Harriet was born in Denver, Colorado on October 29, 1923, the daughter of James Robinson and Agnes Hogan Robinson. When her mother died of ptomaine poisoning two years later, Harriet and her big brother, James Robinson Jr., went to live with various relatives in St. Paul, MN and Cheyenne, WY. Her father, worked for the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. The Great Depression of 1929-1939 shaped and marked her childhood. A child of God who loved the Lord - always!
Returning to Denver after the death of her aunt, Leela Hogan Neely, Harriet lived with Uncle Harry Edward Neely; then with her grandmother, Janie Priscilla Mahalia Hancock Hogan, who she claimed was the greatest influence in her life. When Harriet was 12, her grandmother died. She was raised by her extended family: her cousins, Frances, Elizabeth "Sis", Nora Jane, George, Harvey, and Harold Neely.
Harriet received her education largely through Denver Public Schools, attending
Whittier Elementary School, Manual High School, and Emily Griffith Opportunity School.
While working at the Welton Street Cafe, she fell in love with the chef, Charles Wesley Butcher (d.2013). She was a remarkable mother, an outstanding member of her church, a well-respected member of her community, and a favorite figure on Denver's entertainment scene, as the founder of the Park Hill Tappers, a group of eight women who performed in local schools and retirement homes for many years.
Harriet was PTA President at Columbine Elementary, Cub Scout leader, election official, a vital member of her church choir, and a founding member of the Spiritual Project Choir, which is dedicated to the preservation of the Negro spirituals. She was awarded the Mayor's Award for Excellence in Arts & Culture.
Harriet Butcher's contributions to the Denver community are many and multi-faceted. An avid jazz fan, she appeared in a Colorado Public Broadcasting documentary, Jazz on Five Points, highlighting Denver's jazz history, contributed her unique teaching talents to the International Tap Association and Women in Tap. One of the proudest moments of her professional career was appearing with Sammy Davis, Jr., at the Roxy Theater.
Last year, she teamed up with two octogenarians in a No Credits Production, Inc. video presentation, sharing the history on the former site of the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA raising awareness of new residents about Five Points. She loves Denver, Five Points and was always eager to immerse herself in opportunities to learn & share more of the Blair Caldwell African-American Research Library. What an amazing woman. If we could live a small portion of our lives the way she did.
Harriet was a woman of mettle. Successfully overcoming challenges in her life, such as being one of the first African-American sales clerks in downtown Denver, and working as a safe deposit clerk at the American National Bank in Denver. With characteristic determination, if she found herself in a job in which she needed training, she would immediately enroll in the appropriate courses at the Emily Griffith Opportunity School. She retired from the City & County of Denver where she had worked as an accounting clerk in the Department of Social Services. Without a pause, she went on to yet another career – advertising - including billboards, bank brochures, and healthcare videos nationwide.
The key of life - she was always eager to see the unseen, hear the unspoken, and write the unwritten. She even played piano by ear. The vibrations of life, of people connecting her to Women in Tap; Taps Are Talking; another opportunity to learn and grow. She found herself on the cover of the International Tap Association publication. She loved to write.
Don't cheat yourself on the blessings of having the natural ability to turn awesomeness into sheer delight (slavery to rythmetic sounds) AND Don't let nobody tell you that "Blues" and Jazz are two different things – or syncopation or gospel or spiritual or anything soulful is not JAZZ; it is. Not History – it is not even international acclaim, something to adhere to!!
Harriet Butcher will truly be missed. She was preceded in death by her brother, James Robinson, Jr; she leaves to cherish her memory three children: Charles Butcher, Jr. (Linda), Earl Butcher; and Angela Reid (Thomas). Grandchildren: Djuana "Fay" Washington (Ron); Quincy Harp (Dorota); Charles Butcher III; Sarah Reid Miller (Lance); Vanessa Harp Merchant (Christopher); Thomas Reid III; Calvin Harp (Jennifer); Marcus Butcher; Alexandria Butcher; Erik Camacho and Reuben Camacho. Great-Grandchildren: Floyd DuBois; Trevion Henderson; Chloe Butcher; Riley Butcher and Sierra Miller. Nephews: Darnell Robinson, Harry Robinson, David Robinson (d.); Cousins: Nora Jane Neely Robinson; Neely Morris; Bess Turner (Roger); Nora Robinson; Lee Ona Morris; and Stan Morris and a host of other cousins, loving relatives, and friends.
We are saddened to inform you that our dear mother, grandmother, aunt and cousin. Harriett passed away Sunday, March 26, 2017. Please pray for us as we mourn for this loss. Matthew 5:4 We do know that she is now eternally with Our Lord.