Friday evening, March 21, Uncle Buzz died peacefully at Noble Horizons in Salisbury, CT.
Uncle Buzz, also known as Uncle Fudd, was an integral part of our lives from the time we were born until the day he died. He spent summers and Christmases with the Cooleys in Northfield watching us evolve into adults and being a quiet but strong role model. Despite not being a handyman he was always helping with yard work, polishing silver, stripping woodwork or whatever project Mom and Dad had going. Virginia hams were a holiday treat and hauled all the way from Roanoke. For the earliest decades Uncle Buzz drove a Volkswagon Beetle. How fun it was to ride back from Northfield Church with our heads sticking out through the open sliding roof! He smiled merrily while Don and I hung on and felt the wind whip through our hair. Uncle Buzz wasn’t athletic, but he wasn’t shy about enjoying the seasonal sports with us; ice skating, swimming, and sledding down the hill in the backyard were all activities he engaged in with his nephew and nieces. He also joined us for the family camping expeditions throughout upper New England. One time his good friend, Tomi Ungerer, even joined us. We loved his books about the family of pigs called the Mellops.
Being more of an outdoor girl than one to sit inside, I did find his Sunday sermons, when he was filling in for ministers on summer vacation, to be much more interesting than any others. He had a way of bringing in human interest stories, often of people I knew, including those family relations of my generation, to get his point across in a meaningful way….after getting me to listen!
I was inspired by many relatives to be a world traveler, and Uncle Buzz was certainly one of those. Back in 1982 I headed off to Venezuela to teach in an international school, and he was the only one who traveled all that way to visit me during the three year stay. He came during his Easter break. What fun we had with my friend Alma driving westward into Columbia where we enjoyed the Easter procession with the locals! One of the memories we laughed about most for years afterwards was when suddenly as we were descending the Andes, and I was driving, that the brakes quit working. As I was holding on to the steering wheel for dear life Uncle Buzz and Alma leaned out their windows yelling, “No hay frenos!” as we careened around each curve on that twisty road. Fortunately, we made it safely into a town and were able to drive to a mechanic without further ado. Sighs of relief and nervous laughter followed.
Uncle Buzz also visited me in Paris, France as did some other relatives. There was no car story for that trip, but he did willingly export all my treasured items from the Villeroy Boch factory back to the states for me. He never complained about the bulk or weight but just cheerfully did as his niece bid him.
Uncle Buzz also was important to us beginning our married lives. He performed the ceremonies for his nieces and nephew, giving us words of wisdom in his indirect counseling ways.
When I moved to Roanoke, VA Uncle Buzz was in his last years of his long career there. He was extremely dedicated to his job and life at Hollins College, now Hollins University. Everyone I met there loved him and spoke about Alvord Beardslee’s positive impact on their lives, be it guidance through a personal challenge or career development. He was an immense yet humble force. Even after his retirement he would return to Roanoke, stay with us, and spend his days at Hollins continuing to impart his quiet unassuming healing words to his lifelong friends he so cherished.
Whenever Uncle Buzz spoke of someone, no matter how humble his or her existence, it was always with respect and of a positive nature. His work with prisoners amazed me. At one point he tried to convince me to get a job teaching them, but I was not as brave and accepting as he was. Uncle Buzz was a man of peace and forgiveness. He will live on in the hearts of countless people from all walks of life.