Thomas H. Buffinton
November 8, 1920 – May 16, 2020
Thomas H. Buffinton, age 99, of Plymouth, MA, formerly of Marion, died peacefully on Saturday, May 16. He was the husband of the late Sally (Waring) Buffinton for 69 years.
Born November 8, 1920 in Williamstown, MA to the late Professor Arthur H. Buffinton and Mary (Edwards) Buffinton. As a young student at Williamstown High School he was a class officer, Student Council member and Captain of the football team. He graduated from Williams College in the Class of 1944 and earned his Master's degree from Trinity College in 1955. He served in the Pacific in the Navy, as a Lt (jg) Combat Information Officer. His destroyer, the USS Sutherland, was the first US war ship to enter Tokyo Bay at the conclusion of World War II.
Proud to be an educator, his first assignment was at Suffield Academy in CT. In 1952 he moved to Marion and taught at Tabor Academy where he spent the remainder of his career as a History Teacher, Coach, Athletic Director, Dean of the Tabor Summer Camp and Chairman of the History Department. He received the Trustee's Award for Distinguished Service and was inducted into the first class of the Tabor Athletic Hall of Fame. He also received a Fellow at the John Hay Summer Institute at Williams College; served as the Assistant Director of the John Hay Summer Institute at the University of Oregon; served as President of the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council (NEPSAC); was awarded the Rudolf Weyerhaeuser Driscoll Chair for History at Tabor and received the NEPSAC Distinguished Service Award.
What was most important to him throughout his career, was his time teaching. He taught English, Math, European, Medieval & Ancient History and finally, his true passion, American History. He didn’t teach dates and places, he taught “what, when, how and why.” In the context of an historical event, he taught what happened, how it occurred and why it impacted life and history. Additionally, he taught his students how to write and to think critically. During retirement, his days continued to be full and he was happiest when spending time with his beloved family, sailing on Buzzards Bay, consuming history books, gardening and cheering for his favorite sports teams.
He is survived by his son Thomas H. Buffinton, III and his wife Wendy of Plymouth, MA and his daughter Holly Buffinton Bove and her husband Vic of Essex, MA. Additionally, he leaves 5 grandchildren, 7 great grandchildren and 3 great-great grandchildren, along with several nieces and nephews.
Due to current restrictions, a private service will be held and a celebration to honor his memory will be planned at a later date. To acknowledge the incredible care he received, the family has asked that contributions be made in his memory to Cranberry Hospice, 36 Cordage Park Circle, Suite 326, Plymouth, MA 02360.
Arrangements have been made by the Waring-Sullivan Home at Fairlawn, Fairhaven, MA.
My Father Was A Teacher
First and foremost, my father was a teacher. His solemn request was that his headstone should read “A Teacher”, nothing else.
He taught young boys how to properly grow up and how to mature into responsible men.
He taught boys how to properly play a sport, not just how to defend a goal line stand, not just how to box out a forward, not just how to turn a clean double play, but how to properly comport yourself during the full course of the game - win or loose.
But most importantly, he was a teacher. He taught Math, English, European History, Medieval History, Ancient History and finally, his true passion, American History. He didn’t teach dates & places, he taught, what, when, how and why. He taught, in the context of a historical event, what happened, how it occurred and why it effected life & history.
During his last years he was able to attend a few basketball games at Tabor. Numerous people recognized him from across the court and came over to pay their respects and to say thank you.
Respect for all the things that he’d done in the past
Respect for being an incredible mentor.
Respect for demonstrating that you should do things the right way, not the easy way
Respect for what he imparted in class and the guidance/direction he instilled in each student lucky enough to have endured his classes.
Leaving the gym, a former student gave him one last thank you, he looked at me and with a thumbs up said, “He’s the real deal”.
It is sad to say that everyone I spoke to said, “You could never teach a class now the way he did then”. They all also agreed that todays students couldn’t handle his course. How sad is that.
He always did it the right way, Not the easy way.
