Arthur William “Butch” Lisenby died on May 10, 2021 at Liberty Commons, Chatham after a long illness. He was 63.
Born on Sept. 20, 1957 in Hyannis, the fourth son of the late William and Ethel Lisenby, he spent most of his adult life as manager of Provincetown Airport.
Butch had a peaceful and loving childhood, running around the Cobb Farm in South Truro. Col. Richard McGee, the farm patriarch, and the Tyler family, the next generation of owners, adored him. Butch’s mother was a housekeeper at the farm, where the colonel and the Tylers treated Butch as part of the family, the colonel in particular being a father figure to the bright young boy.
He never shied away from hard work, becoming one of the few to begin as a Cub Scout and ascend to the highest level of Eagle Scout. Later, he served as an assistant scout master. In his free time, he worked at Sonny’s Gas Station and saved enough money to buy his beloved white 1970 Ford LTD. After graduating from Provincetown High School in 1975, he completed a degree program at the Franklin Institute in Boston in the hopes of becoming an electrician.
But he was bitten by the PBA (Provincetown-Boston Airlines) bug. The Van Arsdale clan, who founded PBA, and the Pereira family, who worked for them, took Butch under their wings. Butch started working the ramp at the Provincetown Airport as a teenager, and he soon became the airport manager. He was a fixture there for the next 40-plus years. The names on the planes may have changed from PBA, to Eastern Express, to Continental Express, and, eventually, to Cape Air, but Butch’s leadership remained the same.
Dan Wolf, founder and CEO of Cape Air, which began operations in October 1989, said Butch “always had a twinkle in his eye” as he facilitated the arrival and departure of tens of thousands of passengers in Provincetown over the years. Although Butch did not like to fly, he loved planes and dedicated himself to the safe, efficient operation of the airport. “Butch Lisenby was Provincetown Airport,” said Wolf.
Richard Pereira said Butch “was my right-hand man in P’town in the 1970s. None better,” a point amplified by Lisa Morgan, a former PBA employee, in a Facebook post: “Butch was a great boss. He dealt with the disparate often times kooky personalities with the same humor and kindness.” Few others, suggested Jody Brown, a long-time friend and co-worker, would get up in the dead of winter in the middle of the night to plow the runways before the other employees arrived in the morning.
He was obsessed with Douglas DC-3s, the 36-PB, in particular. When the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum put together a show on the history of PBA, Butch donated much of the memorabilia.
A quiet man, Butch was dedicated to service. He was a volunteer firefighter, EMT, and member of the board of engineers of the Truro Fire & Rescue Squad. He had a subtle sense of humor, and placed the occasional well-timed zinger. He loved horror movies, riding the dunes, travel, hanging at Piggy’s, and watching the sunset at New Beach.
He had two great loves in his life: the first, his former wife, Lisa Block, with whom he shared a lifelong friendship, and Susan Avila, who was a close friend before becoming his loving life partner of 12 years, until her death in 2015. During their time together they loved watching football, spending snowstorms at the airport plowing and shoveling, and supporting the causes they believed in. He loved Sue’s girls, Christy Avila, Brittany Avila (who died in 2018), and Kali Maclauchlan (and husband Max) as his own. He delighted in being a grandfather to Anthony Thomas, Ryleigh Zarate, and Emily Maclauchlan.
He also leaves his PBA, PVC, and Cape Air families, his extended Lisenby family, and lifelong friends too numerous to mention.
He was predeceased by his brothers John, William Jr., and James Lisenby.
Lisa Block offers this summary of his life: “If you knew him, you were lucky. If you worked for him, life was good. If you were his friend, he was always there when you needed him. If he loved you, he changed your life forever.”
A memorial celebration will be held in the hangar of the Provincetown Airport on Sept. 19, 2021. Details are yet to be announced.
Donations in Butch’s honor may be made to the Cape Cod Firefighter/EMS Cancer Relief Fund, Box 1742, Provincetown 02657 or capecodffcancerrelief.com.