Obituary: Spencer Butterfield / Orthopedic surgeon formerly of Upper St. Clair

Dec 21, 1945 - Oct. 3, 2007

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A funeral will be held this morning for an orthopedic surgeon, formerly of Upper St. Clair, who had moved to the Cincinnati area.

The service for Dr. Spencer Butterfield, who died Oct. 3, will begin at 10 a.m. at Beinhauers, 2828 Washington Road, Peters.

Dr. Butterfield, 61, and his wife, Mary Beth Thomas, 62, died together last week of carbon monoxide poisoning in their newly built home in Clifton, Ohio.

"He was one of my very best friends in the world," said Dr. Michael Rogal of East Suburban Orthopedic Associates in Monroeville, where Dr. Butterfield had joined him as an associate in 2001.

The couple moved in 2005 so Ms. Thomas could take the position of assistant vice president at Cincinnati Children's Hospital. Dr. Butterfield had a practice with Wellington Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine.

"They had just moved into the new house," said Dr. Rogal. "It's a terrible tragedy. No one can say for sure what happened, but since the house has geothermal heating, there was no need for carbon monoxide monitors." Exhaust from a car left running in a garage is one possible cause, he added.

Planning to speak in memory of Dr. Butterfield during today's "grand rounds" of orthopedic surgeons at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, he had the highest praise for his friend.

"He was an incredible guy," Dr. Rogal said, adding that he and Dr. Butterfield trained with other now pre-eminent orthopedic surgeons at the University of Pittsburgh under Dr. Albert Ferguson. After leaving Pittsburgh to practice in Connecticut, Dr. Butterfield returned to the city to work for more than 10 years with Allegheny General Hospital's early helicopter rescue trauma team, dealing with multiple orthopedic injuries.

"He was a special, special doctor. There was nobody like him," Dr. Rogal said. "He was the consummate professional, the consummate teacher, perhaps the most skilled trauma surgeon around."

He attributed Dr. Butterfield's skill to his gift of three-dimensional thinking.

"If someone broke their femur bone in half, he'd have it done perfectly in half an hour ... He was a phenomenal trauma surgeon," he said, adding that he was unflappable in the operating room, no matter what the chaos.

In Dr. Rogal's practice, he said, Dr. Butterfield got the most difficult cases.

At the same time, Dr. Butterfield had a humble, reserved personality, Dr. Rogal said.

"People in medicine, most of us are pretty egocentric ... but the feeling is universal among people who knew him: Spencer was humble, not self-serving."

Dr. Butterfield is survived by his daughter, Jennifer, and son, Matthew; two brothers, Eric and Stephen Butterfield; stepdaughters Rebecca Thomas and Sara Pappa, and stepsons Seth Thomas III and Michael Thomas.


Jill Daly can be reached at jdaly@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1596.


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