photo by Esther Avila, 10/17/2006
It seemed like lately, every time I was in Porterville, I would run into Buck Shaffer -- at the grocery store, the post office, the pharmacy and even at the AAA automobile club. Each time, he would always smile and extend his hand and say, "Well, Esther Avila. What are you doing here?" -- always in his same voice. I would say the same thing, "Well, Buck Shaffer. It is so good to see you." We always talked for a few minutes and he'd tell me how proud he was of me. And I'd tell him how much I admired him.
I love Buck Shaffer. I always have. I have known Buck since I was 10. (But he talked to me for the first time when I was 7. I lived near the corner of Orange and G Streets, just down the street from the PHS bandroom and I often ran outside to see the band march by. He'd always say hello to me and I will always remember how he took the time to talk to me.) I marched in his Porterville Panther Band 1972-1976 and considered him a hero in my life. I adore the man.
I've also had the privilege of writing some wonderful stories about him over the past several years. Early this year, I had the honor of writing the story when he was the recipient of the Freedom of Spirit Award. If you have not seen the story, I highly recommend it -- the things that this one man has done are amazing.
After his retirement, he kept teaching music. This man has done more for music in Porterville than anyone else I've ever known.
I interviewed him last week (10/17) about a trip he was planning for Saturday -- a day dubbed "Buck Shaffer Day" in his original hometown of Shinnston, W. VA. He was going to play a concert there and assist in the opening of a music wing of their new museum.
When he returned, we planned on getting together next Tuesday to continue another interview that he requested. So imagine my shock when I got the call that he had suffered a stroke on Sunday. I cried for a few minutes and then got myself together and went to work on writing a story about it.
I was touched to see the outpouring of love and support from across the nation. Buck Shaffer is certainly loved by many.
my dear friend died on Dec. 1, 2006 -- please go to www.buckshaffer.com for stories.