Friday, December 26, 2008


This last Tuesday in the early afternoon of that December 23, 2008 I received a telephone call while at work from Brother Coby with the terrible news that his Mother, my Step Mother, Ellen Werner Buxton Salander, in her 82nd year (1926-2008) had passed in her home that morning in Englewood, Florida. For me the fabric of the universe was torn open and a ghastly void had been created that would never be filled. My visceral reaction was immediate with the devastating news so shocking and an awful contradiction to the true spirit of this promising Christmas season. The Matriarch of the Buxton Family had joined her ancestors and we have been left to fend for ourselves. Well, maybe only for a short while (more later).

Though she always signed her cards and letters and was known to most as Ellie, I persisted in calling her Ellen. Always erring on the more stern and serious side, I guess that it was for me a more respectful and appropriate tone for my Stepmother. I talked with Ellen the Sunday before she died and she was her usual supportive self and extolling the virtues of the holiday season and a bright future, reflecting on a recent communication with my son Geb and her best wishes for he, wife Dona and their two kids, Quinton and Cameron.

She was anticipating and looking forward to her Christmas dinner with daughter Susanna where they were going to do Chinese, again, enjoying her favorite food and the convenience of it all in a usually hectic holiday season full of too many turkeys and hams. Ellen recently sent me the photographic proof of her last Tex-Mex sortie with Susanna - a photo that I shall always prize…

Well, Ellen never made it to Christmas 2008, the celebration of not only the birth of Jesus but as an added and loving bonus, the natal day of her eldest son, Coburn Allen Buxton, Jr. (aka Coby).

Ellen was looking forward to her weekly bridge match but didn’t respond either on the phone or at her door when her ride and bridge partner called. They found her sitting in her favorite chair appropriately clutching a pen in one hand. She had joined Dad and Bernie on that heavenly plane where Brother Coby and I have assured ourselves, they are appropriately waiting on her, hand and foot.

Please know that my always positive recollections of Ellen cannot be construed as her memorial, rather what will most assuredly be an inadequate attempt to capture the living essence of a singularly great Lady. This will be a remembrance and work in progress where I will supplement, tweak and modify as the pleasant and significant memories of many years come flowing back to me. I can’t apologize for all the superlatives I engage as they are totally appropriate to describe Ellen. Her approach to life was a complicated though simple formula that was ultimately punctuated by thousands of acts of incredible kindness directed at Family, Friends and the Community at Large, most of which we will never be able to document as she never looked or sought recognition. Ellen understood all the incredibly subtle nuances of human relationships and through her great communication skills was able to help us mere mortals successfully negotiate this great maze we call life. She made life bearable, richer and rewarding for all she touched.

We will always remember this daughter of Judge Herman Werner of Akron, Ohio who found her way to the heart of one Coburn Allen Buxton while on holiday with sister Ann and where in the Sazarac Bar in the old Hotel Roosevelt in New Orleans, she met Dad. She had a profound positive affect on all she touched. She was first and foremost, a loving Mother not only to daughter Susanna, and sons Coby and Ricky but also to her stepsons Ned, John and David Seabury who she treated as blood. She told me once that it always seemed that Ned, John and David always, “belonged to me' a very nice way!”

Ellen held high the mantle of the Buxton Family and well celebrated our history and heritage. She was the consummate cheerleader constantly reminding all of us of our roots and the pedigree that we all enjoy. She motivated, prodded and cajoled so as to take each of us to that next level…

On a personal note we shared a love of the ancients and of anthropology in general and she prompted my seemingly unending quest for knowledge about our Buxton/Littlefield ancestors and of Man in general. She demonstrated an uncommon, extraordinary high intellect and understanding of a wide variety of subjects and an enthusiastic willingness to share that knowledge which she demonstrated so ably for many years as a Docent at the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) in Dallas, Texas.

Her efforts in her capacity as Docent was instrumental in organizing and scheduling the now iconic AD 79 exhibition on her beloved Pompeii appropriately in 1979 at the then Dallas Museum of Fine Arts (DMFA) facility at Fair Park in Dallas and helped spark the spirit of what is now one of the more important museums in our country. In part because of this success a city of Dallas bond election passed with voters pledging almost $25 million dollars towards the construction of the facility they currently occupy in downtown Dallas. The DMFA was later renamed the Dallas Museum of Art in 1984 when they officially occupied their new home. Ellen’s legacy is all those exhibitions that now flow so smoothly due to the outstanding efforts of her extraordinary and very able successors. The 1984 date is not without significance as this also marked the passing of Coburn Allen Buxton, Ellen’s significant other and our Father.

Ellen was a strong personality and fiercely independent. When sure of her environment she could hunker down with the best. I would fight back-to-back with her against any foe and be well assured of victory. Despite the best attempts of this writer and other Family members, Ellen never evacuated through the terrible 2004 Florida hurricane season that saw four major storms slam through Englewood. Ellen admitted and then proved that all she needed was some candles, a few bottles of wine and some good books to successfully weather the storms.

In recent years Ellen devoted much of her time to the Friends of Elsie Quirk Library in Englewood, Florida where as a member of their Board of Directors she served so ably as a long term Treasurer and most recently as vice-President and Membership Chairperson. Ellen was also a proud Benefactor of the Elsie Quirk Library. Seems fitting as she appears to have been there much of her waking hours serving on one committee or another participating in their Great Books Discussion Groups or coordinating/moderating the Library’s Great Decisions forums. Last March 31st Ellen moderated a lively discussion on US Defense/Security Policy. Her effort prompted a positive community response assuring many that she had a hell of a lot more working knowledge of world dynamics and US politics than most including one recent hockey mom governor…

Ellen and "special Gal Pal" Angie Zerad, a well known speaker and musician (piano & organ) teamed up and were known as the Eighties Ladies. Ellen was a talented singer and one time actress who felt right at home on stage. Wearing an old timey plains bonnet and hamming it up for audiences at the River Oaks retirement community in Englewood, Ellen lead sing-a-longs of mostly American music from the Stephen Foster era through World War II. Their twice monthly programs with Alzheimer’s patients and seniors allowed a greater quality of life for this group. In a recent letter to the Buxton "Boys" Angie expressed her condolences on the loss of her best Friend and dedicated every song she plays henceforth as a tribute to, "this wonderful and special Lady."

In this time of great need in our economically challenging times Ellen supported the effort to curtail the usual and very generous Buxton Family gift giving tradition and help provide for those less fortunate in our society. In mid December Ellen wrote to all Buxtons:
Just a card with Joy a’plenty
Within perhaps a single twenty”!
Which I will give (with several more)
To Helping Hand Salvation Store

Right here in quiet Englewood
Can you imagine all the good
Your gifts will bring to those in need?
I’ll sign your name so they can read

That though afar, you care to give…
And made the Christmas Spirit live!
That was Ellen. She always thought about others first to especially include her Family and Friends which were legion. Whether she was mentoring Family and Friends, adopting manatees and sea turtles or engaging yet another philanthropic or humanitarian effort, Ellen was always giving of herself. Indeed, she was one of those animated thousand points of light. Her life is the legacy that will continue to motivate us to make a difference in our respective communities. Ellen’s caring and loving persona and hands-on leadership will continue to provide a positive example so long as we who remember hold high her life as an example of a life well lived.

Yes, like the Buxton Family motto which she often quoted and used to motivate Family and Friends, Ellen always did it, with all her might. Well done, Ellen. Sleep well.


Ned Buxton

1 comment:

David Gass said...

What a wonderful tribute to a woman who obviously influenced you and those around her. I am proud to have experienced some of the indirect benefits of her drive and appreciation of history and its affect on family.