iii. James Edward. James Edward was born in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, on June 16, 1946. James Edward served in United States Air Force, in 1965/1968; he was 18. James Edward died in Korat Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand, on March 11, 1968; he was 21. James Edward was buried in Wichita, Kansas, on March 22, 1968; he was 21. Religion: Southern Baptist.
Information taken from Vietnam Memorial Web Site:
Last name: FRANCIS
First name: JAMES EDWARD
Home of Record (official): ST LOUIS
State (official): MO
Date of Birth: Sunday, June 16, 1946
Marital Status: Married
--- Military ---
Branch: Air Force
Serial Number: 356388964
Pay grade: E3
MOS (Military Occupational Specialty code): /Not reported
--- Action ---
Start of Tour: Monday, October 16, 1967
Date of Casualty: Monday, March 11, 1968
Age at time of loss: 21
Casualty type: (C2) Non-hostile, died of illness/injury
Reason: Other explosive device (Ground casualty)
Province: /Not Reported
The Wall: Panel 44E - Row 014
Taken from a web site (http://www.vspa.com/T-Korat-JamesFrancis-A1C.htm) honoring the Vietnam Security Police Association:
A Memorial Service,
Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand
In Memoriam of
A1C James E. Francis, 388th Security Police Squadron,
A1C James W. Reese, 388th Munitions Maintenance Squadron, and
A1C Frank A. Uhlic, Jr., 388th Munitions Maintenance Squadron
By: Frank Paul
Korat Royal Thia Air Base - March 1968
My name is Frank Paul, I was at Korat Air Base, Thailand, in March of 1968, and I was on duty at the time A1C James E. Francis was killed. I still have a copy of the Memorial Service Pamphlet that was held for him at the base chapel, on 16 March 1968 (below photos).
James E. Francis was killed along with James W. Reese of the 388th Maint. Munitions Squadron. A1C James Francis died in a very heroic way I thought, as he was on duty at the Munitions Bomb Dump which was approximately 3-4 miles off the installation. Francis was on two men Response Team patrolling the area with another SP, Sgt Miglarese, of Pennsylvania. While on patrol they were called to a certain bomb dump bunker, because the bombs had started fragmenting, and told to help the MMS troops out of the bunker. Sgt Miglarese got one man out and Airman Francis went in to rescue A1C Reese, but at that moment both Airmen were killed when the whole bunker went up.
I also noticed that his name was not on the VSPA Medals roll of honor, I remember an assembly we had later and we were told Francis would be awarded the Airman's Medal. We thought he should be awarded something more but they told us this was the highest award he could receive, because he was not in a combat zone.
Thanks for listening to what I had to say about this, I helped pack his footlocker to send home, and I just have not forgot the tragedy his family must of felt at the time.
A1C James E Francis (Korat Royal Thai Air Base March 1968) was an SP (81150), E3 (A1C) and assigned to the 388 SPS at Korat RTFB, Thailand at the time of his death. He was in service less than 2 1/2 years when killed. He was married but no children were listed.
Subject: Your Brother James
Date: Wed, 10 Jan 2001 17:40:45 -0600
I am a member of the VSPA and was happy to see your brothers name listed with the other heroes, who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
I was a SSgt working in Security Police investigation at the time of the explosion. I was on call that evening, which required me to respond to any crime scene or incident that would need further investigation. The bomb dump was located approximately 5 miles off base. I was on base and heard a loud explosion and the ground shake, I immediately called in and asked what had happened, They only knew that an explosion had occurred at the bomb dump. I had a vehicle assigned to me, and immediately headed out to the bomb dump.Upon my arrival at the entrance, most emergency crews fire department, ambulance, and EOD were on scene. We could not let anyone into the area until EOD, had declared it safe from unexploded ordinance. I cannot remember who brought the other Security Policeman that was with your brother out, but he was dazed and in shock. I took off his gun belt and pistol for safekeeping, and they put him in the ambulance. I later turned his equipment into the armory.
