The Rev. Robert Sirico, head of the Acton Institute, has written a fitting tribute to William Buckley.
Buckley himself wrote numerous eulogies for those that went before him. I often wondered, when his own time came, if anyone could do Buckley justice. He had a true gift for friendship across the spectrum of political beliefs. While it is trite to say, “he will be missed”, sometimes only clichés get you through the tough moments.
William F. Buckley died in a state of grace, wise and full of years. As angels guide him to his rest, everyone who knew him will have their own special memory of being in his company — stories they couldn’t tell while he was still here.
Father Sirico has an especially nice one.
Father Sirico’s tribute:
Having been my father’s remote control, I recall one Sunday afternoon in the 1960s being told to stop and back up to the “educational channel,” as it was called.
The Sirico household were not big viewers of what was then Channel 13 in New York, so I wondered what my father was thinking.
I click over to the channel and my father said, “Sit down; you’ll learn something.”
Indeed, I did.
That was the first time I had heard or seen William F. Buckley, Jr., who died in his study on Wednesday while at work on yet another erudite page of insightful, urbane, and scintillating prose. Buckley (or Bill, as he almost insisted people call him) holds the record of sending me to the dictionary more than anyone I have ever read in the English language.
He was more than just a stylist. He was a thinker, and a very serious one. He made a mighty contribution to the intellectual culture-raising it as high as he possibly could and never becoming despondent when it refused to budge.
He will be lauded by numerous pendants and scribes for the incredible number of his accomplishments, preeminent of which is his historic role as godfather of the modern conservative/libertarian movement in the founding of the National Review.
He was also a decent harpsichordist, a sailing enthusiast, an avid skier, world traveler and adventurer, lover of Latin, and debater par excellence. If he could do all these things at once, which I am sure he attempted, all the better. All of which is to say that he loved life and lived it to the fullest.
When the time came for me to found the Acton Institute, I was concerned in the early years with establishing our credibility and I conjured up the idea to write Bill Buckley, whom I had met only once or twice in passing, and ask if he would consider being the inaugural speaker of what I’d hope would become an annual dinner.
To my utter amazement he promptly replied (he was always prompt in his replies) that yes, he would be delighted to come, waiving his usual five-figure speaking fee to launch us on our way. That was almost 20 years ago.
We remained in contact over those years, and he was always unfailingly supportive and gracious and, in fact, was a personal donor to our work.
My most memorable time with Bill was just ten years ago, in, of all places, Havana, Cuba. We were both there for the historic visit of John Paul, II. Meeting in the lobby of what had been the gangster Myer Lansky’s hotel on the El Maracon, Bill asked if I would like to join him in exploring the city. Would I like to meander around Old Havana with the author of a novel about a spy who attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro? And have drinks with said novelist in Hemmingway’s old bar, mischievously attempting to order Cuba Libres? Would I like to help him negotiate (Buckley’s first language was Spanish) the black market purchase of Cuban cigars from a man we met on the street, who would take us to his cramped apartment to display his wares out of the view of prying eyes?
Would I like to explore the Old Cathedral and pray together there for freedom of that beleaguered land? And would I like to end the day with a delicious meal, smoking our cigars and laughing about having committed a capitalist act among consenting adults in one of the last bastions of socialism on the planet? Would I?…
Read the rest of Father Sirico’s paean to Bill Buckley here.
While you’re at the Acton Institute site, be sure to look around. This is a good place to start: “Minimum Wage, Maximum Suffering.”