BOISE, Idaho — Friends and family in Boise are remembering Bill Buckner, the former Boston Red Sox star hitter and Boise Hawks coach, who died on Monday at the age of 69.
In a statement, his wife, Jody Buckner, said, "After battling the disease of Lewy Body Dementia, Bill Buckner passed away early the morning of May 27th surrounded by his family. Bill fought with courage and grit as he did all things in life. Our hearts are broken but we are at peace knowing he is in the arms of his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."
Buckner was longtime Boise resident and worked for two years as the hitting coach for the Boise Hawks. He was also co-owner of a car dealership in Emmett.
According to several people who worked with Buckner in Boise, he never turned down an opportunity to lend a helping hand - and that's how many in the Treasure Valley are remembering him.
Buckner worked with many nonprofit organizations, including the Women's and Children's Alliance, Dress for Success, Boise Rescue Mission, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and numerous others.
Those who worked with him in those organizations say he would do anything he could to pitch in - autograph baseballs for an auction, raise money for scholarships, or speak at events about his life experiences.
“When I took over Dress for Success six years ago, we had a celebrity tea party - our big fundraiser every year - and I needed a celebrity and he was just so quick to come on board," said Rachel Flichel, executive director for Dress for Success.
“He loved fly fishing, that’s his package he would always donate – a day on the river with Bill Buckner," she said. "And he’d take people out and teach them how to fly fish.”
Rev. Bill Roscoe, president of the Boise Rescue Mission, said Buckner and his wife had been members of the board for several years.
“He helped us out with our capital campaigns when we bought the River of Life building from the city of Boise, he helped raise money for that and of course participated as donors," Roscoe said. "And he was always there when we wanted him – for a golf tournament, to sign autographs, to be at an event. Billy was always available for us. Billy was a great, great man and I’ll miss him a lot.”
Ken Lewis, director of the Fellowship Christian Athletes, said Buckner and his wife had also been involved with FCA for about 20 years.
“They would help get people to our Bowl Breakfast whether it was sponsorships or trying to get people to attend, or golfers to go to our fundraising tournament," Lewis said. "He’d help out at camp, our FCA camp. You can imagine being a middle school or high schooler and getting some batting practice from Bill Buckner. And he loved to do those kinds of things.”
Lewis also said you would never meet a nicer man than Buckner.
“I remember just how Jody and Bill would open up their home to us and so many events and just be so gracious and so loving,” he said.
According to Lewis, Bill's kindness and generosity extended nationwide.
“I’d call Bill up and he’d be in an airport somewhere, going someplace to do a fundraiser for somebody,” he said.
Buckner is remembered as humble, kind, generous and warm. Those who knew him said he was always one to stay behind the scenes and his loss leaves behind a huge void in the Boise community.
“He really was everything you hope someone like that would be in a community and giving back,” Flichel said. “He’s irreplaceable. There’s no one like him.”
“I think that was a lot of him just receiving God’s love and giving it away just the kind of guy he was,” Lewis added.
Buckner won a National League batting title, was an MLB All-Star and got 2,715 hits and 174 home runs in a 22-year career.
He enjoyed his post-retirement life in Boise, and could often be found at Boise State football and basketball games. He also served as Boise Hawks hitting coach in 2012 and 2013, alongside manager Gary Van Tol, now the Boise State baseball coach.
"He was at his best in the cages during early work, building players swings and helping hitters prepare for their next at bat depending on the situation and score of the game," Van Tol said in a statement. "But more importantly he taught me humility, dignity, grace and patience.
"He will be missed," Van Tol said. "But his legacy will always be remembered. A devoted Christian, his strong faith was always present. He's now with his Savior and no doubt, already in the batting cage building someone's swing. Rest in Peace my friend. I was blessed to have known you."