Paul Rice

Nov. 8, 2013

Paul was born and raised in southern California. He was introduced to buttons in the early 1940s by his grandmother, an avid collector and early member of the California State Button Society. After a 60 year gap, which included 22 years in the Navy and a subsequent project management career, he again became engaged with buttons when his grandmother’s collection was passed down to him. His primary button interests focus on educational projects and research. He designed and managed the Button Country website with the goal of helping newer collectors better understand how we organize and classify our buttons.  In 2010, with the collaboration of more than 70 members, he led the effort to bring greater visibility and clarity to Div IV, Related Specialties. He has authored a number of articles for the National Button Bulletin and presented programs at state, regional, and National shows.

In addition to preserving and displaying his collection, he was interested in button history and research. His study of “dress elevators” was published in the National Button Bulletin last December. His most recent projects, in addition to the Mikado, included the identification and cataloging of U.S Patents related to buttons. He was up to 1400 such patents issued from 1790 to 1940. He was also working on the digital restoration of the fascinating button mosaic art work created by Norman Engler, president of the Kansas State Button Society in the 1950s.

Before buttons Mr. Rice had thirty nine years of experience in the nuclear field with twenty-five years managing projects and organizations that include commercial nuclear power construction projects, upgrade and restart of DOE production reactors, project and corporate engineering organizations, and regulatory field offices. Executive management positions included Vice President and General Manager of the Westinghouse Savannah River Company Reactor Restart Division; Executive Vice President, Southern Company Engineering; Vice President and Project Director for the Georgia Power Vogtle Commercial Nuclear Power Project; Vice President and General Manager of Quality Assurance and Radiological Health and Safety for Georgia Power Company; and eleven years as a Naval Reactors department head reporting directly to Admiral H. G. Rickover.

For eleven years, he provided management consulting services to a variety of companies including four DOE national laboratories, four DOE production or environmental restoration sites, commercial nuclear and fossil power projects, and the paper industry.  Specific consulting services have included independent assessments and management assistance in project management; modernization initiatives; business and management systems; conduct of operations; quality assurance; training; radiological controls; integrated safety management; and team building. He also performed independent safety oversight of DOE nuclear production facilities as a member of the Secretary of Energy's Advisory Committee on Nuclear Facility Safety.

Mr. Rice received his degree of Bachelor of Engineering, Summa Cum Laude, from Vanderbilt University.  In 1992, he received the DOE's Distinguished Associate Award from the Secretary of Energy.

I was so very sad to hear that Paul is no longer with us! We ere fast friends soon after we met, connecting with computer technology and helping each other to make our websites work efficiently. He was always generous with his knowledge and kindness.

Months before he died he said he wanted to leave a legacy to button collectors everywhere. He donated his Button Country website to the National Button Society and even payed fro another two years of domain registration and web hosting! He appointed me as guardian of his research on Button Country. I was honored and deeply touched that he trusted me enough to do this service for him.

Deborah Hanson, NH

In the short time that Paul Rice was involved with the button collecting hobby, he inspired many and contributed much to the hobby.   Paul loved research and was good about finding what he needed from the internet and from people worldwide. 

Paul had many talents and used them for the benefit of button collecting.  He was a good writer, great at photographing for the web and creating websites.  As he researched projects related to buttons, he reached out to collectors for help.  He had a great sense of humor as he listened to and worked with people.   Button collectors enjoyed helping him with projects and felt like they were a part of his success.   Many members asked for his help with a topic and if it was something he liked, he would make it his own project and articles would show up in the bulletin and/or presentations would be given.   He was a perfectionist and had the tenacity to complete what he started.   He was strong willed, organized, and willing to stand up for what he believed.  He was a good man, is missed by button collectors everywhere and has left Button Country as his legacy to us. 

Paul’s  accomplishments in the NBS and state societies are many.  Listed below are just a few:

• Revision of the Division IV classification with articles in the bulletin and presentations on the topic

• Button Country Website – pictures, articles, worksheets, programming, and donation to NBS

• Computer Assistance  – North Carolina Shows,  Georgia Shows,  NBS Shows, Individual members

• Power point presentations - The Mikado, Pictorial Overall Buttons, the 2013 NBS Breakfast Invitation to Missouri, etc.

