John "Jack" Albert Buckham
October 26, 1943 – June 2, 2021
John Albert (Jack) Buckham passed away on the afternoon of Wednesday June 2 while working on his beloved farm, 30 km East of Kamloops on the South Thompson River. Jack's passing was sudden, unexpected and heart-wrenching for all of us. His children Brad (Dionne) and Aaron (Tanya) and grandchildren Madison, Alex, Daryn, Tyson and Riley had grand plans for involving 'Grandpa Jack' in family activities, school concerts and youth sports after over a year of separation from him due to the pandemic. Jack is predeceased by our wonderful mother Dianne Buckham (nee Bond) and will be forever remembered by his loving friend and companion Maureen Nucklaus. He is survived by his sister Sue (Norm) McGowan, brothers Bruce (Patricia), Bob Buckham and Dianne's siblings Jim Bond, Karen Chayeski, Gerry Bond, Vicki Hay and Kenda Pauwels and numerous nieces and nephews and their children who have lost the attentive ear, encouragement and unconditional support that characterized 'Uncle Jack'.
Since his death, the response from the community Jack loved, the city of Kamloops and the surrounding region, has been both overwhelming and uplifting. Numerous articles, reports, and posts have quite vividly described Jack's impact as an educator, a coach and a force behind many of the sporting events that have helped establish Kamloops as a "Tournament Capital" and a hub for athletic competition that is recognized regionally, provincially and nationally. Many of you know of Jack's exploits better than we do. Many of you worked closely with him, shared his visions and goals and were committed, like him, to building opportunities through sport for the youth of this City. Rather than attempt to recap all of Jack's accomplishments to a community that has already recapped these very things for us over the past weeks, we instead want to take this moment and platform to speak on Jack's behalf - to give a voice to one last unspoken message that we believe he would have conveyed had he been warned that he would be leaving us.
Our father's identity was interwoven with the accomplishments of the school sports programs he built, teams he coached, individual players he invested himself in, and committees that he led or worked within to host provincial and national championships in this city. Jack valued 'struggle' - he was attracted to those who showed a will to better themselves, to chase a goal even in the face of uncertainty or even worse the threat of failure. Jack believed in struggle as a means of empowerment, and recognized the empowerment of young people as being a pillar our society leans on. Yes, Jack was immersed in athletics but he saw athletics as a mechanism - a means to an end.
Sport facilitates, even encourages, struggle. It draws people together to witness and celebrate struggle, and through display of perseverance sport can motivate those who are holding back, or who are being held out, to engage in what is important to them. Whether it was a teenager trying to become a better player, a team trying to overcome long odds or a city trying to raise itself to increasingly higher standards, Jack was drawn, like a moth to flame, towards participating in those situations. Out of these struggles, he believed, to his core, that new leaders would emerge. It may not manifest for decades, but from the scores of kids that he helped learn to compete, from the adults he encouraged to build ever bigger and better venues for competition, from the crowds that attended those events - leaders would emerge. As far fetched as it may sound, these leaders might excel in any life endeavour. They could develop scientific knowledge that keeps us healthy, develop technology that cleans our water and air, or develop the mutual respect and compassion that bridges division in our communities. He understood that we could never predict who these individuals would be in advance, and so the best way to see them emerge was to include everyone. The pursuit of that impossible goal became Jack's defining characteristic.
How did this pursuit come to be? In the mid 1960's Jack stood at a crossroads - faced with a decision to return to Kamloops to accept a teaching, coaching and athletic director role at Valleyview Junior Secondary, or to become an athletic trainer with a professional basketball team. He had just finished his studies at Seattle Pacific University, his own personal athletic path having led there from Kam High in his attempt to play basketball at increasingly higher levels of competition. Those of you familiar with the stories Jack kept on 'high rotation', know that his basketball dream never materialized. But he did endear himself to his coaches and he had become a member of the athletic therapy staff at the university and this had opened a door to an intriguing opportunity to join the staff of an expansion NBA (or ABA?) team. The decision: follow that intrigue, or return home to a 'small dusty town' (Dad's words specific to that time) absent the lights, excitement and allure of professional sports to teach and coach teenagers. You all know what he picked.
Working hand-in-hand with many of you reading this, Jack came back to Kamloops and started building - building opportunities for young athletes to struggle. He was part of the team of educators in this city that established junior high football for the region. Not one team mind you, but a pool of school teams that competed passionately against one another under 'Friday night lights' in what is now (we believe) the field in front of the bandshell in Riverside Park. From that beginning was built a community of people who evolved the meaning of football to this region. Through their efforts, Kamloops witnessed this sport at higher and higher levels of competition, and now it is played under bigger lights at an even better venue at the TCC under the direction of accomplished people raised in Kamloops' sporting culture.
