Patrick John Buckley was born in Brighton, MA on September 15th, 1938, the third of four children born to the late Patrick John and Bridget (Mackey) Buckley. His father and mother were both from County Cork, Ireland but didn’t meet until they had separately journeyed to America. They were married at Sacred Heart in Watertown and settled the family home on Chilton Street and Vassal Lane in Cambridge where he and his three sisters, Margaret, Mary, and Elizabeth, grew up. His father worked in the meat department of First National grocery warehouse and his mother cared for the household. Since Pat was born on the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, his mother often jokingly remarked that he was the eighth sorrow. He may have given her a hard time every now and again, but his mother always encouraged the gift she saw in him and made sure he was given proper piano and singing lessons from a very young age. She entertained his baseball playing, but both she and his father always made sure to guide him in faith. Pat would attend daily Mass at dawn, and be home by 7PM sharp to say the rosary nightly. He was a student at Saint Peter School in Cambridge and was an altar server in the church as well. Pat received all his sacraments at St. Peter Parish and it was Sister Sheila who found him singing at the age of 12 and asked him to solo for a wedding in the church. He couldn’t believe when he got half the regular stipend for it, a whole twenty-five cents! Thus was the start of his life-long journey as an archdiocesan cantor.
His sister, Elizabeth, fondly remembers always holding her big brother’s hand on the walk to elementary school. One year, when he was in 6th grade and she was in 2nd, the School Sisters of Notre Dame decided to have young Patrick dress up in a Santa suit and visit the lower grades with treats since his disposition fit the profile... and upon arriving at Elizabeth’s classroom, she recalls reaching out to touch Santa’s hand and immediately could feel it was her big brother’s, a comforting grip she knew all too well from those daily walks. Speaking of walks, in his youth, Pat and his father would often listen to the Braves games on the radio, and since they had no car, would regularly take the long trek from Cambridge to Nickerson Field in Boston to watch their favorite team in person. Pat not only loved to listen to and watch baseball, he loved to play it and was quite the athlete himself in his teens and 20s. While his father never fully warmed up to the Red Sox, Pat certainly grew to love Fenway Park and was known to attend games frequently, with or without a ticket... His favorite player of all time was Hall-of-Famer Bobby Doerr and he couldn’t believe when the curse was finally reversed in 2004 after 66 years of being a fan. His grandchildren have all been personally introduced to Red Sox Nation by their grandfather via grandstand Section 23, Row 5. There was little else that brought him more joy than taking the family to games and a year never passed when someone in the family didn’t get the coveted ticket to opening day.
During his high school years, he attended classes several places. He began freshman year at BC High. The journey was long and it would often take him hours to walk and ride the “El” on Washington Street when the school was located near today’s Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston's South End. When that became too much, he transitioned to Saint John’s in Cambridge from where he earned his diploma and graduated as Vice President of the class of 1957. Pat was sharp as a tack, but perhaps not always motivated for his studies. When he didn’t feel like going to school, he was known to attend classes with friends at other places, just for fun! Often, the all-girls’ schools in the area would need a male singer for their musicals, and Pat was the shoe-in for every role, giving him the opportunity to miss some of his regularly scheduled program. Classmates of his graduating class have many stories of “helping” him with homework and putting up with tugging their braids and dunking them in ink wells, or borrowing a car for a little field trip for lunch prior to actually having a license. Yes, Pat was a bit of a firecracker in his heyday, few rules applied.
He did dedicate himself to developing his musical talent. His voice instructor and regular accompanist was John Kiley, the organist most famously known for playing all the major sporting venues and lively nightclubs in Boston. Knowing what a talent Pat was, his father introduced him to radio personality Tommy Shields, the host of the widely-known Irish Hour broadcast, where he soon became a regular performer. In the 1950s, Pat attended both Berklee School of Music and Boston University SFAA. Kiley often set up headshot sessions, studio recording slots, and Broadway auditions for him, but Pat never wanted to be the next Elvis or Frank Sinatra. He simply wanted to do good with the gift God gave him.
In November of 1959, the time of the Vietnam War, Pat enlisted in the Army. He underwent basic training at Fort Gordon, GA and learned Morse code as a radio teletype operator. Upon completion of basic training, he was stationed in Germany. While overseas, he received word of his parents’ failing health and was granted leave. Pat was flown home to say his goodbyes. Within days of each other in 1960, both his mother and father passed, a pivotal moment in his life. After the death of his parents, Pat received a compassionate reassignment to the 2nd Infantry Division at Fort Devens, MA where he finished his active duty commitment. He then served a short time with the 26th Infantry (Yankee) Division of the National Guard, training in Watertown, NY where he frequently flew in the helicopters at Fort Drum.
