Dr. Julie Butler was a veterinarian with a big heart. She loved animals, but she also cared for people. She never turned anyone away from her animal hospital, even if they couldn't afford to pay.
"I think that she understood the difficulties that people go through," said Alex Howard, her son. "She had empathy."
Butler opened the 145th Street Animal Hospital in 1989 and for many years, it was the only full service animal clinic in Harlem. Things were rough in the beginning and so was the clientele at times.
"From poodles to pitbulls. When she opened up the animal hospital most of the people in the neighborhood were shocked as we were in the restoration stage. No one anticipated that one of the pioneers would be a veterinarian caring for animals," said Lloyd Williams, President of the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce.
Butler moved to Harlem with her husband after earning her doctorate in veterinary medicine from Cornell University.
Growing up in New Rochelle, NY she wanted to be a vet. After working for a couple of animal rights organizations she decided to open the hospital where she became a mentor to aspiring veterinarians. She later co-founded a non-profit to help pet owners with the cost of emergency care.
"It was just a testament to the type of person that she was. Not only in her business but just in general with her friendships and acquaintances, all of the hobbies that she had. All of the groups that she was a part of," said Howard.
Butler was also passionate about art and music and she loved to socialize. She had a great laugh and was very smart and funny.
The room felt vibrant and full when she was in it," Howard said. "Every birthday was her 35th birthday. She was just very fun. Very light hearted and just a true matriarch."
Butler was 62 when she died from complications related to the coronavirus. She leaves behind her husband, two children, four brothers and sisters, and many grateful pet owners.