Frank “Butch” David McKee of Cedar Grove, Tennessee passed away peacefully at his home on March 31, 2023, while storms and tornados passed nearby through the night. Attending were his wife Alice and brother Tony. He was preceded in death by his parents Betty Jo and Charlie McKee of Milan, Tennessee, brothers Charlie Jr. and Billy Wayne, former wife Mary and nephew Jason.
Born in Pueblo, Colorado in 1942, Butch was the oldest of five children. His paternal grandparents Allie Fair and Bob Taylor McKee lived on a farm in Bargerton, Tennessee, and his uncle Robert L. McKee was a well-known local political leader.
Butch attended high school in Lexington, Tennessee, where he played football. After serving in the Air Force he attended Murray State University in Kentucky, earning a Bachelor’s degree in History. He also played football in both college and the Air Force. In higher education, he was one semester short of a Masters degree, and always regretted not completing this.
Butch trained to be an Air Traffic Controller in the Air Force on the Azores islands of Portugal. He served in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for 32 years. During the 1980s, he took a hiatus as owner of a bar and restaurant in Houston, Texas. He enjoyed booking sports bets, cooking BBQ brisket, and playing pool with friends and customers. Butch’s zest for life was shared with everyone around him; he enjoyed good food, fast cars, reading history, but most of all music. He sang and played guitar and had a friendship with the singer-songwriter Townes Van Zandt.
As the 1980s drew to a close, he returned to his career with the FAA; he “wrote the book” on teaching Air Traffic Controller skills at the FAA Oklahoma Academy. After several years of mentoring young controllers, he returned to Center work (high altitude/radar) duty in Boston, Massachusetts, where he could experience a different part of the country and ski during time off. He returned home to Tennessee in 1993 to live closer to his aging parents, transferring to Memphis International Airport to work at one of the busiest airports in the nation, due to FedEx “boxcar” traffic.
Butch met his wife Alice in Memphis, and their attraction was “at first sight.” Married in 1997, Alice moved from Mississippi, her childhood home, to Tennessee where they shared their life together. Her career as a doctor in Family Medicine flourished with the love and happiness of their relationship, and a similar enjoyment of all things rural.
Butch retired as an Air Traffic Controller in 2006. He resided happily on the wooded acreage in Cedar Grove, Tennessee which he shared with Alice. He designed their home overlooking a private spring-fed lake. His retired life was active amid many cherished pets, his shop and tractor, hunting, and taking care of the beautiful natural surroundings on the property.
Although cancer claimed his life, Butch felt fortunate to experience periods of good health before and during multiple battles with cancer, ending with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. He is survived by his wife, Dr. Alice R. McKee, M.D. and three step-children, Savannah (Jasper), Doy, and Acton; brother Tony and sister Karen; nieces Katherine, Hollie, Donna Kay, B.J. and Denna, nephews Zachary, Seth and Kevin. He was especially close to his nieces Katherine and Hollie, whose father Charlie Jr.—Butch’s youngest brother—died tragically. He was blessed with the friendship of his neighbor Jeff, a former Army Ranger, who enjoyed common interests such as music, improving their land, mechanical things, love of God, country and family. Butch left this life with heartfelt gratitude for the many cousins, family members and friends who loved and cared deeply for him.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to his favorite charity St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital at stjude.org/donate or mail to 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, TN 38105.
A memorial gathering will be held in Cedar Grove on May 6, 2023 from 4:00-7:00 p.m. For more information regarding the service, call Butch’s phone (731)694-2580 and leave a message so that Dr. Alice McKee can call you with the information.
Arrington Funeral Directors, 148 W. University Pkwy., Jackson, TN 38305, 731.668.1111, www.arringtonfuneralgroup.com