As Aurora’s first female mayor, she was a trailblazer in local politics, and, as family, friends and community leaders came together to celebrate her life on Saturday afternoon, Evelyn Buck was remembered for her tenacity and heart.
The life of Ms. Buck, who died last December 21 after a battle with multiple myeloma, was celebrated at Theatre Aurora, a community facility she fought to help create, after her ashes were laid to rest at Aurora Cemetery at a private service attended by her seven children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren earlier in the day.
Seated in the theatre to mark her contributions to the community were Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill MPP Michael Parsa, representing the Province, Mayor Tom Mrakas, Councillors Rachel Gilliland, Sandra Humfryes, Harold Kim and Michael Thompson, former mayors Tim Jones and Geoff Dawe, and many others.
In a service led by her second eldest son Frank Buck, Evelyn was lauded as both a community builder and a matriarch.
“Together, we gather as family, friends and a community not to grieve a cherished life lost, but to celebrate a life well-lived with no regrets; a life that was full of achievement, an exemplary life of public service, a life full of family and friends, a life full of generosity and kindness, of sympathy and empathy, of passion and compassion. A life of good humour, laughter, and sometimes tears. A life of loyalty, support, love and caring. A life that rejoiced in the written and spoken word and revelled in the art of debate,” said Frank.
“We will not see the likes of Evelyn Mary Buck in these parts, or in most parts, again. She was, without a doubt, one of a kind and her memory will live on in the political and social lore and legend of this Town of Aurora, in this Region of York, in this Province of Ontario, and in this great country of Canada.”
Ms. Buck began life in Scotland. Her children say she had dreams of “a better life for herself and her family” and this was something she actively pursued after moving to Canada in the early 1960s.
Her public life began as an active member of the Regency Acres Ratepayers Association and only grew from there, from securing a seat on local council, to becoming the area’s first female Reeve, its first female mayor and, after a flirtation with Federal politics, returning to Council in her later years, on which she served until her electoral defeat in 2014.
“She served this community as the longest-serving elected official in this Town, spanning some 60 years, starting as a young woman and ending her life as an ancient blogger, with her popular blog Our Town and its Business,” Frank continued. “From old-tech manual typewriter to modern word processing and social media, she expressed her thoughts, her ideas and her opinions, of which she had many, on all manner of political and social subjects and openly invited all comers to agree, disagree, or agree to disagree on the positions that she put forward. Not surprisingly, many civic-minded people responded and, in this way, many decades of lively debate ensued.”
This engagement often courted controversy, including just months before her death with her stated opposition to Aurora’s Rainbow Crosswalk, but Saturday’s celebration of life focused on her work as a trailblazer.
“Evelyn was an inspiration to all women who aspired to hold political office and helped pave the way for many women whose names now appear on Council rolls across the Province today,” said Frank. “Evelyn the politician has a record that is recognized and well-known. She was a champion of the little guy and advocated for many who could not advocate for themselves. She insisted on delivering real value for taxpayer dollars and a deep respect for our democratic processes and norms, decency and civility in politics, and honouring citizens by ensuring that all issues were properly debated and adopted in the best interests of the community.”
While Ms. Buck’s role as matriarch of an expansive family was highlighted by both Frank and his elder brother Stephen, former mayor Jones stepped up to share his perspective on Evelyn Buck the politician.
“Over the years I worked with Evelyn, we were never ever sure whether she had actually read the agenda, or she was simply speaking on the issue because it was something that was meaningful to her and she had an opinion on it,” said Jones. “One thing for sure, Evelyn always led with her heart and her love for Aurora was first and foremost above anything and I think that justified everything she ever said or came out and did.”
Although MPP Parsa never had the chance to meet Ms. Buck, he said what makes any community “beautiful” is its people and “Evelyn Buck has her fingerprints all over” Aurora.
“Thank you very much for letting her do what she did for this Town because it has set the bar so high for the rest of us who are in public life to understand what it is like to really serve people and to listen to people,” said Parsa addressing the Buck family. “You allowing her to do that and share her with the Town has allowed people like me to look at the standards she set and continuously strive to do better and better.”
Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran