Hugh M. Rosenthal

May 2, 1937August 2, 2018

Hugh M. Rosenthal, of Tryon, North Carolina, died August 2, 2018, at the age of 81.

Known to everyone as “Butch,” this nickname was a typical homespun thread running through an otherwise sophisticated life. Through his work in the commodities trading world, Butch traveled to, and lived in, major cities in two hemispheres.

He grew up in Shelby, North Carolina, a small town noted for cotton mills, wood-fired barbeque, and a couple of country music icons. Butch was a barbecue enthusiast, but his music of choice was more worldly. He created the town’s first radio program devoted to jazz—at an age so young that his mother had to drive him to the studio. Although his love for music extended to opera and other genres, he reserved his chief passion for jazz, which lasted his whole life.

Butch also bloomed early as a golfer. His family home backed onto the tee box of the first hole of the Shelby country club course, and he had only to step outside to meet the golf pro for lessons. He continued the game in college (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Georgia), and when his career took him to Houston in the late 1970s, golf was still high on his list. He was a founding member of Lochinvar Golf Club: a Jack Nicklaus-designed course with its 552-yard par-5 ninth hole included in 1,001 Golf Holes You Must Play Before You Die.

Butch’s first job, during what he would one day call “the big time,” was with Associated Metals and Minerals Corporation, an international trading concern in Manhattan, where he became responsible for sales to major steel companies in the U.S. The balance of his career was running offices for Philipp Brothers: in Sydney, Australia; Houston, Texas; and Johannesburg, South Africa. His job description for Phibro included recruiting and training key personnel, managing risk, and helping develop new businesses.

After what a long-time associate and friend calls “a fabulous and legendary run,” Butch returned to a mountaintop in Tryon, North Carolina, not far from his southern place of birth. He built a minimalist lodge reminiscent of his time in various rugged outbacks, surrounded by walls he built himself from local rock. Because winters were a challenge at the high elevation of Brushy Ridge, he spent half of each year at a similarly rustic compound in Orokawa Bay, New Zealand. Beginning in 2004, Butch shared both of these places (and a love of cooking, fly fishing, bird hunting, art, and offbeat canines) with Jessica Pierce. To say they were partners puts a particular strain on that inadequate word. “We occupy the same space,” Butch told a friend, with much more than houses, or even mountains and beaches, in mind.

From the first days of their relationship, to Butch’s final day, he and Jessica were inseparable. Also with Butch during his last days and hours was his devoted sister, Nancy Miller.

Butch is preceded in death by his mother and father, Maxine and Martin Rosenthal. He is survived by partner, Jessica Pierce of Tryon, N.C.; sister, Nancy Lee Miller, and brother-in-law Richard Miller of Durham, N.C. He also leaves two nieces: Hillary Miller Holder (Clint) and Dana Miller Whitney (Griffin); great nephews/nieces Wyatt and Sydney Holder, and Oliver and Samantha Whitney.

Memorial donations in Butch’s honor can be made to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America ( or National Public Radio (https://

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