Remembering Alumnus and former Social Credit MLA Walter Buck (’48)
Posted on March 20, 2013 by Christopher Thrall
The family dentist, a university professor, a county councillor and a six-term MLA was honoured with our Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1984.
Walter Buck was the kind of guy who wore a kilt, even though he wasn’t Scottish.
His greatest joy was planting more than 8,000 trees on his golf course near Fort Saskatchewan, 22 varieties in all.
He played hockey with the University of Alberta Golden Bears, he golfed and he loved curling until the end: he played in a bonspiel the weekend before he took sick, and watched every last game in the Tim Hortons Brier.
He was a family dentist, a university professor, a county councillor and a six-term MLA celebrated for his razor-sharp wit in the house.
He died of stomach cancer in Fort Saskatchewan on March 14. He was 82.
“He taught me a lot,” youngest son Bob said Tuesday. “He taught me not to worship money. His word was his bond. He taught me the value of hard work. We talked about ethics and values, but it’s not what your parents say, it’s what they do.
“He grew up in a shack, and he believed that if you worked hard you could achieve anything. He took a sour patch of soil in a down golf economy and built a 27-hole golf course.
“He was not a detail man, he was a visionary.”
When people talk about Buck, they use words like charismatic, flamboyant and hard-working. His family nicknamed him The Flash, because he was there one moment, and gone the next.
Buck married Laura-Marie Simpson in 1956 and the couple raised four children together: Moira, David, Lisa and Bob. He was devoted to Laura-Marie for 56 years, and friends say she was the reason for his success. Bob says she was also the reason he wore the kilt.
“He was 100-per-cent Ukrainian, but he wore that kilt,” Bob said. “He said: ‘I live with a stubborn Scotswoman, I have the right to wear a kilt.’ ”
MLAs paid special tribute to Buck in the legislature Tuesday afternoon, recognizing his 22 years of service to the province.
He was first elected as MLA for Clover Bar on May 23, 1967, as a member of the Social Credit Party. Later, when the Lougheed Tories swept to power, he was one of a handful of Socreds to keep their seats. He sat as an independent and as a member of the short-lived Representative Party before retiring from provincial politics in March 1989.
“We were two survivors,” said Ray Speaker, who served with Buck for all 22 years. “To see what made him successful as a politician, all you had to do was look at his appointment book.
“Seven days a week he was booked, he was going to some turkey dinner, some community function or constituency association. He was a people person. Everybody knew him. … All of us who knew him well were amazed at how many balls he could keep up in the air at one time.”
Veteran Tory MLA Marv Moore faced off against Buck in the legislature for nearly two decades. He said Buck was a skilled debater who never pulled punches but never held a grudge, either.
“He was a really intense individual when it came to getting the job done, but he never took himself too seriously in the house, which is the right approach to take,” Moore said. “He threw out a lot of one-liners — sitting down, not standing up — and the speaker can’t give you trouble for that.”
Buck was so famous for his one-liners that in the early 1970s, Hansard started naming the authors of one-liners to give Buck credit for his wit.
Among the most famous: In 1975, he called Horst Schmid the “Minister of Unsolicited Grants” after an auditor’s report said some grants were a shambles; later, he said he couldn’t call another MLA a liar, but explained that the man “didn’t have a passing acquaintance with the truth.”
Lou Hyndman, a former Tory cabinet minister, once said of Buck: “One of these days the honourable member from Clover Bar will generate more indignation than he can contain and he will self-destruct.”
Former Speaker David Carter had to rein Buck in on more than one occasion.
“Walt would always make these clever remarks and you couldn’t help but giggle,” Carter said. “I’d use the word ‘effervescent’ to describe him. Like all of us politicians, he could be a pain in the back end. But he never held grudges.
“There was a happiness about Walt,” Carter said. “Walt was full of joy.”
A celebration of Walter Buck’s life will be held on Monday, March 25, 2013 at 3 p.m. at the Dow Centennial Centre, Shell Theatre, 8700 — 84 Street, Fort Saskatchewan.
Before he died, he helped to plan it.
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