I was later told he had made it back to the vehicle, and was blown about fifty yards by the explosion.
I read your account of the incident which is very accurate, the only thing I could add was that at Commanders call because of the incident we were all briefed not to respond into a bunker or revetment after a small explosion had occurred, because more than likely a large one will follow. This happened a few months later and the two man security alert team remained at a safe distance, which saved their lives. Id like to think your brother saved there lives because he went down the dangerous path first, and we all learned from it.Although I did not know your brother personally know that he was a true hero and will not be forgotten. It was an honor to serve in the same Squadron.
Peter W. Coxon
Biography: In Memoriam Book for James Edward Francis:
In Memory of AF1 James Edward Francis, born June 16, 1946, Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Entered into rest March 11, 1968, Korat, Thailand, age 21 years, 8 months, 25 days.
Held at: McConnell Air Force Base Chapel, Wichita, Kansas.
Date: March 22, 1968--3:00 PM, Friday
Officiating Clergy: Chaplain Henry A. Nordstrand, McConnell Air Force Base
Place of Interment: Old Mission Cemetery
Location of Gravesite: Section M, Lot 24, Grave 1, Wichita, Kansas
Laid to rest at gravesite: 4:30 PM, Friday, March 22, 1968
Services for A.1.C. James Edward Francis, 21, who died in an accident March 11 at Korat Air Force Base, Thailand, will be at 3 p.m. Friday at McConnell AFB Chapel. Burial will be in Old Mission Cemetery.
Born in Oak Ridge, Tenn., he lived in St. Louis before entering the Air Force in 1965. He left Forbes AFB, Topeka, for Thailand a few months ago. He was a Methodist. His wife resided with her parents at 1953 Payne while Francis was on duty in Thailand.
Survivors include his widow, Carolyn Sue; and parents Mr. and Mrs. P.M. Buck, Osage Beach, Mo., and Mr. and Mrs. John V. Francis, Sr., Lyndon, Ky.; six brothers and eight sisters.
FRANCIS––James E., A/1c, U.S.A.F., age 21, of 1953 Payne died in Korat, Thailand on March 11th. Funeral service will be conducted at 3 p.m. Friday in the McConnell Air Force Base Chapel. Chaplain Henry A. Nordstrand of McConnell Air Force Base will officiate. Interment will be in Old Mission Cemetery. The casket will not be opened at any time.
Well I figured I had better sit down and write you all a letter, before you disown me. Everything seems to be just fine over here, except me hating the place. I know it will take a year to get used to Thailand.
Everything seems to happen over here all at once. First of all the President flew in for a suprise (sic) visit. We had to go into expanded security to secure the base. We only had 2 hours to do this. All together there were 510 men posted, counting G.I.'s and their guards. I guarded the area surrounding the presidents trailer. We had to work 14 hours plus our 8 hours of regular duty. It really didn't seem too long because we were in a way proud to do it. Then just 2 days ago "The Bob Hope Show" was at Korat. I had to stand guard on it also. The show lasted around 2 hours but I got to see the last 20 minutes of it. I had to stand guard on the rear of the stage. I think I could have been in some of the pictures taken. I was sitting right up front. They told us the show will be on T.V. around the middle of January. So look for the listings in the T.V. guide you might see me on the show. I'll try to send some pictures of it. I thought Miss World was so beautiful. I got to meet her for a while back stage. She had a great personality. The rest of the actors seemed a little stuck up. I had to work 17 hours for that including my 8 hours of regular work. I enjoyed every minute of it, and I would do it all over if I had the chance.
Well I guess I had better close. I hope you are feeling better after the operation. Buck I hope you have a Happy Birthday. And I hope you have a good year at the station. I am sorry to make this short, but I have to get ready for work. I will write more later. May God bless you both and keep you safe.
Your loving son,
P.S. I sure miss you both very much.