---------------------------- Student Comment from:
Larry Jones, Class of 81
I was saddened to receive notice from Tabor of the passing of your Father. I had the good fortune, though it didn't feel that way at the time, of having your Father for AP U.S. History in the 1979-80 academic year. It was a class of only eleven of us so there was truly nowhere to hide. You simply had to do the copious quantity of homework he assigned after every class. I vividly remember the spirited debates on points of history that really made the class time fly by. In fact, his endless references to the writings of Clinton Rossiter & Richard Hofstadter made such an impression that I still have their respective books as my only surviving Tabor texts. Your Father taught me to formulate an effective argument, corroborate same with evidence, and then defend your position if you believed that you were correct. He would literally be nose to nose trying to get me to back down and, when I would ultimately crack under the pressure, he would chastise me for having backed down because I was right. That toughening process had a very formative impact on who I became as an adult. In fact, I was so appreciative in hindsight, that when a Tabor dorm was being renovated in the year 2000, I sponsored the student lounge and had a plaque put on the wall that said something to the effect of, "In memory of many spirited debates on points of U.S. History with Mr. Thomas Buffinton & Mr. Richard Wickenden." Some years later, I ran into your Father at a Tabor reunion and he brought up the plaque as the school had made him aware of it. He said to me, "I don't understand. I went back and pulled my grade book for your class and I see that I didn't honor you with especially good grades." Loved how he framed that! My response to him was that learning is not always about the grade and that I had learned much from him along my journey through his class. He clearly had instilled more book knowledge than I was aware of as I scored a 4 on the AP Exam so he had more than done his job with me!
He was a larger than life personality and very dedicated to his craft and his students. I, and countless others like me, are better for having passed through his classroom. He will be missed.
Larry Jones '81
36 Cordage Park Circle, Suite 326, Plymouth, MA 02360
Thomas H. Buffinton
May 25, 2020
Tom and Holly and family,
So sorry to hear about your Dad. He was a wonderful man. One thing I will always remember is his smile. Whether he was telling a joke or just looking at you, he had a smile on his face. It communicated his care for others. His obituary is a nice tribute to him. Our sympathy goes out to all of you, but hope you take consolation in knowing that "your Tabor family" will remember the good times we had in that special time when our families were blessed to know each other and be together.
Ann Dibble Ross & family
May 23, 2020
Mr Buffinton, (even as a colleague, I could never bring myself to call him anything else) was a figure in my life since I was a little “fac brat” at Tabor. He was supportive of my decision to spend my high school years at ORRHS, given my preference for coeducation and spring track, neither of which Tabor offered at the time. When I joined the faculty in 1982, he was warm and welcoming when others who knew me as a boy greeted me with a touch of condescension. Later on, he was always showed interest in my life at my new school, Deerfield Academy, where Headmaster Jim Wickenden cut his teeth.
Always smiling, always supportive, I count him as a leader among a very small group of legendary schoolmasters who served as my role models. I know I will never live up to his greatness, but his example will live on as one I will continue to strive to attain, right up to the end of my career here at St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire. Thank you, Mr. Buffinton.
May 23, 2020
Dear Holly and Tommy,
We were so blessed to have had many parents watching over us, teaching and guiding us. It was not an average childhood. I can't imagine how it could be surpassed. Your parents were not just my parents' colleagues they were also their dear friends. I saw your parents every day growing up. They never talked down to me. They were always interested in us kids and what we had to say. They were such good, caring, guiding people.
I wish I could have had your dad as a teacher, but having him as a father figure was pretty darned good. To this day I love the sound of a squeaky sneaker on a basketball floor or the sound of a half time buzzer. He worked so hard to make all of that happen. But you've lost your dear father and even when you are a great grandparent there is much sorrow in being orphaned and I'm so sorry.
Much, much love, Stephanie Stokes Leguia
May 21, 2020
Dearest Buffinton Family, Our deepest love and sympathy on the passing of your beloved father, grandfather, great grandfather, friend and stellar teacher, Tom. Although we were never able to meet him, we know him through the phenomenal family he created with your mom. As we hold members of the Buffinton family as closest to our hearts, we know for certain that their love and friendship is made possible in large part because of his influence and his extraordinary gifts passed to him from his parents and through the generations. His life is a blessing for all who knew him, learned from him and for those of us who feel his powerful influence in his children ... with deepest love, Louise and Rob Byer