Richard "Buzz" Bradley Estes
September 19, 1940 – February 21, 2020
Richard Bradley “Buzz” Estes, age 79, passed away on February 21, 2020. As a small business owner, educator, Presbyterian deacon and elder, Sunday school teacher, local and Civil War historian, and avid storyteller, Buzz was a well-known figure in Athens.
Most know him as the owner of W.E. Estes and Son, a third generation family business that Buzz transitioned into a plumbing, electrical, well pump, heating, and air conditioning service after the passing of his father in 1970. Buzz began working at the family business when he was 12, only leaving for four years to earn his B.A. in psychology from Vanderbilt University in 1962. W. E. Estes and Son proudly provided quality service to the community until 2012, when Buzz and Doris retired and closed the business.
Buzz was always passionate about inspiring others to learn and respect the trades. He felt that though the work could be hard, it was rewarding to solve problems and help people live more comfortable lives. Always an educator, Buzz taught classes and wrote articles about HVAC techniques and troubleshooting. His dedication to his profession and commitment to education was honored by the North Alabama Chapter of ASHRAE as “Professional of the Year”, and he received the “V. V. Solomon Educator/Teacher of the Year” Award from the RSES.
Buzz loved nature, photography, and music. He was a Boy Scout, earning the Eagle Scout award. As a young man and aided by his dog Luther, Buzz was an avid duck and dove hunter and loved sailing the Elk River. Courting his future wife Doris, he flew a small Cessna down to Tuscaloosa football games. With Doris and their daughters, Buzz enjoyed hiking Monte Sano Mountain and Bankhead Forest and always packed his hammock and wine glass for a mid-hike respite. Buzz captured these hikes, life in Athens and First Presbyterian Church in pictures for decades. For he was rarely without a camera after studying photography in the Alabama Air National Guard for six years. Music always surrounded Buzz. He loved playing marches on the saxophone with the Athens High School (class of 1958) or Vanderbilt University band. Buzz was also passionate about classical music, especially opera. Anyone visiting his office or passing Buzz in his truck would hear Verdi or Mozart streaming from his radio and Buzz humming or singing along.
Most of all, Buzz loved Athens and Limestone County. He relished preserving the stories of Athens’ history, while growing tourism and supporting small businesses. He brought history to life though his Courthouse square walking tours and helped other Athenians tell their ancestors’ stories by organizing the Athens Cemetery Stroll. He wrote and published several of his own stories about growing up here. True to his role as a storyteller, however, he was never afraid of elaborating on a story to enhance its telling.
Buzz Estes was a true Southern character – quick-witted, intellectually curious, down-to-Earth, abounding with love for his family and community, and always ready to share a story with a friend. He was preceded in death by his father, William Edward “Pete” Estes, and mother, Jean McCoy Estes. He is survived by his brother, Bill Estes, his wife of fifty years, Doris Campbell Estes, his daughters, Anne (David) Hearn and Claire (Jon) Mooney, and 4 granddaughters, Zoe and Selene Hearn of Baltimore, Maryland and Harper and Emory Mooney of Dallas, Texas.
In lieu of flowers, please send memorial donations to the Athens Veterans Museum, the Athens Public Library, or contribute to the R.B “Buzz” Estes Memorial Scholarship at the Calhoun College Foundation to support students entering the trades. A memorial service will be at 10:30 am on February 29, 2020 at First Presbyterian Church, Athens, Ala. Visitation will follow in the sanctuary.
- Memorial Service Saturday, February 29, 2020
Richard "Buzz" Bradley Estes
March 5, 2020
Buzz, as former president of the Tenn. Valley Civil War Round Table, I know how important our meetings were to you, and how central to our organization you were to us since you rarely missed a meeting. I am also aware that you were centrally involved in the Athens Sons of Confederate Veterans--which I have come to realize is one of the best-run camps in Alabama. There were significant representatives from both groups at your memorial service. I am certain that I speak for all of our members when I say you are terrible missed. Also, I regret there was no mention of this important part of your life in your obituary. God speed, my friend, to your next adventure. I am attaching possibly your last photo, made just three weeks ago at the Old Gin Restaurant.
February 29, 2020
One day Buzz came by the office and gave me a picture he'd made of Singing on the Square from the top of his building. I told him I'd like to get a copy of it sometimes and maybe a few of the other events for my brochures. It was storytelling time so I called him I said, " if you get a shot of Storytelling with the big tent and everything downtown, I sure like a copy." He said, "why don't you come on over and we'll just take care of that now." So I went over to Buzz's business and he said, " let's just go up on the roof now and take a picture ." I said okay. So with camera in hand, we go up the stairs to the upstairs then all of a sudden Buzz says," climb up that ladder" , " what ladder, I asked. He said, "that one that's nailed on the wall." Well, in shock I climbed the ladder that took us out to the roof. I was a little nervous. We're up on top of Buzz's roof so I thought well I don't see how we're going to get a very good shot from here. Buzz came out on top of the roof and he said, " come on follow me" so here we go walking across all the buildings down to the corner of Washington and Marion Street. We climbed over ductwork, over heating and cooling units and over a lot of building tops that I thought might fall in. But buzz and I made it to the corner. He showed me where to get the best picture. I took a picture of the storytelling tent with people walking around. It was a great experience and I had a wonderful time learning how Buzz had crawled all over the buildings of Athens making pictures from the rooftop. I'm sure going to miss Buzz Estes a true Southern gentleman and wonderful friend.
February 25, 2020
When I was about ten years old I can remember Buzz being in the Athens High School marching band. Probably 1957 or 1958.
Buzz was on the last row when marching down field.
Being shorter than most and while concentrating hard on playing his instrument, he would invariably be two to three steps behind everyone. It became a tradition and the Athens fans would cheer harder for Buzz than the football team.
God bless a great Athenian, go Buzz!! 🎺