Paul lived in Augusta, GA with his wife, Gene and they were married for 52 years.  They have two children, 6 granddaughters, and one great granddaughter.

Lou Yeargain, MO

Remembering Paul is very easy for me; in fact, I will never forget him.  I loved his logical approach to buttons and competition dilemmas that arose.  His goal was always the same; make the hobby more fun and inviting to anyone with an interest in buttons.  He did this by dedicating countless hours of his own labor. As a member of the NBS Classification Committee, he offered me unlimited discussion and advice and I will forever be in his debt for his support and help.  Of course his masterpiece remains the Button Country web site, which is a visual Blue Book and much more.   He applied his extensive computer skills to enhance understanding the classification of buttons, as well offering many additional educational tools for all to use right from their own home.  He was truly an educator and problem solver.  He is already missed.

Barb Barrans, CA

Paul was the true epitome of the word 'gentleman' and it was my honor to know him as a friend.  His web site, Button Country, is one of the best button resources we have, especially since it shows the backs of our buttons.  When sending a welcome email to new NBS members, along with the NBS website url, I always include the link to Button Country, encouraging them to take a look. 

On a personal note: Yesterday I finished work on a program for my local club about The Seven Lucky Gods.  Some of my items are a set of full figured Saki bottles and a small carved set, also full figured, brought back from Japan in the 1950’s by my grandmother.   I found lots of pictures on the internet, giving descriptions of each deity, which helped me identify the full figures, but my set of buttons are of just the heads…and those were proving a little more difficult.  I knew Button Country would have what I needed and sure enough, Paul had them shown and labeled, enabling me to name them correctly. 

Ironically, last night I emailed Paul a thank you for giving us this wonderful resource, hoping he was well enough to read it.  This morning brought me much sadness in losing such a special friend.  Although thankful he is at peace now, I will continue sending his family positive thoughts.  Losing someone as special as Paul will be difficult for all who knew and loved him.

Susan Porter

May I add my respects to. the passing of Paul Rice . Although we never met he first corresponded with me about three years ago when I wrote about my experience in a British post office on B.B. Paul had a wry sense of humor and it is a sad loss to the world of buttons.  He has left button collectors a wonderful legacy with his “ Button Country ”  a real Gentleman.


Jim Stephenson ( England)

  He was a dear man in our club here in Ga. He wanted to learn and share his button love.  Because of his generous character, we have Button Country.  I know of no other site or work in the button world that has been started by  one person as a gift to us without personal gain involved.  That speaks so highly of his kindness and determination that button collecting and preservation should continue. He gave us an example of selflessness to grow our hobby and share it with everyone. My last conversation was about how at peace he was with all his life.  He knew he had done his best for his wife and family and left his hobby better off . He was caring and passionate about all of us growing in the knowledge of buttons.   Our club was lucky that he came along and the NBS is blessed that he cared about our love for buttons.


Debbie Johnson

President of Peach State Button Club

Atlanta, Ga.

I never met a kinder man, more generous with his time & information than Paul Rice. We were just good friends connecting once a week visiting on SKYPE. He'd want to see what buttons I was working on in the studio and give suggestions and encouragement along the way. He had never seen a demo as he was always at a meeting when the demos were given at National... so, last month I set up the web cam in front of the torch and made 2 buttons while he, Gene & Cindy watched. Then for his 74th birthday last month I mailed the demo buttons to him. He was very happy & framed them along with the other buttons he kept of mine, and hung them on the wall for Gene to enjoy. Very touching. As my friend, he will be dearly remembered & missed.

Mary Gaumond, NJ

Mr. Paul was a very nice and generous man.  He shared his knowledge with all button collectors and especially juniors. The Florida State Button Society Juniors were so honored to have him at our January 2013 meeting. He gave a talk teaching about Doublet buttons and gave all 17 of us this 16th century button for our collection, so each of us could say we had one of the oldest buttons. He will be missed by many  including the Florida Juniors. RIP

Mckenzi Lyn Flis

FSBS Junior Coordinator

Paul contributed so very much to the button community.  His gift of knowledge is priceless.  His willingness to do so much to add to our knowledge is a measure of the man.

