hardships Yvonne said she was always sure of liberation and when asked when she knew liberation was at hand she simply sang in her beautiful voice “three shorts and a long”, V for victory.
Now if this story ended here you would think Yvonne had lived a pretty exciting life. We now know the adventure was just getting started. In 1948, with the assistance of her sister Raymonde, and husband Wally Boulger, Yvonne left war torn Europe and journeyed to Grand Forks, North Dakota, on a six-month visa. In a chance meeting on a Grand Forks bus that would be hard to believe in fiction she met her chevalier, one Roderick Charles Butzon, a young returning veteran. Yvonne returned to France in the summer of 1949 and Rod followed her after graduation from the University of North Dakota. They were married on September 1, 1950, and honeymooned in France where Rod met his new French family. Upon returning to the United States, Rod started school to become a doctor of optometry and Yvonne helped him build his practice first in Enderlin and then Lisbon North Dakota while raising seven children at home. Yvonne found time to be a regular children’s story teller at the Lisbon Library and she was instrumental in founding the Fort Ransom Summer Art Colony. Yvonne would not return to her native France until 18 years later when she introduced her eldest, Suzanne, to Grampa Saliou. In 1971 the entire family traveled to Europe so Yvonne’s French family could meet their French speaking American cousins. The family of nine traveled Europe for 10 weeks in a VW van complete with camping gear and a grub box full of peanut butter.
Rod was the rock of Yvonne’s life, but that rock was used to build the foundation of her life which was her children. Yvonne’s love of her children was, of course, special, but she simply loved all children. If given a chance, she would hold a small baby and sing to them in French. If out of the blue you find yourself humming a French lullaby, you may have met Yvonne Butzon. Yvonne’s life was filled with adventure because she was willing to follow Rod’s lead which included travel, skiing, sailing, and somethings just downright dangerous. However, she fully returned the favor by opening to him the world of art and all that encompassed. Yvonne’s children were her foundation, but the house she built was one of art and fine culture for her family.
Her artistic endeavors knew few limitations and in June of this year the family represented her in celebrating 60 years of continuous participation in the 60th Midwestern Invitational Exhibition of Fine Art at the Rourke Art Gallery & Museum, Moorhead, Minnesota. She is the only exhibitor to do so. At the time of her passing she was planning for the 61st Midwestern in collaboration with a fellow artist. Yvonne has done work in oil, watercolor, mixed media, and even tried bronze casting along with Rod. After taking a short welding class with Yvonne, Rod inquired about his new skills. The instructor looked him in the eye and said, “you, not so good, but your wife has promise”. Yvonne was on a first name basis with artists far and wide and it was surprising how often just the mention of her first name to someone in the art community brought recognition of her works.
Yvonne passed peacefully in the house she loved and shared with Rod and her children where she was surrounded by the art she so much loved. She lost her knight in 2017 after 67 years of marriage, and her son, Frederic, in 2018. Despite these losses she remained strong and optimistic to the end.
Yvonne Denise Butzon leaves her six children, Suzanne Butzon (Jim Coles), Monique Butzon, Madeleine Butzon, Stephen Butzon (Caroline Cho), Christophe Butzon (Liezl), and Luc Butzon as witnesses to her life’s journey. She is also survived by her grandchildren, Arin Butzon, Justin Butzon, and Logan Butzon. The family will celebrate Yvonne’s life at the Lisbon Park Pavilion, Sandager Park, Lisbon, North Dakota, on August 24, 2019, starting at 12:30 p.m.
To draw you must close your eyes and sing. Pablo Picasso All I did was to look at what the universe showed me, to let my brush bear witness to it. Claude Monet Of all the artists I know (and very few of them are dull) by far the most interesting and exciting is Yvonne Butzon who not only paints with great zest and verve, but lives the same way. Kay Can- Fargo Forum
Vive La France!