Since November, a makeshift memorial site has stood near mile marker 263 on Padre Island. That’s where the remains of James and Michelle Butler were found in November 2019.
The Butler’s are a couple from New Hampshire, who were killed in the Coastal Bend in October. Island residents created the memorial as a way to honor the couple, and they’ve maintained the site ever since.
However on Monday, the U.S. and Navy flags flying at the memorial site carried more weight. Family members of James Butler say he served in the U.S. Navy for 21 years.
Robert Algeo, a U.S. Coast Guard veteran, visits the site at least once a week. He cleans the area and even shares photos online for the Butler’s family back in New Hampshire.
“It's a beautiful place” said Algeo. “The people from New Hampshire, they see the postings, and I keep the pictures going. And they just love it.”
Algeo never met the Butler’s, but says he maintains the area because he feels a connection to their family despite being more than 2,000 miles away.
“Somebody violated our space here, everybody’s space,” said Algeo. “But they really violated this particular couple’s, whose theme was ‘because nice matters.’”
It’s the first Memorial Day without her brother James, but Deborah Van Loon says not a day goes by that they don’t remember their loved ones.
“We’re just taking it one day at a time, and going through the motions, and remembering our loved ones every single day, and today especially,” said Van Loon.
Van Loon told KRIS 6 she’s also thankful that Algeo and other island residents are taking care of their loved ones’ memorial.
“He’s doing a fantastic job and he posts it online, so that all of us can share it,” said Deborah Van Loon, James’ sister. “And it’s just absolutely beautiful. We think that the community down there in
Corpus Christi are a god send and we appreciate, so much, everything that they do.” Eventually, they all hope justice will be served.
“It’s just a tragic thing, an evil thing that happened to the Butler’s,” said Algeo. “I’m looking forward to the day when justice happens and it's all resolved and I'll be here until then.”
Organizers have started a GoFundMe page to help defray some of the costs of helping maintain the memorial at the beach. More information can be found here.
The investigation looking into the Butler’s deaths is still ongoing.