It was with great sadness that we learned of the death of Paul Rice on Friday, November 8, 2013. Paul was a member of the Georgia and North Carolina state button clubs and a member of the National Button Society.
Paul became involved in buttons when he inherited his grandmother’s button collection. As a retired Navy engineer, his keen mind sought order and organization and he would ultimately establish one of the most comprehensive online button resources available today, Button Country. This website, free to the public and now managed by the National Button Society, gives visual representation to over 6,000 buttons classified in the Blue Book. One of its most stunning features is the ability for the viewer to “roll over” each button and see it flip to reveal the back of the button.
Paul served as the National Button Society Division IV Chair, researching and categorizing button-related specialties such as buckles and clasps, button covers, shoe button covers, button hooks, costume trimmings, links, studs, netsuke and Obi Dome. He directed a 60-member group effort to review and revise Division IV and his articles in the National Button Bulletin on each of the sections provide valuable historical background.
As a very active member of the Central NC Button Club, Paul routinely drove 3-4 hours to join meetings in Charlotte and Greensboro. He created and managed the NC state website. He wrote numerous articles for the North Carolina State Bulletin and created posters, advertising pieces and attendee programs for the state show. He also took pictures of the trays and the events at the state show and gave the main education program several times. I will never forget his presentation of the “Mikado.” Interspersed with well-researched facts about the Gilbert & Sullivan show, Paul treated us to music from the Mikado, explaining the story, the characters and the origination of the buttons produced at the time. He researched button patents and devised new mounting methods for Division IV button-related specialties. His mind was never at rest, and he seemed to have more energy than all the rest of us put together.
Paul is sorely missed by button collectors both here and abroad. He loved working with the Junior collectors, he loved collaborating with other collectors and he had a tremendous commitment to making collecting accessible to everyone.
Paul is survived by his wife of 52 years, Mary “Gene” Rice, in Evans, Georgia, a son, a daughter, six granddaughters, and one great-granddaughter.
You can read the National Button Society Memorial for Paul Rice here, which includes comments from collectors who knew and loved him.