Research: James Edward Francis was born June 16, 1946, in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Born prematurely (at 7 months), Jim was not given much of a chance to live. The story goes (told by my father, John Virgil Francis) that at birth Jim was so small that his head and body fit in the palm of Dad's hand with his little arms and legs extending out on each side. The doctors told the family that Jim's chance of surviving was very small and that they might as well take him home to die. Dad fed Jim beer rather than milk "to fatten him up" and it worked! When asking my mother (Margaret Smith) about the truthfulness of this story, she just laughed. "This is just one of your dad's crazy tales," she said; and, since Dad is rather good at telling tall tales (and believing them!), I can only suppose that the kernal of truth (Jim being premature and small) had undergone the magical transformation of oral tradition.
Jim was almost three years older than me; yet, emotionally, psychologically, and physically, we were about the same age. We did everything together: played, fought, laughed, cried, got into mischief–even slept in the same bed–together.
Because of his premature birth, Jim was always small for his age. This may have been the cause of his frequent bouts with low self-esteem; something that plagued him throughout his childhood and adolescence. From time to time, this need to be recognized prompted him to do things that got him into trouble. I'll never forget one incident where Jim and I sat together in a small wooded area behind our house in Cahokia, Illinois (the family lived on Howell Avenue, within a short walking distance of my mother's parents, John Frances Smith and Ina McDonald Smith. They, in turn, lived just behind my uncle Archie Pearl Smith and his family). At any rate, Jim decided to see what would happen if he lit a fire. Well, our stepfather Richard M. Buck (nicknamed "Buck") came running out of the house just in time to save us. In later years, Buck described the scene in the following way, "I looked out the window and saw the back yard on fire. I ran outside and there the two of you (Jim and me) were sitting calmly in the middle of the fire."
What I remember most about Jim was his sensitive, loving nature. Of all the brothers, Jim was clearly the most spiritually minded. In his teens, he became actively involved in the local Baptist church, often dragging me along with him. This involvement in the church eventually helped Jim through the difficulties associated with low self-esteem and he began to blossom into the caring, gentle, and compassionate soul that we all remember so well.
ACCOUNT OF JIM'S DEATH: I believe it was compassion that killed him, in the end. Jim died on March 11, 1968, in a bomb dump accident at Kurat Air Force Base, Thailand. By the time of his tour in Thailand, Jim had "come into his own" as the saying goes (adulthood suited Jim well and, though it is rather foolish to speculate on what he may have accomplished had he lived, I like to think that he would have added a great measure of kindness to this old world). One of Jim's responsibilities as an Air Force security policeman was to patrol the Air Base. On the fateful day of his death, Jim was patrolling the bomb dump area when he came upon an accident in the making. A fork lift driver had dropped a 750 lb. bomb from a trailer, injuring one of the crew. The bomb had gone "low order" which in munitions parlance was smoke, sparks, and fire. Normally, an accidental dropping of an unfused bomb would not have been a problem (theoretically, an unfused bomb can be dropped from 35,000 feet without exploding); unfortunately, this particular lot of bombs were "unstable" (that is, the chemical ingredients were mixed incorrectly at the factory). At any rate, Jim saw the accident and–unaware of the potential danger of a "low order" bomb–pulled the injured man out of the revetment area. I am not sure how much time passed between the time Jim pulled the man out of the immediate area, but the bomb eventually went "high order;" i.e., it fully detonated. When it detonated, it caused the entire revetment of over one hundred 750 lb. bombs to go off. The result of this explosion was the immediate death of James Edward Francis and the wounded man that he tried to save. According to accounts of the Kurat Air Force Base accident, the explosion was so powerful that the roof of the dining facility over a mile away from ground zero was completely torn off. Can you imagine what the impact of this explosion did to a man only yards away? I believe Jim did not know what hit him. One moment he was a living human being, the next moment he was vaporized.
