Words of Remembrance as delivered on May 14, 2019
My name is Dan Buckley, and I am proud to be Steve's older son. On behalf of my mom, my sister Sarah, my brother Tim, and our partners, Steve's beloved grandchildren, and his brothers John and Gerry: thank you for joining us to honor Steve's memory and to celebrate his life.
Since my dad passed, there has been a non-stop flood of visitors, emails, and phone calls, relaying not only condolences, but also memories and impressions conveying what my dad means to them. Many of you are here today. You are his family and friends, his classmates, his colleagues, his mentors and his mentees. Each of us carry with us a piece of my dad, and through each of us his generosity, friendship, good humor, and sense of community are carried forth.
My dad's story played out over 70 years on this Earth. But he nearly failed to live past the age of five when an accident in the kitchen sent him to the hospital with life-threatening burns. He survived and amongst the four Buckley brothers was the consensus pick for mother's favorite. Gerry attributes this to the accident dad suffered but I think Gerry simply objected to being compared academically to my dad during their school years; it was a very high standard. John on the other hand, being the oldest, had to tolerate Stevie accompanying him at my grandmother's command everywhere he went, even though John was five years older and he complained that Stevie was too young. Everywhere except, John noticed, when he and Kevin had to run errands for my grandmother. He's too young she would claim, despite their protests. Mom's favorite, indeed.
From Latin School and Bowdoin, friends and classmates talk about my dad's quiet leadership and his galvanizing personality. It will likely surprise no one that he was the fraternity Treasurer during this time at Bowdoin. This was a crucial role, since his report on the house finances would help them decide whether they would eat or whether they would drink that week. For the benefit of his less-financially literate brothers dad gave his budget reports in beer keg-based units rather than in dollars. So you can probably guess how the fraternity typically decided to expend its funds. In later years, his friends would remark that he was the glue who bound his friends together. Dad was the catalyst for his fellow Bowdoin and Latin school alumni to gather together on the Cape, in Bermuda, at Fenway, or at school reunions.
Still others know him from his four-plus decades at Ernst & Young. But even then, his colleagues have as many personal memories to share as professional ones. My dad was a mentor who encouraged hard work and expected a lot but was never demanding. He was generous with his time, supported his colleagues and advised them never to overlook the life part of work-life balance. He led by example and he showed that to be a good Partner you had to be complete person: a good husband, a good father, a good citizen.
My dad lived that example in a number of ways. There are those of you here today who came to know my father through his work with non-profit, academic and charitable organizations. He lent his time and his effort to organizations that helped others; even after his diagnosis, dad volunteered to advise those who struggled financially to help them plan their daily finances, unwind credit card debt, or ensure they could stay in their homes.
While we have different memories and relationships with my dad, I expect that we all share one common understanding: the man loved to give advice. Solicited, unsolicited, personal, professional, financial you name it, he gave it. And while he was a very good golfer, I am convinced he loved golf as much as he did because it allowed him the perfect opportunity to dispense his hard-earned wisdom. And if you ever spent time with him on the golf course, you've probably heard this pearl: Keep your head down, we'll watch it.
The more I think of it, it's really the essence of the guy. Keep your head down pay attention to the task at hand; care about the process as much as the results; follow-through on what you're meant to do; be right but be humble. We'll watch it friends, family, colleagues have your back, I have your back; together we make sure your hard work pays off.
Sarah, Tim and I were on the receiving end of that bit of advice I'd say about ten thousand times each. We heard variations of it depending on the sport, the class in school, or whatever challenge we faced. And he and mom were proud to support whatever we wanted to do provided we committed to our choice and shaped it with our own hard work. As my brother came to find out, even something as simple as sweeping the floors should be done right (that is, the way HE did it) because later sweeping the floors could be paying the bills. We never wanted for a thing, never wondered if we were loved, and were always gently guided to do what we thought was right and what ought to be done.
But all Steve's sage advice went out the window when it came to his grandkids. Doting grandfather doesn't even do it justice. He got no greater pleasure than escorting Cate and Owen up to the bakery in Harwich and letting them gorge on melt-aways as long as they didn't tell their mom (spoiler alert: Cate often did; but Owen can keep a secret). As Tim and I welcomed daughters recently, we saw him to our shock and amazement actually change diapers and feed them bottles! Even though you can count his career total diapers changed on one hand, it was still a lovely testament to how much he adored them.
As dad faced his diagnosis with astounding yet characteristic calm, he told my mom his love, his partner, his devoted caregiver that he had no regrets. Mom, you are the reason that his 70 years was lived without regret. Your memories are the most precious and unique of them all. I know they will give you strength in the weeks ahead. Your children and grandchildren take comfort knowing that he lived his life as he wished, and his ultimate wish was fulfilled when he got to spend 47 of his 70 years married to you.
Now 70 years may seem like long time, but when it comes to my dad it feels unbearably short. I know that I'd give anything for one more turn onto the back nine, one more trip to Fenway, one more afternoon on the beach in Harwichport with my dad. But in talking to my uncles and family, dad's friends and others he touched, I do know those 70 years were more than enough for him to pay back what he had been given in his own lifetime. And that tells me he is at peace.
So, until we meet again: keep your head down dad, we'll watch it. We love you.