Haddy’s handler: The man behind the dinosaur

Butch Brees is the man maintaining Haddy and the Hadrosaurus Park.

Butch Brees is the unofficial caretaker of both the “Haddy” sculpture and the Haddonfield Dinosaur Commemorative Site. Brees stands beside Haddy, located off Kings Highway, on Thursday, Aug. 31 and surveys the coins he’ll collect at a later date, which go toward maintenance of the two sites.

Walk by John Giannotti’s sculpture of a Hadrosaurus foulkii, or “Haddy” as it’s more commonly known, on any given day, and you’ll probably see an excited child throw a coin into the shallow water, but have you ever wondered what happens to the coins slowly accumulating by Haddy’s feet?

Many of Haddonfield’s residents know the story behind Haddonfield’s most famous — and inanimate — resident, but not as many may know the man taking care of Haddy. When it comes to keeping Haddy and the Hadrosaurus Park in spic-and-span shape, Butch Brees is the man.

“I’m the treasurer of a committee of one,” Brees said with an effusive laugh.

For more than 30 years, Brees has been taking care of the Haddonfield Dinosaur Commemorative Site located on Maple Avenue. Brees’ son, Christopher, created the monument in 1984 as his Eagle Scout project. Christopher was only 13 at the time and fascinated by the idea of figuring out where the Haddonfield dinosaur was found, Brees said.

In 1858, North America’s first dinosaur skeleton and the world’s most complete dinosaur skeleton at the time was found in Haddonfield. Following some extensive research, Christopher determined that Hadrosaurus foulkii was found on Maple Avenue, and he decided he wanted to memorialize the spot, which is what he did, creating a stone-mounted memorial at the location and effectively creating a public mini-park in the process.

Since then, Brees has served as curator of the Haddonfield Dinosaur Commemorative Site, or Hadrosaurus Park.

“Because he did that as his Eagle Scout project, when he left and finished all of his [Eagle Scout] stuff, we felt as a family we should maybe take care of it, and in 1994, it became a national historic landmark,” Brees said.

A few years ago, Brees took it upon himself to keep track of the site’s visitors via the park’s guest log. To date, Brees has counted more than 7,000 visitors from every state in the union and 13 countries.

His son’s project reinvigorated interest in the dinosaur, and in 2002, Brees was on the Haddonfield Dinosaur Sculpture Committee that commissioned the Hadrosaurus foulki sculpture located on Lantern Lane just off Kings Highway, He said he was brought on as a kind of historian representing his son’s work, which led to him taking care of the sculpture as well.

Brees said once every few years, he and Giannotti wax Haddy to maintain the sculpture’s bronze patina. More frequently than that — though admittedly less frequently than he’d like — Brees pays Haddy a visit to collect the coins.

“Kids that throw coins here help to maintain the site and the sculpture,” Brees said with a smile as he watched a child delightedly toss Haddy a coin on a late August afternoon.

Adorned in his dinosaur shirt and hat, Brees pulls coins — mostly pennies — out of the crevices in the rocks surrounding Haddy and washes them off. Despite his best efforts, Brees has made several coin counting machines go haywire as the dirt — which just never seems to fully come off — sends the devices into overdrive.

The coins don’t usually amount to more than $20, and the entirety of the funds go back into maintaining the park and sculpture sites. The money also goes toward printing the pamphlets detailing the history of the dinosaur find, which guests at Hadrosaurus Park can pick up during their visit.

Brees has also been known to trim the bushes or pull weeds from the pavers in Lantern Lane during his visits to beautify the area surrounding Haddy.

As far as the park goes, for 33 years, Brees has taken his own mowers and trimmers to the park to ensure the park doesn’t get overgrown. Having just moved from Haddonfield to West Deptford, however, Brees said he got rid of his landscaping tools during the move, so he thought it might be time to relinquish the reins on that particular task to the borough. He said just a few weeks ago, he convinced the borough to add the commemorative site to its mowing list.

For Brees, the upkeep is about maintaining his son’s legacy. A pair of pavers near the Haddy sculpture commemorates both of the Brees men with one engraved for Christopher, the Hadrosaurus “site creator,” and one engraved for Butch, the Hadrosaurus “site caretaker.”

“It’s been kind of a family project and just personal pride — what our son had done, what he had accomplished,” Brees said.

More than 30 years ago, Brees’ son sparked an interest in Haddonfield’s dinosaur, but it is Brees who is keeping interest alive today. Having continued to research the Hadrosaurus foulkii well after his son’s project was completed, Brees has become something of an authority on the subject. He’s eager to share what he’s learned and does so readily, giving presentations on the Hadrosaurus foulkii find to schools, churches and any organization that may be interested.

Interest in the dinosaur ebbs and flows, but Haddy — a nickname Brees said he’s never preferred to the dinosaur’s official name Hadrosaurus foulkii — is practically synonymous with Haddonfield at this point, Brees said.

“It’s become an icon of Haddonfield,” Brees said. “You hear, ‘the dinosaur — meet me at the dinosaur.’”

For more information on the Hadrosaurus foulkii, Christopher’s Eagle Scout project or Giannotti’s sculpture, visit http://hadrosaurus.com.