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Obituaries

June 8, 2013

Joe P. Buckingham

— 1939 - March 26, 2013

Kokomo native son and long time resident of Alaska, Joe P. Buckingham, 73, died in Anchorage, Alaska, March 26, 2013. Joe Phillip Buckingham was born in Kokomo to William “Buck”  and Hazel (Frank) Buckingham.

Joe grew up in a home on Lafountain Street before the family moved in 1950 to their home at 1628 E. Sycamore St., just west of U.S. 31. Joe and older brother Don helped their parents renovate and run “Buckingham Palace” boarding house in downtown Kokomo from 1953 until he went off to Indiana University in 1960. Joe also worked for his dad and mom at the Kokomo Moose Lodge throughout his high school and college years. William “Buck” Buckingham (manager and Moose Lodge secretary 1946-1971) and Hazel ran the Moose Lodge for many, many years.

Joe graduated from Kokomo High School in 1958 and was looking forward to attending his 55th high school reunion later this year. Joe graduated from Indiana University Bloomington in 1964 with a bachelor of arts degree in zoology.

Joe Buckingham drove the Alcan Highway to Alaska for an adventure in the summer of 1967. He was broke upon arriving in Anchorage, so he obtained a summer job cleaning schools, and then worked as a substitute teacher that fall. Joe enjoyed teaching and decided on a teaching career, so he returned to Indiana in the fall of 1968, and obtained a master’s degree in education. He returned to Alaska in the fall of 1969, obtained a position teaching biology at West High School in Anchorage, and taught there until his retirement in 1987, at the tender age of 47.

Joe met his wife, Mary Phillips Spess, while both were teaching at West High. They were married Oct. 9, 1982, at their home on Wendy’s Way. They had many adventures during their “long” marriage of 30 years: building a cabin that became their regular summertime retreat on the ocean outside of the remote fishing village of Seldovia, Alaska; owning an out-of-print bookstore in Anchorage called the Alaskan Renaissance; and operating the Renaissance Cafe, selling food at summer music festivals in and around south-central Alaska. They also camped, hiked, worked out at The Captain Cook Hotel, took frequent extended road trips with their beloved 120-pound dog, Moonshine, and cross-country skied, for the last time at Westchester Lagoon just the month before Joe died.

Joe Buckingham was a voracious reader, loved to travel and have adventures, and often said he could happily wander the earth the rest of his life. His other love was writing. He kept busy writing his memoirs, researching family genealogy, sending memoir updates to his nephews and, more recently, posting many stories on his blog: http://hodgepodgepourri.blogspot.com. He felt there was more than enough to keep him busy writing for the rest of his life. He certainly wasn’t ready to die, wanting so to continue to write of his life experiences, good and bad.

Joe was preceded in death by his parents, William and Hazel (Frank) Buckingham and his only sibling, Donald L. Buckingham.

Joe is survived by his wife, Mary, and by his nephews, Lee Buckingham, Dennis Buckingham and a grandnephew (Lee’s son), Daulton Buckingham, all of Fishers, and by niece and nephews Ariana, Ben and Jonathan Phillips, and many dear friends, young and old, from his childhood and his life in Alaska.

There will be a public celebration of Joe’s life June 22 at the Fisherman’s Memorial in Homer, Alaska, as Joe also commercial fished halibut when younger and last fished halibut there with his nephews, Lee and Daulton, in June 2011.

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