1915 - 2008
Born in Englewood, New Jersey, U.S..
Married Decima May Knight in England.
Death Notice at stamfordadvocate.com
"Robert Easton Button, 93, of Old Greenwich, CT, passed away on Saturday, August 9, 2008, with his wife Decima of 62 years at his side.
He was the son of John Conyers Button and Olive Lyle Demarest of Englewood, NJ.
Bob was an insightful, caring, and motivational leader, with a proclivity for poetry, humor and irony. He was devoted to human values, social responsibility and thoughtful expression.
Bob Button began his career in communications, music and writing at Dartmouth College (Class of '36 - see below), where he was a member of the Casque and Gauntlet Honor Society. He went to work for NBC and obtained a law degree in 1939. He was a military intelligence officer in WWII and served on General Bradley's G-2 staff and General Eisenhower's Special Forces staff in Europe. He emerged from the military as a Colonel, having earned 2 Bronze Stars and 6 Battle Stars; and he was one of the first Americans to work on the Enigma code-breaking project at Bletchley Park, England.
After the war he returned to NBC where he pioneered the early programming and sales of television. In 1954 he left NBC to join the Defense Office of Special Operations and later served as Director of the Voice of America. He was a USIS Foreign Service Officer in NATO-Paris (1958-64), Executive consultant at COMSAT Corp (1965-1973), and Satellite Director at Teleprompter Corp. (1973-1975). He was cofounder and President of TransCommunications, Inc. in Greenwich (1975-1993) where he cofounded Cablevision of Connecticut.
His memberships included the Lions, Masons, Reserve Officers Association, American Legion, University Club, Old Greenwich Yacht Club, High Arctic Explorers Club, Broadcast Pioneers, and Playmakers of Connecticut.
He led a 17 piece swing band, known throughout the area as the Bob Button Orchestra, and he directed a 24 voice retired men's chorus (The Melody Men) and a ladies sextet (Button and Bows, and the Decibelles).
In 1999, he was named Community Leader of the Year in Greenwich.
A founding trustee of the American College of Paris, he taught continuing education courses at Columbia University, U Conn, and U Virginia.
He was a regular contributor to the Op-Ed pages of the Greenwich Time, and in 2004 he published his memoir Enigma in Many Keys, for which he received the Mark Twain Award from the Connecticut Press Club (2006).
Bob also received the SE CT Volunteer Organization 'Lifetime Achievement Award' in 2007.
Bob Button is survived by his English wife, Decima; his daughters Marilyn Button and Phyllis Whitten and her husband Richard; and five grandchildren: Diana, Christina, and Carolyn Whitten, and Alec and Brett Phillips. He is predeceased by his brothers, John and Donald, his sister Anne, and his daughter Allyson Button Phillips."
based on an 'untitled document at South Orange and Maplewood Public Schools (A biography written by Ziv Kennan, a student in Mr. Robinson's A.P. History Class.)
Robert E Button was born in 1915 and attended Columbia High School, in Maplewood, New Jersey. At Columbia, he excelled .. he ran track for three years .. was a member of the Parnassian Society, Traffic Committee, and Eligibility Committee .. Chairman of the junior Assembly and President of the senior class. He graduated in 1932.
Button attended Dartmouth, and graduated in 1936. Since then he has donated to the college every single year. (Over 60 years of donations.)
Button went on to Brooklyn Law School.
His first industry job was with NBC. Which he joined in 1940. .. his work there has been regarded as critical to the development of modern television and cable distribution systems. He worked at NBC on and off for the next 15 years.
In 1941, Bob was the first NBC employee to be drafted. During World War Two, Bob served in England (Where he met his wife, Decima,) Germany, and France. He attained the rank of Colonel, and was awarded two bronze stars. He played an important role in the decryption of Avis intelligence messages. Button’s time serving in the military was full of surprises, including a booby-trapped piano which, thankfully, he managed to survive. The military also gave Button a chance to play piano, which he has been doing since the age of five. Button has written a book titled Enigma in Many Keys about his military experiences; the book was published in 2004.
After World War Two, Button became involved with Voice of America .. He was director of that organization from 1956 to 1958. .. Button then moved to Paris to work for USIS; where he helped to found the American College in Paris.
