BUTLER — Susie, Butler’s pet deer, hasn’t been seen for 40 years, but she was a prominent presence at Butler’s Harvest Festival Saturday.
Eight murals, created by local and area residents, remembered Susie and her adventures throughout the community in the 1970s.
Collectively, the murals generated $651 in bids — plus an anonymous donation of $150 — with proceeds going to the Butler Main Street Association.
A rendering by Ken Morrow depicts Susie as she is about to embark throughout downtown Butler. His painting received the judge’s choice award. It was purchased by Seth Gump for $175.
A work by Amy Buchs, a prominent mural painter in DeKalb County, won the people’s choice vote. Buchs’ painting sold for $100, purchased by the Butler Fire Department.
Emma Culbertson and Cindy McEntarfer created a beautiful rendering of Butler’s famous deer, along with her history in the community.
Susie wasn’t just any deer. She was fairly tame, calm, and grew quite fond of the attention she received from children and adults alike, making frequent visits to the Park Lane area, the former Butler Elementary School on North Beech Street or leading her fawns throughout town.
To caution visitors and her special status in the community, signs were erected, “Butler City Limits, Home of Susie, Our Pet Deer. Please drive carefully.”
She even inspired a song, “Susie,” written by longtime DeKalb Eastern elementary music teacher Judy (Washler) Moughler.
“The first time I saw her, I was looking out the doors by the kindergarten room and I saw this deer walking down the sidewalk with these kids,” she said. “Some of the students in the choir asked me, ‘Why don’t you write a song about Susie the Deer?’
“That’s how it got started. I was sitting it home, some of the words starting coming, and I just started writing it out and putting it together.”
The first verse and chorus are: “One day while I was walking to school, a very pleasant morning so nice and cool. I heard some funny footsteps close behind, and when I turned around, who should I find? Susie, our pet deer, trotting along without a single care. Susie, our beautiful deer. My but we’re so glad you’re here!”
“Basically, I just told the story,” Moughler said. “She would come up to the school. Sometimes we’d be in the middle of class, and we’d go to the window and feed her and pet her or whatever.
“It was just a lot of little things that you saw happening, I just put them all in the song.”
Because there were no recording studios in Fort Wayne at the time, Moughler, her two sisters and two brothers traveled to Indianapolis to do a proper recording, along with two religious songs she had written, “Mighty King” and “Gifts of Love.”
“When (Susie) would come up, it was neat to pet her, feed her and watch the kids and their reactions to that,” she remembers. “They were always excited to see her. If we were in class and she would come up to the windows, that immediately took everybody’s attention.”
Needless to say, Susie was an important part of Butler’s fabric.
Susie was discovered as a fawn on May 14, 1971 when Butler Police were called to the Eastside football field to rescue a baby doe caught in the fence. She was one of two fawns orphaned when their mother was killed by earth-moving equipment at Butler’s sanitation plant.
By June, the fawns — named Susie and Becky — began appearing around the community and were fed by children.
In January 1972, donations were collected for special signs at Butler city limits, which were erected that April.
Susie gave birth to eight sets of fawns over the years, and they would regularly accompany her on visits, but Becky, less social than her sister, wasn’t seen after March 1972.
When Susie was hit in her jaw by an arrow, Eastside students made signs, “Remember Susie, No Hunting” around the Butler area to protect the community’s favorite deer.
In January 1976, Susie went missing. Reports indicated she had been wounded by an arrow again and was spotted around Hicksville, Ohio. The next month, Butler Police received a call that Susie was seen in Paulding, Ohio.
Pat Oberlin, who regularly shared news of Susie’s exploits on WIFF radio, and Butler resident Wilma Capp, drove to Paulding to try to lure Susie back home. She was tracked and seen traveling back home. By March 8, Susie had returned to Butler.
The last confirmed sighting of Susie, according to the Culbertson/McEntarfer painting, was Dec. 26, 1981.
While Susie is no longer around, her impact remains today.