Jack loved basketball and immersed himself in coaching. As young children, we tagged along with our dad's Kam High teams as they competed in Kamloops, throughout the Okanagan and then increasingly in the lower mainland. Jack was 'hell-bent' on forcing his 'Red Devils' to understand what it means to step onto a court under the eyes of 100's or 1000's of people and battle against an opponent supported by a larger population with greater resources and more fanfare. To facilitate this, he went to ever increasing lengths (quite literally), acquiring his Class 2 driver's license so that he could transport his players by highway coach to venues all over the province. But the days of basketball caravans originating in the interior (what Dad lovingly referred to as "beyond Hope") traveling through the Fraser canyon to compete at the lower mainland venues are now indeed in the rear-view mirror. Kamloops' basketball players have repeatedly prevailed on the Provincial stage and some have moved on to compete at the highest possible levels. Through your work, the caravans changed direction; they came to Kamloops and this community showed visiting competitors how sincere it was about honoring excellence in this sport - setting a higher standard that those visitors took back to their own homes.
Jack was legendary in the 80's for his intensity as a basketball coach. This is likely due to our mother having retired from coaching with him to raise us and thus she was not present on the bench to balance his emotional responses. But that same intensity was also present in his role as an athletic director. Evening at-home debriefs of his day's struggles made us witness to the battles to find resources, build venues (in some cases literally by hand) increase participation and maintain opportunities for competition. We apologize on his behalf to those of you that were forced to say 'No' to him at some point. To define his commitment to the sporting youth of this community, we point you to 1991 when Dad went against the wishes of the BC Teacher's Federation and refused to shut down school sports at Kam High in support of a labour dispute at that time. To appreciate the magnitude and toll of that decision, one must understand how passionate our father was about the teaching profession. He had been a member of the Kamloops District Teaching Association's bargaining team years prior and had fought fiercely for improved learning conditions and supports for teachers, coaches and kids. Going against the governing body he was devoted to was a bitter pill, but one that had to be swallowed to uphold what he believed most important.
What has come of his pursuit? Generations of people who benefited from Jack's mentorship, support, encouragement and demands helped create a culture of "we can do this" inside the city of Kamloops. The 'small dusty town', hosted provincial, national and world championships. Children attending these events were inspired to participate in future offerings, and they translated that motivation into action through school and community sports programs that gave them venue to do so. This sporting ecosystem is currently maintained by networks of people that include Jack's former students. Some of you have hands on the torch that Jack once carried. Some of you have formed successful businesses in Kamloops and use your position to keep these torches lit. You may not have inherited his specific events, teams, logos and institutions but perhaps you inherited the same vision, and following that vision you have crafted a brand new torch that someday you will hand off.
Career and family paths have taken us away from this region. Regrettably, we have lost touch with many of you. Our own children, while fully aware of Grandpa Jack's force of will, compassion and character, can't fully appreciate the extent of his impact as they have never had the opportunity to be around most of you at length and witness what you created and continue to build here in Kamloops. But being external to this City gives us additional perspective. While we love our current home, we can better recognize from afar how truly unique this community is because of all of these lit torches you carry.
The past years our father did develop concerns. The world was forced to retreat to its corners and we are witnessing society somewhat absent of the competitions and celebration of youth that Jack cherished. Children are struggling to find a calling, to feel celebrated and to have opportunity to be empowered through sport, music, etc. This has overlapped with an increasing tendency in some parts of the world to ensure that rare remaining opportunities are held for certain groups by disregarding others. Specific to sport, there is a danger that as activities resume from the pandemic, that protectionism starts prescribing that quality of the sporting experience be measured by the dominance of one's own team or association, rather than by the quality and intensity of the competition against many teams and other associations.
Had he known what would befall him, we are certain our father would have wanted to seize a last chance to implore his colleagues, his old students and his community to continue to lead. Show other communities what it means again to champion youth, empower them through sport and celebrate their struggles. Build on what was built, make the community he was so tremendously proud of even better. Inspire the city's youth by hosting the Province, Country and the World - again. Show other communities how excellent the new normal can be and welcome them into your tent. As the City and the World open back up, if you are wondering what can be done, how it might happen, who to work with and whether its worth the effort, Dad wanted to tell you, "you can do this."
Condolences may be sent to www.schoeningsfuneralservice.com. A celebration of life is being planned - timing and location are dependent on changing regulations on public gatherings in respect of Covid. Further details will be announced at www.schoeningsfuneralservice.com as they become available.
