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Elizabeth "Libby" (Stewart) Buckley


1921 - 2017 Obituary Condolences
Elizabeth "Libby" (Stewart) Buckley Obituary
Elizabeth 'Libby' Stewart Buckley, 95 of Leesburg, formerly of Crystal River, passed away June 8, 2017 at her home. She was born on December 1st 1921 to Lewis Norman and Martha (nee Crain) Stewart. She lived in Rockford, then in Rapid City Illinois as a child. Her father was a civil engineer and her mother was a nurse. Libby went to the University of Illinois and graduated with a BA in a double major, Mathematics and Physical Education. "I did the mathematics to please Daddy," she said, describing herself as having a tomboy childhood. Sport and physical education was to be her life calling. She played softball and danced as a youngster, and loved bowling.
Elizabeth Stewart married Thomas Francis Buckley Jr on June 6 1943, on the night before her college graduation. Tom was serving in the Army Air Corps and proposed in a letter which said, "I've got a furlough. Let's get married." She replied, "That suits me fine." And so, shortly afterward, "We were married… I got up the next morning and graduated."
From 1943 – 47 Tom was in the military and served stateside, first in Dallas Texas, then in Alamogordo New Mexico. Libby had two jobs during this time. She was Advertizing Sales Manager for 20th Century Fox Film Corporation, selling advertising materials to theatres in Texas and Oklahoma. "One bonus was we got free tickets to all the movies." In New Mexico they lived on Base and she had a job as a Substitute Teacher for the local school district. She rode to work on the school bus with the Base kids.
After Tom was discharged the Buckleys went back to Champagne Illinois so Tom could do his Masters Degree. They spent 1947 – 50 there and Libby worked as a staff member at the University of Illinois. She was Assistant to the Director of Intramural Sports, scheduling tournaments. She also worked for Professor Cureton, Director of the University of Illinois Physical Education Research Lab. It was lucky for them both that he was looking for a secretary "who knew something about P.E.".
The Buckleys moved to Miami in 1950 and together they started the Buckley School of Swimming. Their swim-coaching ranged from pioneering work in family pool safety (Libby specialized in teaching Tiny Tots to swim), to competitive club team coaching which included swimming, diving, synchronized swimming and water polo at local, state, national and international levels. Their work produced Florida State A.A.U. championship teams in synchronized swimming and water polo. Some of their swimmers rose to championship status with many State and National Age Group and Jr. Olympic championships and records; National Senior A.A.U., Pan-Am Games and Olympic medal winners.
Libby was a member of the "Hall of Fame Dames", a group of volunteers who hosted official doings at the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Ft Lauderdale. The Dames wore uniforms and served as hostesses at various official ceremonies, such as when a new member was inducted. It was a wonderful opportunity to rub shoulders with famous swimmers and coaches. She met Olympians Eleanor Holm, Wally Spence, Peter Fick and, Dr Pete Desjardens, Coach Jim Councilman, Buck Dawson (who founded the Hall of Fame,) and the great Olympian and movie star Johnny Weissmuller (who would oblige any fans in the crowd with his famous Tarzan-call.)
Libby coached the young Shirley Stubbs who went on to win an Olympic Gold medal. Stubbs went to the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome, Italy, where she received a gold medal as a member of the winning U.S. team in the women's 4×100-meter freestyle relay, setting a new world record of 4:08.9 in the event final.
In 1970 Tom went back to coaching and teaching at a college. Libby became a certified Swimming Pool Operator and went to work at the City of Miami Shores Recreation Department as pool manager, in charge of all aquatic activities; she ran water exercise programs, which she designed and taught, including teaching other teachers. Today this would be called aqua-aerobics. She ran other, non-water related recreation programs for the department as well and operated a swim shop franchise for 'Speedo' brand merchandise.
Finally, Libby was the swimming pool manager and part time aquatic sports teacher at Miami Dade College, from 1979 – 83.
During her working years, as well as holding down full-time jobs, Libby supervised the care of elderly relatives who had followed the Buckleys to Florida in their retirement. She gave devoted and loving care to Tom's parents, Tom Sr and Elsie, and cared for her own mother, Martha, and Aunt Nora 'Sissy' Crain who was blind.
Libby and Tom retired in 1984 and moved to Crystal River Florida, where they had built their dream-home, right on the water, with their own boat-dock and manatees swimming past their back yard. It was heaven for the two of them, and she recalled that, "these were the best years" of their lives. They enjoyed boating, fishing and all aquatic activities; entertaining friends and relatives with manatee-watching and tours of Crystal River; vacationing in their beloved Florida Keys, the Bahamas, Caribbean and Hawaiian Islands.
One of Libby's great joys in life is her collection of animated toys. Her collection started back when she had a concession at the Bal Harbor Hotel Pool in Miami, where apart from teaching swimming, she sold fruit and toys to the tourists. She just couldn't resist any cute, battery-operated toy! When Tom became sick and was hospitalized, she would bring out her toys to amuse and comfort him; this grew into a "toy-show" which she began sharing with other patients. Soon she was putting on her toy-shows at retirement homes, nursing homes, Sunday school and so on. Libby would have a singing/dancing/talking toy to suit any occasion.
In 2001 Libby's husband Tom was in nursing home care, and her sister, Mary Gaber, came to Florida to help out. She lived in Crystal River for 7 years. The Buckley's own home became a nursing home, and with the invaluable help of her sister and hired nursing aides 24 hours a day, Libby was able to bring her dear Tom home to stay. She was very proud of the job they all did together, and was especially grateful to Aide Judy McKeever who served longest, and to the Hospice Care who helped in the last days. Tom passed away in November of 2009.
With that chapter in her life closed, Libby put the house up for sale and went looking for just the right place to live. She had a list of requirements, which included natural beauty, friendly people, assisted living and of course, a swimming pool. She found all that at Lake Port Square, in Leesburg, where she moved in 2010, and where she has lived happily ever after until her recent passing. Strickland Funeral Home with Crematory of Crystal River is in charge of private arrangements.
Published in Citrus County Chronicle on July 26, 2017
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