From 1965 onwards Bob was involved in the development of the United States’ television infrastructure.
until the mid 1990’s Button was involved with COMSAT, teleprompter Corp, and American Trans Communications (where he was president). During this period he created the first domestic cable network.
In 1994 Button took a trip to Nepal in order to aid the government there in setting up a cable system.
He has also traveled to the magnetic north pole, an experience he found spiritually satisfying.
2004 saw publication of his autobiography, Enigma in Many Keys.
From the Foreword of 'Enigma in Many Keys'
by Peter Wescombe, Trustee, Bletchley Park Trust, Buckinghamshire, England.
"With characteristic modesty and charm, retired U.S. Army Colonel Robert Button weaves a wry wit and a degree of mystery into his life story, Enigma in many keys. A talented piano player, Bob arranges the narrative of his career as he does his music: allowing the various strains of his life to mingle into harmony. From the 'Ultra' top-secret ranks of World War II intelligence and high levels of diplomatic and civil service to the executive back rooms of broadcasting and a front seat at the launch of the first communications satellite, Bob Button has found himself in the right place at the right time with the right talents.
"Throughout the European campaign he was responsible for the safe handling of highly secret Ultra intelligence obtained in Bletchley Park, England, where German codes and ciphers, including Enigma, were successfully broken. A large part of Bob's auto biography autobiography is of his war years as recalled from memory and recorded in letters written to his parents from 1941–1945. Erudite letters track his life from U.S. Army draftee to senior intelligence liaison officer, from the UK through France on D-day +2 to the liberation of Paris, and eventually through Germany after the surrender. These remarkable letters by a soldier in his 20's, perceptive and detailed, and give a look at what went on outside of battle. In them we get a discerning yet sympathetic perspective of the northern Irish, English, and the continental Europeans. Bob shows a close affinity for the English, .. culminating in his marriage to British songstress Decima Knight.
" .. Rich descriptions and keen insights result from the author’s access to important people and places. Bob tells us for example, about the Irish castle owners, London Society folks, members of the British War Cabinet, and top American military commanders in whose company he moved. These characters became the subject of his letters home, and their memorable interactions and idiosyncrasies intertwined with musical and literary illusions make this a unique account of the war."
Excerpts from 'Enigma in Many Keys' - Bletchley Park etc.
21 April 1944 [getting ready for the Normandy landing]
"It is time to reconsider affairs.
|1.||Anne [my sister]. She is both well and provided for by George. Therefore, those being the two considerations I had in mind in 1942, I do not think it necessary to make any specific allowances out of my insurance. The principle is, should any insurance become valid, you do what you want with it, making Anne a present of whatever seems wise after any pressing matters are met.|
|2.||Based on nothing more than that she has been a good friend and musical companion, I should like Decima Knight to have a flat 250 pounds sterling, which would be a lot to her, and she has always earned her money the hard way. I admire her for it and therefore wish to make her a present.|
|3.||Take care of Ma Demarest without any mortgage consideration, out of the insurance.|
|4.||Make a present of a helpful sum to Aunts Helen and Jane. Otherwise I don't see the sense of making a lot of complicated arrangements with a mere twelve or thirteen thousand or whatever it is. If I were you I would abolish your mortgage. The very thought of 51, Mt. Ave. being under mortgage irks me.|
"Before I did retire, however, I had an unexpected opportunity to once again participate in the early pristine stage of developing a telecommunications system. The U.S government had taken an interest in the Kingdom of Nepal and wondered if I was available to travel thither to lend the Nepalese a helping hand in the slow crawl towards modernity by showing them how to install and operate a commercial cable television system hooked up to a South Asia positioned communications satellite. …
"Thus in 1994, the International Executive Service Corporation a quasi-governmental entity offered to send me to Kathmandu to get this project started. My wife, who had agreed to several migrations in the past, agreed once more, and we took off for the top of the world. While in Kathmandu I phoned Sir Arthur C. Clarke and was privileged to tell him that in bringing satellite-linked cable television to Nepal I was helping fulfil his 1945 prediction that satellite technology would abridge all national boundaries and cultures. Once again, he said ‘I told you so’."
Dartmouth College (Class of '36)