Long-time community champion and businessman Gary Buckland dies at 84

Gary Buckland’s favorite place on earth is on top of a hill on his 200-acre Dowling Farm. He often traveled there by car and roamed the many fields that once made up his large dairy farm. The farm was his home.

Buckland, 84, died Dec. 1 in Battle Creek. He left behind a loving family and a legacy to carry on for generations.

His family first moved to the property in 1945. Buckland and his wife, former Mary Cantrell, purchased the land at the age of 19. The land became a home for them and their families, and served as the backdrop for some of their fondest memories.

Family was the key to Buckland. He loved spending time with all his loved ones, especially his grandchildren, and loved to throw barn parties for his family. He leaves Marie behind; children, Kathy (John) Pennington, Suzanne (Marlowe) Burns, Julie Stoneburner, Patrick (Cindy) Buckland; eight grandchildren; 12 great-grandchildren; and his sister, Jane (Mark) Herbert. His parents died before him; son, Michael Buckland; and a grandson, Matthew Pennington.

In lieu of flowers, Buckland and his family asked for donations to be made to the Delton Kellogg Education Foundation, of which he was a founding member, or the Barry County 4-H Advisory Council.

In a note to her late grandfather, Shawna Stoneburner, a 2021 Delton Kellogg graduate, wrote: “You have always encouraged me in life, supported my artistic and musical skills and told me I had to do something. thing with my art. I miss you whistling and singing when I played the flute for you, and it always made me laugh. I miss your song.

Buckland was born on November 17, 1937 to Charles “Wayne” and Mary “Marciel” (Smith) Buckland in Bellevue.

He graduated in 1956 from Delton Kellogg, where he played on the college basketball team. He has always had a passion for the Delton Kellogg Panthers and has never stopped looking for ways to give back to his community and his school.

“It has been an honor to know and work with Gary Buckland,” said Lani Forbes, United Way Director of Barry County. “His presence filled a room with laughs, smiles and hugs. I am grateful to the Buckland children and Mary for sharing it with Barry County. He really cared about everything he encountered and didn’t forget anything about you or your family.

Buckland had a passion to support several charities and organizations, including Barry County United Way and the Delton Kellogg Education Foundation.

“Gary has worked tirelessly on the United Way campaign for years and, on two occasions, has served as campaign chair,” Forbes said. “Every campaign launch Gary would sit in the audience and shout, ‘Show me the money!’ Plus, he would call every week during the campaign to ask, ‘Where are we, kid? Not because he wanted to meet the goal for that year, but because he knew how valuable and necessary the programs that receive the funds are.

Gary and Mary Buckland are also long-time donors to St. Jude Children’s Hospital. Their association with St. Jude’s began after their 1 year old son, Michael, died of acute leukemia.

In a 2019 Banner article, Buckland said about 95% of children with acute leukemia died when Michael died. “We started donating money to St. Jude’s and have been doing it ever since,” he said in this article. “Every year they send us a few letters to let us know what’s going on. This year [2019], their letter said that 95 percent of all children with acute leukemia survived.

Buckland cultivated his land for many years before working for the John ter Avest agency for 15 years. Then, in 1979, he sought to get involved in the Delton community by founding the Buckland Insurance Agency, which he directed until his retirement in 2003.

“When I think of Gary Buckland, I think of Mr. Delton,” said Fred Jacobs, president of J-Ad Graphics. “He was a constant supporter of everything that was happening in the Delton area. My company has been a long-time client of the Buckland Insurance Agency and has relied on their expertise over the years. He was kind, generous, honest and very supportive when you needed a friend.

Gary and Mary Buckland were honored as 2013 Grand Marshals at the Founders Festival in Delton.

Buckland was also part of the group that helped raise funds for the Delton District Library building.

“He was always ready to get involved in big projects in the county, like serving on the hospital board, United Way and the Delton Kellogg Education Foundation,” Jacobs said.

As a founding member, Buckland was proud of DKEF. Each year he attended the high school awards ceremony and presented the Bud Leonard Memorial Scholarship, which is part of the DKEF.

“My most rewarding experiences with Gary were when we were working on DKEF,” said DKEF President Marsha Bassett. “He has always believed in DKEF and was an important member of our board. He continually reflected on ways in which he could personally contribute to the success of the foundation. Every year when he went down south for the winter, we would take a stack of DKEF letterhead and envelopes and write personal letters to people he knew, asking them to support our foundation.

In retirement, Buckland returned to raising cattle. He loved 4-H and participated in it for many years.

He and Mary had first met at the Barry County Fair. And Buckland still had the bracelet he bought at that first fair, with his name on one side and Mary’s name on the other.

With the exception of 2020, when the pandemic canceled community events, they returned to the fair every year – over 70 years. Buckland not only supported 4-H members and shared his passion for the major local event, he also financially supported cattle sales.

“My first connection with Gary was at the Barry County Fair Cattle Auction, which he supported every year and pushed me to attend, which I have had for over 30 years. Jacobs said.

Few of the Barry County Fair’s supporters were as supportive as Buckland. He started participating in 4-H and the fair while his children were in school. “The highest our 4-H auction has ever reached was $ 860,000, and for years it has exceeded $ 600,000,” Buckland said for the 2019 article. “That’s the head and the heads. shoulders above Kalamazoo, Ionia and all the great counties. “

Buckland was also a devout Catholic and a founding member of Our Lady of Great Oak Catholic Church in Lacey. Parishioners will miss her unique singing voice that fills the small church every Sunday morning. Each week, Buckland could be found on the porch of the church, chatting with friends before and after mass.

And every year Gary and Mary Buckland would have a prime rib dinner for all the parishioners in the basement of the church.

“Gary lived his faith and his values, and he raised his family with those same principles,” Bassett said. “He loved Delton, 4-H, his religious community and, most of all, his family. It’s hard to imagine the world without him. He was a big man with a big presence and left behind big shoes to fill. But he left his personal legacy to those who were fortunate enough to have known him to guide us for years to come.

Buckland was handing out pocket cards with life advice written on them. In 2019, he estimated he distributed over 1,000 cards, bearing the words:

” On this day :

“Fix a quarrel. Find a forgotten friend. Eliminate suspicion and replace it with trust. Write a love letter. Share a treasure. Give a gentle response. Encourage the young people. Show your loyalty in word or deed.

Keep a promise. Find time. Give up a grudge. Forgive an enemy. Listen. Apologize if you were wrong. Try to understand. Blur the urge. Examine your demands on others. Think first. to someone else Appreciate, be kind, be gentle, laugh some more.

“Deserve the trust. Take up arms against malice. Describe complacency. Express your gratitude. Worship your god. Feasting on a child’s heart. Enjoy the beauty and wonders of the earth. Speak your love. Speak it again. Speak one more time. Speak one more time.

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