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  • Writer's pictureBeltsville News

Remembering Sonny By Cary Thomas

Updated: Sep 26, 2021

Sonny Boteler

If there was ever a person whose countenance was perpetually sunny, it was Sonny.

Clifford Elmore Boteler, Jr., known to all of us as "Sonny", was the most cheerful person we ever knew. Always smiling with an affection that came from within, he greeted everyone with friendliness and genuine care.

Today [August 11, 2021], with his passing, the lights have grown dim in the shop at the back of the extant Beltsville Shell, the sunshine obscured by clouds of grief hanging over Beltsville. All of us have lost a true, life-long, friend. A mournful vigil has ended.

Born on December 29, 1946, Sonny was for seven decades the heart and soul of Beltsville -- known by everyone and loved by all. The third-generation owner of the iconic general store -- Boteler & Son -- Sonny had a positive impact on everyone he met.

Sonny engaged in the usual childhood activities of a Beltsville kid.

He was a member of Boy Scout Troop 408. In the early 1960's fewer than 2% of all Boy Scouts attained the distinction of Eagle Scout -- the highest achievement a boy can earn in Scouting. Sonny was one of the first Eagles in Troop 408, earning his 21 merit badges for things like camping, hiking, and all the things that made Scouting fun. In the photo below you can see his progression from Star to Life and finally to Eagle. He told me that he was proudest of his swimming merit badge.

At High Point High School, Sonny was one of the most popular members of the class of 1965. He took the academic education track and was a member of the High Point Band.

Sonny supported the family business from his teenage years until the store finally closed its doors in 2006.

After Beltsville Shell was published, Sonny kept an inventory of the books handy at the store for customers to pick up and enjoy. He loved telling the story of the writing of the book, and relating how all the old Shell regulars maintained a friendship throughout the years, later meeting for annual reunions. He especially loved autographing the book for customers. You can read more about Sonny and his friends at

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