Aklan town grieves loss of Precious Moments creator Samuel John Butcher

Jun Aguirre

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Aklan town grieves loss of Precious Moments creator Samuel John Butcher

CREATOR. American artist Samuel John Butcher and the Precious Moments characters he created.

Precious Moments' official website

The American artist behind the Precious Moments figurines left a lasting impact in Aklan, especially through the resort he built and operated in New Washington town

AKLAN, Philippines – The small, close-knit community of New Washington is mourning the loss of Samuel John Butcher, the American artist who created the popular Precious Moments figurines and characters. 

Butcher, who passed away on May 20 in the United States, at the age of 85, left a mark on the hearts of many people in Aklan, particularly through the enchanting Sampaguita Gardens resort, which he built and once operated in New Washington town.

“It is with profound sadness that the Municipality of New Washington mourns the passing of Mr. Sam Butcher, the beloved founder of Precious Moments and the visionary behind the creation of our cherished Sampaguita Gardens resort…. Mr. Butcher’s impact on New Washington is immeasurable, and his memory will be forever etched in the hearts of all who experienced the beauty of Sampaguita Gardens,” New Washington Mayor Jessica Panambo said on Tuesday, May 21.

Many people in New Washington said Butcher’s life demonstrated the profound impact of art and love. His creations, from the Precious Moments figurines to the enchanting Sampaguita Gardens, brought light and joy to many people around the world.

Butcher’s journey of touching hearts began in the 1970s when he started drawing the iconic teardrop-eyed children, which he later named “Precious Moments.” These endearing characters first appeared on inspirational greeting cards and posters in 1975 and then as figurines in 1978.

His dream reached its pinnacle in 1989 with the construction of the Precious Moments Chapel in Carthage, Missouri in the US, a place where many people have found inspiration and solace.

Butcher’s love for New Washington was evident in every corner of the 2.6-hectare Sampaguita Gardens, which he opened in June 2003. Although the resort closed its doors on September 1, 2019, its spirit continues to resonate with the community. 

Architecture, Building, Clock Tower
BUCTHER’S RESORT. Precious Moments creator Samuel John Butcher’s Sampaguita Gardens in New Washington, Aklan.

Dr. Ruffy Yu, a Filipino-American entrepreneur inspired by Butcher’s Sampaguita Gardens, said, “Because of this, I decided to come up with my own resort hoping to also provide employment opportunities for the residents.”

Yu’s Maria Mercedes Resort and Convention Center, a 4.4-hectare inland haven, opened to the public on February 28, carrying forward Butcher’s legacy of community and creativity.

Jessie Reyes, a former Sampaguita Gardens marketing staff, remembered Butcher for his warm smile. 

“I will never forget his generosity to his employees,” Reyes said 

Butcher, according to Reyes, had occasional mood swings, but he always knew how to make amends and show his appreciation to his employees.

“He touched our lives in ways that words cannot fully capture,” Reyes said.

Panambo recalled, “The resort he created touched the lives of residents of New Washington and brought joy to visitors who came from far and wide. His legacy will forever be intertwined with New Washington’s history.”

Butcher’s passing is not only a loss for New Washington but for countless people worldwide who have been touched by his work. 

The Precious Moments company paid tribute to him on its Facebook page, stating, “Although the sorrow is great, it is our prayer that the appreciation and celebration of his legacy be even greater – the legacy of his glory-filled life, the countless blessings he bestowed upon the millions of lives he touched, and the incredible fulfillment of his life’s mission: to share God’s gift of love with the world.” –Rappler.com

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