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We're gonna miss you, Elaine Butler

OK. Elaine Butler story. A typical morning in the 06320, which means Elaine walks into Muddy Waters, the city's central artery for commiseration and conversation. Throws down her keys and phone, heaves a sigh and waits in line for iced coffee and a banana.

Unwittingly, another patron sits in the seat closest to where Elaine dumped her effects and begins talking to yours truly, who is already at the table.

Elaine walks over and says, "you'll have to get up. I was sitting there," with a stare that could peel paint. Mr. Softie here is thinking, "can't we all just get along?"

Then I got to thinking more. It's exactly what we loved about Elaine Catherine Butler. We could all use some of Elaine's chutzpah, given the spike in the daily dose of dopes we encounter. Maybe that's why an informal poll Tuesday decided a combination of humor and sass — Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Goldie Hawn or Megan Mullally — would play Elaine in the movie about Mornings at Muddy's.

Our whole morning family will miss her dearly. Elaine died last week at 56, leaving us without an integral member of the floor show.

Elaine had a deep sports background, well beyond her dedication to the Red Sox and Redskins. She was the first female to play Little League baseball in Connecticut, per her obituary, but was perhaps more noted for coaching softball and basketball in New London. Mena Buscetto, a St. Bernard graduate, began her softball career playing for Elaine.

Mena's tribute last week:

"One of most important and influential people in my life unexpectedly left this world," Mena wrote. "'Coach Elaine' was my very first softball coach in Little League and had the confidence in me to pick me as the starting pitcher for the 9/10 New London All-Star Team, only ever having seen me pitch one inning during the regular season. I'll never forget that year.

"During my very first all-star game (and my first full game ever as a pitcher), I was extremely nervous. Bases loaded. No outs. Full count. Coach Elaine comes out, puts her arm around me and asks: 'Have you seen any good movies lately?' I remember looking at her like she was crazy. What kind of question was that right in the middle of an intense game?

"But that was Coach Elaine. Her tactic to get my mind off the high-pressure situation and get out of my own head is something I took with me throughout my nine-year softball career.

"I idolized her as a kid. She was an integral part of my childhood and our family. I'll never forget the nights spent on our deck on Pequot Avenue strategizing over All-Star brackets, the celebrations of big milestones in all of our lives which she never missed, her smile, her hugs, the sound of her voice as a first base coach yelling at me to 'GET HERE' after I got a good hit. She is unforgettable.

"Coach — I hope you know how much you are loved. You're one in a million and I will absolutely never forget you or the enormous impact you had on my life. Thank you for being you. Love you always."

Not sure anyone could ever say it better than that.

Elaine sustains the old line about never forgetting the people who give you so much to remember. Whether coaching kids, doing her life's vocation — conservator and guardian in the state court system — or just yelling about the world with all of us every morning, Elaine lives on through all of us. We may never look at Goldie Hawn again and not think of E.C. Butler.

Times like this remind us all over again that the only constant among us is change. Go tell that person you care. Because as Aerosmith once warned, "

"Sing with me, if it's just for today; Maybe tomorrow, the good Lord will take you away."

There is comfort in the following quote from author Vicki Harrison: "Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim."

And so we dive in without our friend. We're gonna miss you, Elaine.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro


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