No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.
John "Jack" Albert Buckham
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Robert (Bob) Finley
June 16, 2021
It is with great sorrow that I learn of the passing of a wonderful and committed community leader. Jack invested so much of his life in the development of the community's adolescents, not only as a coach and inspirational counsellor but as a friend as well. Jack was truly the 'North Star' to so many including myself. I do not want to imagine what my life would have turned out to be like if it had not been influenced by Jack's guidance and encouragement. To this day, whenever I think of or hear Jack or Diannes' name, I have an immediate and fond remembrance of the John Mellencamp song ' Jack and Diane'. Rest in Peace Jack ... Hoping you are organizing a basketball game and/or planting a new crop of 'inspiration' in your heavenly garden. Thank you, Coach.
Respectfully your Friend and former Red Devil,
June 16, 2021
My family met Jack through my sister Maureen. We visited with Jack and Maureen at his home in July 2019. My husband,Daniel was suffering from terminal cancer and Jack took him on a trip of a lifetime aboard his motorcycle through the beautiful mountains that surround Kamloops. This trip was the highlight of Daniel's last summer as he died 6 weeks later. I will always be grateful for this wonderful memory.
I am so very sorry for the incredible and painful loss that Jack's family and my sister are suffering through.
Walter and Judy Trkla
June 16, 2021
The obituary tribute to Jack speaks volumes about a good man who cared about others, who will cherish knowing him. Judy and I met Jack and Dianne when I started teaching in Kamloops. Both Jack and Diane were passionate about sports, particularly basketball, since they both played the game at the high level. Jack was an intense basketball coach, while Dianne was an intense critic of the referees any time the Red Devils played. At Jack’s games we were always told by Dianne which referee needed new glasses, and which one had his whistle in his pocket.
From young people that he coached, he demanded their best. Dianne and Jack were great hosts and a fun place for children who were included in games like volleyball, soccer and boccie.
Friends and family were important to Jack; Dianne his wife, Brad and Aaron his sons, and their families’, brothers, aunts, uncles, and cousins as well as many students that he coached were dear to him and brought much pleasure in his life. We will all miss his kind and considerate ways and his unique outlook on life.
Brad and Aaron and your family with sincere condolences, we are thinking of you at this sad time. We know that your memories and shared experiences will keep you strong.
June 14, 2021
We (the late Gordon, Diane, Lisa, Lana & Julie) didn't have the school, BB connection but rather the BVDfarm friendship. Jack was ALWAYS a gentleman. We are left with fond memories. We join with his family in sharing a significant loss. Blessings on you.
June 12, 2021
Jack was a amazing teacher and coach ,he was so passionate and engaged about sport. (Loved that about him)He will truly be missed by our community. Our hearts hurt for his family and know that he was a huge impact to a lot of people.
June 11, 2021
A terrific summary of a life well lived by a wonderful man who had such an amazing impact, not only on the community but also on the people who he came into contact with.
Jack was a giant. There wasn't a thing that couldn't be done. His drive and passion were comparable to his organizational abilities. His work with the Kamloops Sports Hall of Fame was a testament to that and his belief in the process served as an inspiration to volunteers and the entire community.
I can't stress enough how much we will miss him. And like many others touched by his graceful helping hand, we can only feel grateful that we had a chance to work with him and learn from him
We say goodbye to a great man.
Gone but never forgotten.
KSHF Selection Committee
June 11, 2021
I am proud to say I knew Jack and Dianne and their family. I assisted with Dianne's illness after being hired by Jack. I have never seen a more dedicated and loving husband than Jack. He gave everything to care for his wife. He was a patient man. I learned so much about resilience from him. I loved my time with Jack and Dianne, it taught me so much that helped with my career in the health field. The sons Aaron and Brad (and families) were great examples of wonderful, caring parents that loved them so much. I am saddened to hear of Jack's passing as I will miss our visits...love to all the Buckham and Bond family...Rae Anderson
June 9, 2021
I had the great privilege of working with Jack at Valleyview Jr. Secondary School from 1969 until 1975 and then at Kamloops Senior Secondary until I retired in 1995 as well as with Jack and the 1993 Canada Summer Games. Jack was an inspired teacher, an amazing coach and a leader of leaders. Jack and his wife, Dianne were an awesome team. Jack inspired many students and teachers to strive to meet the maximum of their abilities. Jack will be fondly remembered by all who knew him. He mentored and encouraged many budding athletes. Rest In Peace dear friend.
Sincere condolences to Aaron, Brad and their families and to the Bond and Buckham families and to Jack’s many former students and friends.