I can tell this story with the greatest accuracy because I sat through a training lecture while attending the the U.S. Air Force Munitions Technical Training School in Denver, Colorado, in the summer of 1968 (I enlisted in the Air Force within a month of Jim's funeral). The instructor showed the Kurat Air Base accident as an example of what could go wrong in the business of munitions. I witnessed the actual site of the explosion which showed Jim's mangled jeep, the ten-story hole that was left in the revetment after the explosion, even an "x-marks-the-spot" where Jim and the other man was killed. [REF]
Military: Enlistment Record (DD Form 4--1 Oct 63) for James Edward Francis:
Service Number: AF17728134
Mental Test Data: AFQT 7C Score--40, Group III
Home Address: 1823 Benton, St. Louis, Missouri
Place of Enlistment: St. Louis
Date Enlisted: 22 Nov 1965
For Service In: Regular Air Force
No. Years to Serve: 4
Grade: E-1 Basic Airman
Authority for Grade: AFSC 00010, Par 2-10 AFM 33-3
Initial Assignment: Hqs, Lackland Mil Tng Ctr, Lackland AFB, Texas
Date of Birth: 16 Jun 46
Place of Birth: OkaRidge (sic), Tenn.
Color of Eyes: Blue
Color of Hair: Brown
Marital Status: Single
Civilian Education--Grammar, 8 yrs; High School, 4 yrs
Main Civilan Occupation: Student
Registered for Selective Sewrvice: Yes
Selective Service Number: 23-104-46-188
Selective Service Board Number: 104 St. Louis, Mo.
Remarks: M25, A50, G40, E50, 6 Oct 65
Oath of Office Given at: Overland, Missouri
Date: 22 Nov 65
Remarks: RSIC 706A2032
Enlisting Officer: Paul J. Jennings, 2nd LT INF CA2535-26
AIRMAN MILITARY RECORD (AF FORM 7)
Official USAF Documents:
DEPARTMENT OF THE AIR FORCE
838th Air Police Squadron (TAC)
Forbes Air Force Base, Kansas 66620
13 October 1966
REPLY TO ATTN OF: SLQC
SUBJECT: Letter of Reprimand
TO: A3C James E. Francis, AF17728134
1. It has been brought to my attention that on 3 October 1966, you were observed loitering on duty by 1stLt (sic) Clyde R. Davis, FV3152402, while assigned duty as Primary Strike Team Member in the 55th SRW Aircraft Parking area.
2. You are hereby counseled in regard to the above mentioned incident. You are advised that this organization will not tolerate further action such as this on your part as it brings discredit on our profession and on the 838th Air Police Squadron.
3. Further infractions such as listed above will result in appropriate disciplinary action.
4. This letter of Reprimand will be placed in your official records.
5. You are ordered to receipt acknowledgement of this letter by indorsement hereto, within seventy-two (72) hours after receipt.
This decoration, one of several Air Force awards established by Congress on July 6, 1960, takes the place of the Soldier's Medal for Air Force personnel. It is awarded to any member of the armed forces of the United States or of a friendly nation who, while serving in any capacity with the United States Air Force after the date of the award's authorization, shall have distinguished himself or herself by a heroic act, usually at the voluntary risk of his or her life but not involving actual combat.
This medal (pictured below) was designed and sculpted by Thomas Hudson Jones of the Institute of Heraldry. On the obverse of the circular medal is the figure of the Greek god Hermes, son of Zeus, resting on one knee. He has just released from his open hands a falcon, shown rising into flight. Within the raised rim of the medal, is the inscription "Airman's Medal" in raised letters. The reverse of the medal, has a raised outer edge and bears the inscription, "For Valor" above a space for the recipient's name which is within a stylized laurel wreath open at the top and tied at the bottom.
The Airman's Medal is unique in that its shape does not follow the octagonal shape of its counterparts, the Soldier's Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Medal and the Coast Guard Medal. It had been established practice heretofore to design military decorations with a distinctive shape, so that they would not be confused at a distance with service or campaign medals, which are always
circular in shape. The reason for this is because the design was originally approved for use as The Air Force Distinguished Service Medal. The ribbon is based on that of the soldier's Medal but using different colors. In the center are alternating thin stripes of gold and dark blue, (seven gold and six dark blue) bordered at the edges with wide stripes of pale (sky) blue.