In 1963, the biggest change of Pat’s life occurred. While his sister Elizabeth was attending Emmanuel College, her classmate, Beverly, would often drop her off at home after classes. One of these times, Beverly and Pat crossed paths and the rest is history. Pat’s good friend and published poet, Dave Walsh, once wrote a poem for him entitled The Pro I Know and the accompanying letter to him perhaps said it best: “For you and Beverly, two became one and joys were shared and thereby doubled! You didn’t inherit what you have, you have created it and it molds, day by day, week by week, and of course it does not end with you; nor did it begin with you. A drop of dew in the puddle of life called love!” Together, they lived their married lives surrounded by friends and family, most notably his sisters and their children and the revolving door of friends at all hours. His best man, Richie Gibbons, was known to come right in, take the babies off of Beverly’s hands and start warming up a bottle or two. It truly was the epitome of “it takes a village.” They moved from Cambridge to Arlington in 1972 and then again to Waltham in 1976 where together they lived out the rest of their 59 years of marriage. Though half his life was spent in Waltham, and many more life-long friends were made in the Pigeon Hill neighborhood, as they say, you can take the boy out of Cambridge, but you can’t take the Cambridge out of the boy!
Throughout his lifetime, Pat was an active member in his community no matter his residence. A charter Member of the Cambridge Ward and City Committee Irish Social Club, a volunteer for United Way, a member of the Paul Sullivan Scholarship Committee for over 20 years, and a regular performer for events at the American Legion, for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Elks. He was invited to the unveiling of The Irish Famine statue just outside Harvard Square as the dedication soloist. He would often participate in jail ministry bringing music and comfort to those whom most had put aside. He attended every grandparents’ day, ice cream social, and pageant at Saint Jude School even years after all his family graduated as to be an adopted grandparent for some kid without. Pat had many jobs. At the age of 14, too young for work papers, he “helped” run Huron Avenue’s drug store and soda fountain. He delivered milk to the neighborhood. He was a short order cook at Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage in Harvard Square. He ran the kitchen at the Fresh Pond Drive-in while his sister Margaret worked in the office and sister Mary ran the ticket booth. He regularly painted the poles at the drive-in and even recorded their welcome theme song that played over the radio and loud speakers before every show. He worked for Polaroid and the one form of photography he most enjoyed was in the form of instant film... even if he usually cut off the subjects’ heads! He worked for just about every local funeral home you could think of in the area, often carrying caskets in and then heading up the choir loft stairs to sing the Mass before ushering the deceased back out. One of his best pals, Tim Hickey, would regularly play pranks on Pat. The trick he spoke of most often was the time his undertaker friends grabbed some donuts prior to Mass and stuffed them with spicy peppers and onions and offered him one before he had to sing. It’s certain that he returned the favor, but just how we may never know!
The longest position held by Pat was Assistant Superintendent of Tolls for the MA Turnpike Authority and Callahan & Sumner Tunnels. He loved working the Pike and the tunnels, driving up and down Route 90 from Boston to Sturbridge and back. He often had his beloved dog, an Irish Setter named Shannon, with him on the road. It was through his work there that he made many of his life-long friends. It was more than a job, it was a family - a team even! Pat coached the Authority’s softball team and it truly grew to be a family event at every game. Some of the best days of his life were on the field behind Interchange 15.
After retirement from the Turnpike, on his resume when he was applying for his security position at BC Law Library, under “interests” he listed only three words: Music, Sports, Travel. Pat loved to take short trips. Some of his favorite places to go with family annually were Brown's Lobster Pound in Seabrook, NH then over to Hampton Beach, Eastham and Hyannis on Cape Cod, the family home on Swift’s Beach in Wareham, Revere for Kelly’s Roast Beef, North Conway for Story Land and Santa’s Village, Clark’s Trading Post in Lincoln, NH, and Nubble Light in York, ME. He marveled at the beauty of fall foliage drives through Vermont and the Poconos, and took many bus trips with Sacred Heart parishioners to NYC for a show, Foxwoods, or La Salette to see the Christmas lights. There is one trip Pat would not take, and that was anything that involved a plane. If it was far away and he really wanted to get there, he studied maps of train or cruise routes. It didn’t matter if it took longer to get to a place than to be at a place, planes were never an option. He travelled across the Atlantic to London and Ireland via the QEII, he cruised to many Caribbean islands, as well as South and Central America to finally see the Pacific Ocean through the Panama Canal, and even headed north by boat to Canada and PEI. He took a train clear across the country to Arizona to meet his first grandson and utilized the auto train to go back and forth to his favorite spot in Naples, FL.
