6th Annual Stuart Butler Award Goes to Johanna Camenisch

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Kentucky Heartwood was thrilled to present the 6th Annual Stuart Butler Memorial Award to Johanna Camenisch of Louisville on November 5. Johanna’s generosity, compassion, and dedication to justice have left an indelible mark on generations of school children and their parents, peace activists, women’s rights advocates, war protesters, and environmental supporters. 

As a young teacher in Midway, Kentucky, Johanna and her class lowered the flag to honor Martin Luther King on the day that she believed should be established as a national day of remembrance. When the principal noticed, he went out and raised the flag. In response, Johanna marched out and lowered the flag again.

After learning about the environmental dangers of released helium balloons, Johanna’s third grade class at the Brown School successfully lobbied the city of Louisville to pass an ordinance banning balloon release.

Johanna’s tradition of passing out Arbor Day seedlings to her students have helped create an urban forest in Louisville. Former student Kristen Munro-Leighton described the towering tree in her yard that she planted in elementary school because of Johanna’s encouragement.

In the early 70s Johanna and Nancy Gall Clayton single-handedly provided abortion counseling and support to women before the passage of Roe v. Wade. After convincing the phone company to list her home phone as an emergency hotline number, Johanna fielded calls 24 hours a day.

From Cambodia and Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan, Johanna has advocated for peace and supported the community of pacifists. Her efforts with the Louisville Peace and Justice Committee protesting the Iraq War have been permanently archived by the Filson Society in Louisville. Speaker and long time friend Joyce Evans related a story about Johanna’s daughter Chrissy, whose elementary school class was asked if they had ever been to Washington D.C. Chrissy raised her hand and asked, “To visit or to protest?”

Born the eldest of 12 in the farming community of Stanford, Johanna was shaped by the faith, hard work, and love of her family, sister Carmy Jordan described.

Thanks go to many people for making the evening unforgettable. Karen Jones and Beverly Ferrell, award winners in their own right, provided the music.

People loved the food! Thanks to Wenchels for lip-smacking cole slaw; Alfalfa’s Restaurant and Mark Schimmoeller for the tasty chili; Bluegrass Bakery for the bags of bread; Connie Lemley for the delicious salad greens; Betsy Camenisch for the green beans; Johanna for the cranberries, funeral salad, sweet potato casserole; and Trina Peiffer and Laurie Schimmoeller for the cookies and chocolate. To all our amazing Kentucky Heartwood Council members who cooked the rest of the meal, cheers!

The gift certificate from Good Foods enabled us to get coffee, creamer, cider, and olives. Thank you!

Tona Barkley and Bluebird Whitehead and Levi Gordon loaned us the lovely tablecloths. Johanna and her sisters provided the pumpkin centerpieces for every table. Ella Lemley-Frye sent her miniature gourds and pumpkins as decorations. 

To our speakers Laurie Schimmoeller, Nancy Gall Clayton, Joyce Evans, Helen Roach Rench, Nancy Theiss, Anne Linden Steele, Don Pratt, Dorothy Converse, Carol & Harold Trainer, Judy Munro-Leighton, Trina Peiffer, Jim Chatham, Steve Leavell, Tiana French, Kristen Munro-Leighton, Carmy Jordan: you uplifted us all. Thank you for your stories, your memories, and your extraordinary work.

Stu’s family, Linda and Emily Collier and Debbie Monbeck, presented Johanna with the award of two birdhouses made by biologist Wayne Davis. The cash award of $500 was, at Johanna’s request, distributed among Kentucky Resources Council, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, Smile Train, and Coalition of Immokalee Farm Workers. 

The event could not have happened without the coordination and work of Levi Gordon and Bluebird Whitehead and the rest of the Kentucky Heartwood Council.  And finally, thanks go to the Unitarian Universalist Church for welcoming us to their beautiful facility. Many people helped clean up, including Johanna, who stayed until the last fork was dried!

In all, the evening raised over $1,600. We will now be able to add a thousand dollars to our endowment fund for forest protection, bringing it to over $11,000!