OUR COMPLETE SERVICE, FACILITIES, EQUIPMENT, PROFESSIONAL & STAFF SERVICES: $75.00
STEEL VAULT: 200.00
CASH ADVANCED FOR THE CONVENIENCE OF THE FAMILY:
CEMTERY PROPERTY: $100
OPENING & CLOSING GRAVE: 85.00
FAMILY FLOWERS: 30.00
DEPARTMENT OF THE AIR FORCE
HEADQUARTERS 388TH TACTICAL FIGHTER WING (PACAF)
APO SAN FRANCISCO 96288
Mrs. Margaret L. Buck
Linn Creek, Missouri 65052
Dear Mrs. Buck
It is with deep regret and sincere sympathy that I inform you of the circumstances surrounding the death of your son, Airman First Class James E. Francis.
On the night of 11 March 1968, Jim was on duty as a member of a mobile security alert team patrolling the base. At about 9:20, the team responded to an explosion of a 750 pound bomb in the storage area, which caused a fire in one of the munitions storage bunkers. We are not sure exactly what happened after that but we believe that Jim heard a call for help from the bunker. He and another airman went into the bunker to assist an injured man who was still there. Jim and the other airman carried the injured man outside and placed him in a position behind a protective wall located outside the bunker. the bunker. The other airman ran to a Security Police truck to obtain an ambulance for the injured man. Jim remained with him. At that time there was a second, larger explosion which killed Jim and the injured airman.
An investigation of all the circumstances surrounding your son's death is being conducted and you will be informed of the findings as soon as it is completed.
Jim did an outstanding job under difficult circumstances. His pleasing personality and devotion to duty won him the respect of those who knew him. On behalf of the men of the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing, I offer our deepest sympathy in this time of sorrow.
It is with deep regret that I officially inform you of the death of your husband, AlC James E. Francis. He died in Thailand on 11 March 1968 as the result of injuries received in an accidental explosion in a bomb storage area at Korat AFB, Thailand.
Your husbands overseas commander is writing you a letter which will contain all the known circumstances concerning his death. The mortuary branch, Headquarters USAF, Washington D. C. will communicate with you concerning his remains.
If you have questions you may contact my personal representative at area code 512-652-3505.
In my letter of 16 March 1968 informing you of the circumstances surrounding the death of your husband, Airman First Class James E. Francis, I indicated that an investigation was being conducted. That investigation has been completed and confirms the basic information in that letter. The only fact of significance that was determined is that after Jim helped bring the injured man out of the bunker, he went to the Security Police vehicle at the other end of the protective wall to call for an ambulance for the injured man and then returned to him, rather than remaining with him as I originally stated. We still do not know what caused the explosion and because of the nature of these things, we may never know.
Again, please accept my personal condolences and those of each man in the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing.
Letter to Mrs. Francis from Commander, 388th Security Police Squadron:
16 March 1968
Dear Mrs. Francis,
It is with great sorrow that I write you as your husband's commanding officer. Jim was a dear friend of mine and an outstanding Security Policeman. Since his arrival from Forbes Air Force Base my office has received only the highest praise for Jim's work and performance.
I know Jim was a very devoted Christian and lived close to God daily. In fact, Jim had composed a poem I believe he intended for you which I feel you should be aware of, if he hadn't already sent to you. The poem was found among his personal affects and is stated agan (sic) for you.
I am sure he would have wanted you to hear the poem. I hope I didn't do wrong sending it to you in this letter.
Jim gave his life heroically for his country. You should feel only prode (sic) of him and have faith that God is taking care of him from here on into eternity. Jim's love for his fellow man was not merely a feeling of affection, but an unselfish, willing sacrifice and giving of himself for mankind, without any thought of being thanked or rewarded. His love like gods (sic) love was demonstrated in everything he said and did. The climax of his love was seen when he gave his life for his fellow man.
