George Buffington
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George W. Buffington

George W. Buffington died peacefully on Aug. 7, 2014, three weeks shy of his 89th birthday. He was a gracious, funny, bear of a man whose life was anchored in his love of language - its sounds, its history, its power.

George was born in Hudson, New York in 1925, the youngest of three boys. At 17 he won a scholarship to Columbia University. Halfway through, World War II and the draft interrupted. He was assigned to the Army Language School in Michigan, then to Fort Snelling Minnesota where he was commissioned two weeks after the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. He'd been scheduled for the first troop drop on southern Japan. At 19 and fluent in Japanese, George was sent to a broken, destroyed Tokyo, and then to Korea where he screened and censored mail for evidence of war criminals escaping from the Soviet north. In 1947 George, now a War Department Civilian, was sent back to Tokyo to translate during the Major War Crimes Trials of high-level government and military officials.

Japanese remained the core of his life for the next fifty years. He returned to Columbia University in 1948 to finish a B.A. in Japanese, and in 1951 received a Masters from Yale in Indic and Far Eastern Languages. He then moved to San Francisco where he eventually established his own business as a Japanese translation consultant to US and international law firms. George enjoyed spending every moment away from work trekking the trails of Mt. Tamalpais, and would often say that he lived on Mt. Tam but slept in San Francisco.

In 2010 George moved into The Redwoods in Mill Valley where a new and unexpected chapter of life blossomed. He was known for his strong opinions and sensitive heart, became the big baritone in the Rock of Ages chorus, and forged many lasting friendships all while residing in his sunny apartment where from his deck, he could see Mt. Tam.

George was predeceased by his parents Fred and Belle Buffington, his brothers Fred Jr. and Jack, and his nephew Burrell. George is survived by his nieces Anne Mickle (George) and Barbara Buffington, nephew Dean (Patricia), great nephews Brent and Kurtis (Krystina), and great-great nephew Jakob Buffington.

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Published in San Francisco Chronicle from Aug. 16 to Aug. 17, 2014.
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August 20, 2014
May the love of friends and family carry you through your grief. The scriptures also provide much comfort and hope.
S. Hill
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