PROVINCETOWN — Loretta Butehorn is a lot of things to a lot of people.
“The life of any party.”
“Someone who just gives and gives.”
“If I were stranded on a desert island, the one I would want with me.”
Those are the ways Peg Reynolds, Marty Hassell, and Carol Macdonald at the Provincetown Council on Aging describe Butehorn.
She’s modest, too. In an email to the Independent about her new status as a Provincetown Senior of the Year, she writes, “I really don’t deserve being one.” Though she adds, it’s “an honor nonetheless.”
Butehorn, 78, moved to town with her partner, Susan Downey, in 2018 after a 40-year career as a psychologist and homeopath. She also taught health psychology at Boston College.
She has found plenty to keep her busy here. Butehorn wakes up every day at 4:30 a.m. — “as soon as it’s light out” — to walk her two standard poodles, Finn and Blue. She still sees patients via Zoom for about 10 hours a week. And she hasn’t stopped teaching. Her classes at the Council on Aging have spanned subjects from racism to alternative medicine to “dealing with difficult people.” She once gave a “travelogue” talk about a trip to Churchill, Canada, where she encountered polar bears.
Carol Macdonald, a former Provincetown Senior of the Year (2019), has taken many of Butehorn’s courses. Her favorite is the Unusual Book Club, which Butehorn started last year.
“A lot of people don’t like book clubs because there’s pressure to read a book they might not like,” Butehorn says. In this group, members address topics instead of reading a selected book, bringing a variety of writers into the discussion.
“It got me really concentrating on reading again,” Macdonald says. Without it, she says, she’d “just be reading English mysteries.”
Butehorn says it’s the participants who make her classes interesting. People bring their very rich backgrounds, she says, which leads to wonderful discussions.
Outside of teaching, Butehorn is active at the Unitarian Universalist Meeting House, where she has been attending since she moved to Provincetown. She is a coordinator of the church’s safety committee, which works to address any health or safety concerns that may arise.
Butehorn is also a member of the town’s animal welfare committee. Right now, the group is developing a flyer designed to educate tourists with dogs on ways to keep their animals safe during the summer.
Good times, for Buttehorn, involve good food. “She is always cooking and always hosting people,” says Hassell, who is a friend. “Whenever she goes anywhere, she always cooks something to bring.”
Butehorn signs off on her emails with a short poem by the Persian poet Rumi: “Be a lamp or a lifeboat or a ladder. / Help someone’s soul heal. / Walk out of your house like a shepherd.” They are words she lives by.