Carolyn, agan (sic) let me say that I am terribly sorry and pass on to you the sympathy of the entire Security Police Squadron with which Jim served. If there is anything I or the Squadron can do for you Please (underlined) contact us directly or through the nearest base.
I had the privilege to be associated with your husband with the USAF Security Police at Korat, Royal Thai Air Force Base, and although I am not presently stationed at that installation I have heard of his untimely demise and wish to extend my sincere and profound sympathy to you in this, your hour of grief.
Your husband was not only a fine Security Policeman but represented the epitome of what desired in a non commissioned officer and security policeman. He was my personal friend and my professional colleague and your lose is also mine. Please accept my deep and unaffected expression of sorrow for your irreplaceble loss. If there is any thing that I can do to assist you I am always available.
It was with utmost regret that I learned of the loss of your husband, Airman First Class James E. Francis.
While I realize there is little I can say to comfort you, I do want you to know that we of the Air Force share your sorrow. I hope the memory of your husband's selfless dedication to his fellow man will, in time, be of consolation to you.
My deepest sympathy is extended to you and the other members of the family.
MRS MARGARET L BUCK DONT DELIVER BTWN 10PM KAND 6=
REPORT DELVY CHGS GNTD=
DOX (sic) 132 LYNN CREEK MO=
IT IS WITH DEEP REGRET THAT I LEARNED OF THE DEATH OF YOUR SON. MY DEEPEST SYMPATHY IS EXTENDED TO YOU IN YOUR GREAT LOSS. MY MORTUARY BRANCH THIS HEADQUARTERS, IS RESPONSIBLE FOR ARRANGING FOR RETURN AND DISPOSITIONS OF HIS REMAINS. REMAINS WILL BE RETURNED TO U.S. PORT BY MILITARY AIR TRANSPORTATIO N. EXACT TIME OF ARRIVAL NOT YET KNOW: HOWEVER, AS SOON AS THIS INFORMATION IS RECEIVED, I WILL UWIRE (sic) YOU. SHIPMENT FROM PORT TO FINAL DESTINATION WILL BE MADE BY EITHER RAIL OR COMMERCIAL AIR, WHICHEVER IS DETERMINED TO BE FASTES (sic) AND MOST PRACTICABLE BY PORT AUTHORITIES. PORT AUTHORITIES WILL NOTIFY YOU BY TELEGRAM EARLIEST POSSIBLE TIME OF SHIPMENT TO DESTINATION DIRECTED BY HIS WIFE. TIME AND DATE OF FUNERAL SHOULD NOT BE SET NOR SHOULD RELATIVE COME FROM DISTANCE TO ATTEND SERVICES UNTIL TELEGRAM IS RECEIVED. IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS PLEASE CALL AREA CODE 202 OXFORD 7058 BETWEEN 8:15 AM AND 4:30 MPM (sic) EST, MONDAY THROUGH FRIDAY. PLEASE TALK WITH MRS. LONG OR MR COURTNEY MY SPECIAL ADVISORS ON MORTUARY AFFAIRS. AFTER 4:30 PM CALL OXFORD 55791=
MRS MARGARET L BUCK REPORT DELIVERY REASONABLE DELIVERY BOX 132 LINN CREEK MO= CHARGES PAID REPORT CHGS=
REMAINS OF YOUR SON A1C JAMES E FRANCIS ESCORTED BY TSGT WILFORD M BARNETT ARE BEING SHIPPED TO THE QUIRING MORTUARY 935 NORTH HILLSIDE WICHITA KANSAS REMAINS DEPARTING SAN FRANCISCO CALI 1155 PM 18 MAR 68 ARRIVING WICHITA KANSAS 3 PM 19 MAR 68 TWA FLIGHT 430=
It was with deep regret that I learned of the death of your husband, Airman First-Class James E. Francis, in Thailand.
