Last updated: February 17. 2013 12:45AM - 455 Views

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The awards just keep on coming for crossbow champion Terry Butler and his family.

Coming off his most successful crossbow competition season to date, the Old Forge resident, 65, counts among his accolades for 2012 his third consecutive Crossbowman of the Year honor from the National Crossbowmen of the USA, based on being the top overall scorer at the sport's U.S. nationals.

Daughter Ashley Rampulla, 26, has been a formidable competitor in her own right, currently the NFAA National Female Crossbow Champ, Pennsylvania State female crossbow regional and state champ and record holder and the 2012 Pennsylvania Keystone Games Champion. She also is ranked second in the world as a female crossbow shooter.

And now there's grandson Brandon McDermott, 10, a Riverside Elementary student who was the first boy to compete in the Crossbow Division of the Pennsylvania State Archery Association, placing first during the recent indoor championship earlier this year. Brandon's efforts received a state House of Representatives citation from state Rep. Sid Kavulich.

The awards are nice -- ribbons, medals, certificates and news clippings decorate the walls of several rooms in Butler's Kohler Avenue home, relics of a sporting career which has taken him across the country and across the seas -- but those laurels are not why Butler competes, and not why he got into archery.

"Our main purpose is the camaraderie," Butler said , gesticulating broadly for emphasis as he leaned back in a dining room chair.

Perhaps the most profound camaraderie of all is that which the sport helped foster between Butler and his daughter in the wake of a tragic loss. After his wife Francine died in July 1996, Butler sought an activity that would give his grieving young daughter something to focus on, but not necessarily a team sport.

"We had never shot a bow in our lives," recalled the retired North Pocono math and science teacher, who opted for archery as a father-daughter bonding activity.

It worked.

Rampulla was just five when Mrs. Butler was diagnosed with cancer and 10 when she died, and recalled those difficult years when family life revolved around spending as much time as possible with her ailing mom.

"We weren't that close before," she said of her relationship with her father. Older sister Donielle, she added, "was a teenager, so she kind of had her own thing going on. She was never really a sporty kind of person."

The only sport Rampulla had played before was community basketball – she liked it, but also knew it wasn't something she would do forever.

Then her dad started "trying to get me out of the house a little bit" through archery.

"From the first night I went in there, I was hooked from the first time I shot the bow," Rampulla said in a telephone interview from her Palmerton home. "It helped me relax."

"Every night she wanted to go to practice," Butler recalled. "She loved it."

Nearby Lonesome Road Archery became their home away from home, and very much still is.

"We became range rats," Butler chuckled.

Before long, father and daughter were traveling widely and winning awards in their own right. Both have represented the U.S. in international competition. Butler still holds among his most treasured memories the 2009 WCSA World Crossbow Championships in Portugal – not for medals he and the other Americans brought home, but at being chosen to hoist his country's flag during the opening ceremonies.

"To me, it's an honor," Butler said.

He also qualified to represent the United States at the WCSA World Crossbow Championships in Sweden in 2013, but acknowledged that the prohibitive cost of transportation logistics may rule that out next year.

"We are not funded by a big organization," Butler explained, such as the federations which support many other sports, notably teams in many other countries. "A lot of people do not consider crossbow archery," he added wistfully.

Whatever people think of the sport, it does seem to have strengthened this family's ties, and even indirectly led Rampulla to the altar.

During her senior year at East Stroudsburg University, she took tennis as an elective. Her partner mentioned that his best friend was involved in archery.

As a 12-year-old Ashley Butler was in a competition at Atlantic City where she struck up a conversation with another young competitor, Jason Rampulla. They talked, she recalled, but went their separate ways. Now, she learned, he was transferring to ESU.

"Immediately, I knew exactly who he was."

The couple still shares each other's company and a mutual love of the sport, with Jason recording strong showings in crowded fields of competition at national meets in Las Vegas. They support one another at meets, but "when we shoot together, we actually get pretty competitive," Rampulla said of her husband.

Her sister's son, meanwhile, seems poised to take up the family mantle.

The oldest of four children, Brandon was "really close to my dad," Rampulla said, when, at just 7 or 8, he asked, "Grandpa, can I try it?"

As with his aunt and grandfather before him, Brandon seemed to take to the sport with speed and vigor. Having set a record in the regional tournament, with a score of 386, he went on to set a state record of 438.

With that, Brandon also joined his kin to become the first three-generation competitors to win state and regional championships, as well as simultaneously holding records in both in the same division.

Rampulla chuckled when asked if she wanted to add another member to the third generation in the family pastime.

"When she gets old enough, we're definitely interested to see if she would want to get into it," Rampulla said of daughter Cheyenne, who's just 20 months old. Some youngsters get into the sport as early as age four, she added.

In the meanwhile, she does believe that depictions of archery in recent films such as "The Hunger Games" and "Brave" are stirring up interest among the younger set.

To hear his grandfather tell it, young Brandon is eager to reach new heights.

"I'm going to be a world champion some day, before grandpa," the young man proudly announced after one of his first events.

"By the time you're a world champion, I'll be dead," his grandfather quipped back.

"You mean I have to wait that long," came the boy's reply.

However long that might be, Butler has but one wish for his final moment.

"I want to die shooting my crossbow," he said, "with a smile on my face."

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