Long time Alaskan, Joe P. Buckingham, age 73, died at Providence Alaska Medical Center Emergency Room on Tuesday afternoon March 26, 2013.
Mr. Buckingham was born in Kokomo, Indiana to William R. Hazel (Frank) Buckingham. He graduated from Kokomo High School in 1958 and Indiana University in 1964 with an AB degree in Zoology.
Mr. Buckingham drove the Alcan Highway to Alaska for an adventure in the summer of 1967. He was broke upon arriving in Anchorage so he got a summer job cleaning schools, and then worked as a substitute teacher that fall. He decided on a teaching career so he returned to Indiana in the fall of 1968, and obtained a Masters in Education. He returned to Alaska in the fall of 1969, obtained a position teaching Biology at West High School and taught there until his retirement in 1987 at the tender age of 47.
Joe met his wife, Mary Phillips Spess, while both teaching at West High. They were married October 9, 1982 at their home on Wendy's Way. They had many adventures during their "long" marriage of 30 years: building a cabin on the ocean outside of Seldovia that they visited regularly for nearly 25 years. They owned an out-of-print bookstore, the Alaskan Renaissance, the current home of the Bear Tooth Restaurant, their favorite place to eat. Then the BT theater was the Denali with $1 movies where they had their first date in 1981 to see "Popeye". Joe didn't have any cash so Mary paid reluctantly. He liked to say he had been paying ever since. Before the bookstore in the 1980s they owned and operated the Renaissance Cafe, selling Buffalo NY Chicken Wings, deep fried potato skins, fresh made corn dogs and you name it at summer music festivals in and around Southcentral Alaska. They camped, hiked, took road trips from a week to 11 months long with their 120 lb. dog Moonshine and cross country skied, for the last time at Westchester Lagoon in February.
Mr. Buckingham was a voracious reader, loved to travel, and often said he could happily wander the earth the rest of his life. His other love was writing. He kept busy writing his memoirs, researching family genealogy, posting on his blog: http://hodgepodgepourri.blogspot.com and sending updates to his nephews. He felt there was more than enough to keep him busy writing for the rest of his life. He certainly wasn't ready to die, wanting so to continue to write his life experiences, good and bad!
He was preceded in death by his parents, William and Hazel (Frank) Buckingham and his only sibling, Donald L. Buckingham. Joe is survived by his nephews, Lee and Dennis Buckingham and a grandnephew Daulton Buckingham of Fishers, Indiana and his wife.
There will be a private wake and potluck in Anchorage on the anniversary of his brother passing 11 years ago and a public celebration of life June 21st at the Fisherman's Memorial in Homer, as Joe also commercial fished halibut when younger and last fished there with his nephews in June 2011.
Published in adn.com from Apr. 7 to Apr. 8, 2013