Your husband's loss will be deeply felt by his countrymen as well as his loved ones. The Nation is grateful for the sacrifices that are being made by brave Americans like your husband in Vietnam and other troubled areas around the world so that freedom for all peace-loving people may be won and preserved.
Mrs. Johnson and I join in expressing our heartfelt sympathy to you and the other members of the family. You will be remembered in our prayers.
Lyndon Johnson (signature)
Mrs. James E. Francis
1953 North Payne
On April 9, 1966 James Edward married Carolyn SMITH, daughter of Robert SMITH.
1077 iv. Robert Eugene (1949-)
Margaret Louisa second married Richard Marion BUCK, son of John Ad BUCK (circa 1893-1962) & Maude COOPER. Richard Marion was born in Nevada, Iowa, on January 8, 1921. Richard Marion died in Tucson Arizona, on February 26, 1997; he was 76. Occupation: Truck driver.
Research: “In Memorium to Richard Buck" by Bob Francis, from "Root & Branch: The Shawhan and Smith Family History Newsletter, Spring, 1997"
It’s hard to believe he’s gone, even now, as I write these words. Richard Marion Buck, known to one and all as simply “Buck,” that mountain of a man–both figuratively and literally–breathed his last at 3:36 PM, February 26, 1997. In medicalese, Buck’s last moments are summarized as follows: Immediate Cause of Death: Respiratory Failure due to or as a consequence of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Other significant conditions contributing to death but not resulting in the underlying cause: renal failure, anemia, congestive heart failure. In short, Buck’s system simply shut down, and the old fellow died just the way he wanted: without the painful lingering.
I don’t know much at all about Buck’s childhood and youth (which says a lot about him and me), but the little I have gathered is as follows. He was born in Nevada, Iowa, on January 8, 1921, to John Add and Maude Cooper Buck. Little is known about his childhood years except through his own storytelling lore (which may be of questionable historical value): “I used to walk twenty-five miles (barefoot) to school in the snow, carrying my little sister on my back. This was after I had worked all night in the coal mine. But I was damned glad for what I had Junior, I can tell you that!”
At some point in his childhood, the family moved to the Cumberland Gap area of Kentucky. Some of the Buck relatives lived in that part of the world (my mother tells of once visiting one of his uncles). Again, little is known about this period of his life. I know that he quit school after the tenth grade and went into partnership with a relative in the trucking business.
Another piece of apocryphal literature comes from Buck’s short-lived stint with the military. It seems he and the military did not see eye-to-eye on things, so the old boy just decided to go home to the farm one day and kinda’ forgot about the military. The story goes that he spent a year at home before the Army came calling. Amazingly, he did not get into a lot of hot water (at least the kind that winds up in court-martials). He was mustered out with an honorable discharge.
His path merged with our’s in 1952, when he stopped for a cup of coffee in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He eyed this young beauty waiting on tables and, well, the “rest is history” as they say. The picture at the bottom of the page was taken shortly after my mom and Buck met.
Evidently, things were going pretty badly for my mom in her marriage with my father John Francis, and Buck became a “shoulder she could cry on.” They fell in love and eventually decided to strike out on their own, leaving their kids with their spouses (Buck was married with two children and my mom had four children). The “pact” last about two weeks. My mom was heartbroken over leaving her children behind, so Buck decided to change the agreement; he’d do what was necessary to make this relationship work.
Buck raised us kids and did the best he could with what he had. I can only speak for myself from this point onward, for my relationship with Buck was a rocky one. I welcome future “stories” of him from others who knew, loved, and remembered him in their own unique ways, and will be glad to include these in future editions of the Newsletter. However, this story is mine, and I accept my rather limited and singular vantage point.
For most of his adult life, Buck was one of those people for whom tenderness, gentleness, and lovingkindness were strangers. It was not that he did not love us; of course he did in his own way, but his love was measured more in terms of teaching us how to survive in what he perceived to be a difficult world. One of his favorite sayings was, “it’s a hard cruel world out there Junior, and you’d better learn to survive in it.”