I enjoyed my conversations and emails with him - he was ever the gentleman!

He will be profoundly missed.

Yessy Byl, Canada

Certainly a very sad weekend isn’t it?  I talked with Paul about two weeks ago on Skype and he was so please that Deb Hanson had taken over Button Country.  He knew that she had the talent and dedication to carry on his legacy.


Paul join our NC button club in 2006 and there are so many memories.  For several years other members of the North Carolina club and I were lucky enough to ride with Paul nearly every month to attend our Club meetings.  What wonderful long discussions we had with Paul on every subject from buttons to pet care and most everything in between.


One memory in particular is when Paul discovered a picture of the Norman Engler button mosaics.  Thus ensued Pall’s road trip to Missouri to meet with Mr. Engler’s son.   Always charming, Paul was able to convince Mr. Engler’s son to allow him to view and photograph the mosaics which had been left to rot for years.  Months after the trip Paul kept us up to date on his editing and enhancing the many images of the mosaics for posting on Button Country.  Hours upon hours of work went into the photography and enhancement the photos for viewing on Button Country.  Paul was dedicated to his button research, promotion of the hobby and most of all, his button friends.  What a friend and treasure we have all lost.


Laurie Smyrl, NC

Words are inadequate to express how so many of us feel.  Among his many wonderful qualities was his gift to all that he came in contact with............his time.  No question or matter was put before him that he did not give his complete and total attention and thought.  Paul will be missed and he has enriched our lives....we were truly blessed to have had him in the button world he gave so much to.

Gwen Niemisto, MI

I met Paul Rice at one of the Michigan NBS Conventions.  We sat down and talked at the ButtonBytes meeting about his engineering background and people handling skills.  I realized right away that here was a fair and level-headed individual who could bring much to button collecting.  Paul seemed above the personality clashes and put the integrity of button knowledge first and foremost.  We spoke several other times that weekend.  I will treasure the memory of his spirit and dedication to knowledge.  This is a sad, sad loss.

Louise Mann, WI

I only met Mr. Rice one time and I was so impressed with his manners, kindness, and openness.  A true gentleman in the best sense of the word.  What a wonderful legacy he left us. Prayers and blessings to his family.

Marti Conrad

I never had the opportunity to meet Paul, but I would like to add to the memorial you are planning.  I wrote to him to thank him for something he had replied to me when I asked him a question.  He took the trouble to respond to my e-mail, saying that he was appreciative of my praise of him for giving us the Button information he did.  It was such a kind note - he was obviously a very kind (and generous) person.


Jane C. Covell, CT

When I was first setting up the web page for the Oklahoma Button Society several years ago, I looked at most of the state sites.  The Georgia one was incredible!  I emailed Paul Rice to compliment him on his site, and he kindly replied with thanks, and spoke a good word for our state site.  He gave me confidence to continue working with our website.  I had no idea who he was at the time, or of his commitment to our collecting hobby.  I think my interaction with him was typical of his generosity and natural charm.  A great loss to our hobby.

Marsha Cassada

Oklahoma Button Society

I was so sad to hear about Paul Rice.  He purchased several buttons from me over the years, and he was a true gentleman.  I will miss him and his kindness, courtesy, and generosity of spirit.

Joanne Fournier

Was deeply touched when learning about Paul's cancer some time back.  I think he knew at the Florida show in January but didn't mention it and even took on the 3rd Avenue project we had discussed.  Could tell he was not doing well then.  Between the Ashlee and the 3rd Avenue initial Button Country launch, it was easy to become deeper friends and he attempted to teach me some of the lesser detailed things about the website, as his knowledge was far from my level.  I was so thrilled that he took on Division IV and brought it out of the "knowledge swamp" for all of us.  His intelligence was impressive.....just another thing I'll never forget about him.  After any auction he attended when I was the auctioneer, he would always come by an tell me how much he enjoyed it....a true gentleman.


You will always be remembered throughout Buttondom, Buddy

Don and Barb Lanier, FL  

Gene Rice and her family would like to thank everyone in the button 

world for their kind expressions of sympathy through cards, calls, and 

tributes.  It's a great comfort to hear about the impact Paul had on so 

many people.  He was truly a special guy and we will all miss him.

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