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Patricia Buckley, Rest in Peace

Patricia Taylor Buckley died in the wee hours of Sunday morning in Stamford, Connecticut. She was ill for a long while, and it was through an infection arising from surgery that she passed on.

Mrs. Buckley was wife to William F. Buckley, Jr. and mother of their son Christopher, both of whom survive her. The Buckley men are possessed of a rare skill in letters, the elder having earned his place in the firmament of American writers just a few years after he was married (with God and Man at Yale, published in 1951) and the latter working swiftly toward his. (Christopher Buckley may now be best known for his novel Thank You for Smoking, which was two years ago turned into a very successful film.)

Her husband being its patriarch, Mrs. Buckley was something like a mother to the whole of conservatism, as the editors of National Review write:

[She gave] dinners to the editors of her husband ‘s magazine, National Review every other Monday, starting in the mid-1960s. At her husband ‘s 80th-birthday celebration in 2005 at the Pierre Hotel in New York, her son Christopher noted in a toast that €œNo one ever left my mother ‘s house less than well and truly stuffed. €

Though she was often in the limelight, Mrs. Buckley tended to shy from it, content to leave center stage to her husband, the political and literary figure. She liked to say that she was €œjust a simple country girl from the woods of British Columbia, € though by any account she was anything but simple and had long since left the woods of her native British Columbia.

I met Mrs. Buckley only once. It was last summer at her lovely Connecticut home sloped a dozen feet above what must have been the bluest jug of the Atlantic Ocean. She was not, of course, feeling her very best. But it was difficult to tell: the scene was one of perfect health. I parked near the beginning of a long gravel driveway and walked towards a covered porch. At the end of the driveway, the scene suddenly became an arcadia: to the left, a home that seemed at the same time regal and pastoral. To the right, a thick green where Mr. and Mrs. Buckley’s little Spaniels played, and just before me Pat Buckley, who was arrayed on her porch enjoying dusk, breeze, and the gang of little kids swimming.

For the entire afternoon and evening, though she was not well, Mrs. Buckley was charming, sharing stories about her days spent in the fashion cliques (Women’s Wear Daily writes about this in better detail), about music (J.S. Bach, specifically; she was skeptical of my more classical tastes) and her dear husband and her dear dogs, the objects of her love.

Anyway, I experienced Mrs. Patricia Buckley for only a half day, but, even ailing, was absolutely sure as I drove home that I had experienced someone with a special presence. It is no surprise that her passing has occasioned a river of happy stories. May she rest in peace, and my sincere condolences to Mr. Buckley and Christopher.


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