Buck projected an image of toughness that gave him an aura of someone bigger than life. It is this image that I carry with me to this day; it is also this image that I believe made it all but impossible for Buck to show feelings (I was so pleased to hear from my mom that, in his later years, he would actually get “misty-eyed” when watching a touching movie on T.V.).
During our childhood years, Buck worked at St. Louis University, St. Louis, Missouri, as a maintenance man, eventually becaming the head of the department. My brother Tom tells stories of Buck’s natural brilliance in troubleshooting. “Once Buck took a boiler apart piece-by-piece and laid it all out on the floor,” Tom said. “After fixing the problem, Buck put the broiler back together perfectly.”
Unfortunately, while Buck had great natural mechanical abilities, he was (to put it kindly) no businessman. He held many jobs over the years but never really knew how to demand what his talents deserved. Strangely, the tough old guy was soft when it came to his employers. He naively assumed that if a man did an honorable day’s work he would be compensated accordingly. Consequently, he worked long and hard for many employers who used his loyalty without regard for the person. Buck just took it all in stride. If he did complain about his lot in life, only my mother can tell that story.
Over seventeen years ago, my mom and Buck moved to the desert of Arizona. He went into semi-retirement there, but continued to work for a carnival company for a number of years. His health began to decline about ten years ago. Buck was overweight most of his life; but in his last years he became extremely obese. Finally, toward the end of his life, he could barely walk. After a visit to family members a few years back, Buck had a terrible “spell.” He had to stay on portable oxygen and would sometimes fall asleep mid-sentence.
Interestingly, Buck really “mellowed” in his last years. As mentioned above, he began to admit to feelings of tenderness and sentimentality that would have been impossible only a few years before. Perhaps in his weakened condition, he began to recognize other untapped strengths; that maybe being a “man” also included those aspects of life that he had theretofore considered beneath him. I don’t know; however, I know for sure that he showed love for his wife, sons, and grandchildren more than he ever had before. I am thankful for that. I can now say with genuine, heartfelt love, “thank you Buck, for your life.”
Chronology: Obituary from the Tucson Morning Star, dated March 4, 1997:
Buck, Richard M., of Marana, Arizona, passed from this life on February 26, 1997. Richard, the son of John A. and Maude Cooper Buck, was born in Nevada, Iowa on January 8, 1921. Known as "Buck" to everyone who knew and loved him, he was a self-proclaimed "Jack-of-all-Trades, Master of None." Buck is survived by his wife, Maggie, of the home; two daughters, Linda Stengel and Shirley Macy; four sons, Butch, Skip, Tom, and Bob Francis. He is preceded in death by one son, Jim Francis. He had 10 grandchildren. A Memorial Service was held on March 3, 1997, at the First Baptist Church in Avra Valley, AZ, with Buck's son, Chaplain (CPT) Bob Francis, officiating.
Pertinent Data from State of Arizona Death Certificate:
Name of Deceased: Richard Marion Buck
Date of Death: February 26, 1997
Place of Death: Pima County, Tucson, Arizona
Hospital: Northwest Hospital
Date of Birth: January 8, 1921
Marital Status: Married
Surviving Spouse: Margaret L. Smith
State and City of Birth: Nevada, Iowa
Social Security No.: 294-14-8365
Usual Occupation: Truck Driver
Kind of Business: Freight
Usual Residence: Arizona
Town or City: Marana
Zip Code: 85653
How long in Arizona: 19 years
Street Address: 17705 W. Wolcott Ln.
Previous State of Residence: Missouri
Elementary-Secondary (0-12): 10
Father's Name: John Add Buck
Mother's Maiden Name: Maude Ester Cooper
Informant's Signature: Margaret L. Buck
Relationship to deceased: Wife
Burial, Cremation, Removal: Cremation
Cemetery or Crematory: Evergreen Crematory, Tucson, Arizona