It seemed as though throughout his life, everyone knew Pat, and Pat in turn knew everyone - no one was a stranger. Wherever he was he always came across some friend or acquaintance, be it while walking down the street to the local barber shop for his “boy’s regular” cut or on a family trip to Disney World. His own children grew up thinking he was the mayor! Though not a politician himself, his boyhood friends grew up to be quite active in government. He often was the honored National Anthem singer for special events held by former Speakers of the House, Thomas “Tip” O’Neill and Charles “Charlie” Flaherty. Performing all the classic tunes from the Old Country at Sullivan’s Irish Times was an annual favorite. Other professional singers would also attend these events, and several times would approach him afterwards wanting to acknowledge his humbleness and the effortless use of his incredible talent.
While faith, family, and friendship were the hallmarks of his life, westerns, movies, and the color red were a few of his favorite things. He was actually color blind, but red was the one color he could see and name clearly. Though he loved Beverly more than life itself just for being her, she still knew exactly how to get to his heart: through his stomach. Thanksgiving dinners were always his favorite and usually it was the requested menu for his birthdays, too. He loved his wife’s roast beef dinners, and he was a true Irishman through and through with a certain affinity for potatoes on the side. He loved a trip to Buckley's Farm Stand for fresh fruits and vegetables. His daily walks would sometimes be in the super market, and would usually end up in a roasted chicken and apple pie purchase. He often would get a baker’s dozen of donuts from Verna’s, one for the ride home of course. Baked haddock from the Chateau was a regular fix, and he loved a frosted angel food cake and dish of vanilla ice cream. During pandemic years, the one thing that would entice a drive out and about was the promise of a stop for a soft serve cone somewhere.
His daughters fondly remember being unquestionably spoiled by him. It wasn’t unusual for there to be pony rides at birthday parties, trips to Grover Cronin’s to pick out a new dress, a gracious miss of the putt at mini golf so perhaps they could pull ahead in scoring, or a line of everyone’s freshly polished shoes every September 15th like his father had done for him on birthdays before. Magically making tickets to concerts, hockey or football games, a comedy show or even a WWE wrestling match appear out of thin air were regular surprises for his girls. Disney on Ice every February break, floor seats to the Boston Pops or The Nutcracker at Christmastime, or trips to the movies were usually proceeded by dinner at the Aku Aku, Bisuteki, or the Stockyard. When Pat did something, he did it big, and somehow parking was never an issue. He either had the key to any nearby lot or just made up his own parking spot that never seemed to bother anybody. Indeed it seemed like his silver platter was very shiny at times, but he worked hard for everything he had just so he could share it with others. Everything Pat did was done without expectation or thoughts of returned favors. If he was going to do something, he was going to do it right. That’s not to say that he had to be the one to do the actual job... but he always knew the perfect person to call upon for help. If you were sick in the middle of the night, he’d drive all the way downtown to the only 24 hour pharmacy around. If a new piano was needed for the chapel, he had a friend deliver one. If your furnace stopped heating in the dead of winter, he knew a guy that would come right away. In turn, whenever Pat needed something, people were always more than happy to help because he had done so much for others.
Maya Angelou once wrote, “Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with a deeper meaning.” This cannot ring more true than for lyrics put to melody. The greatest respect an artist can pay to music is to give it life. You may have heard a song a million times before, but whenever Pat sang it, the comfort his voice brought to many a lyric somehow left you feeling as if you’d heard it for the first time. It was the singer, not the song, that made the music move along. Working in several churches throughout the greater Boston area made Pat hopeful for the same for his kids. Both he and Beverly instilled the same discipline of developing musical abilities that Pat’s parents had with him before. Watching the final products of his daughters’ endeavors brought him a great sense of satisfaction. Show choir shows, band performances, piano, voice, and dance recitals, and even softball games gave him the opportunity to see his vision for his family come true before his own eyes. When he performed in musical reviews at St. Joseph in Somerville, he made sure his daughters were a part of it too. If he had an important work trip to make, he made sure his family tagged along. He led by example and knew when to pass the reigns. From Our Lady of Mercy and St. Joseph in Belmont to Sacred Heart and St. Patrick in Watertown, and of course St. Peter in Cambridge, each daughter has filled in a portion of his very big shoes through the years. Buckley’s girls, or the affectionately deemed VonBuckleys, will continue to hold up the legacy he established.
The Beatitudes describe the blessedness of those who have certain qualities or experiences peculiar to those belonging to the Kingdom of Heaven. Pat was indeed humble, recognizing all his blessings as gifts from God. He mourned for himself and others and awaited eternal comfort. He was obedient to the will of God. He consistently strived to better himself and be filled by the Holy Spirit. He easily forgave, showing a deep sense of compassion and love for others often saying, “you can break my heart, but you can never break my love for you.” He was full of grace, humility, and love and strived to be pure of heart in all things. Perhaps thought of as a leader, Pat was truly a peacemaker. Ultimately, he held fast to his beliefs, even in the face of contradiction. Yes, Pat Buckley actively lived out the Beatitudes’ universal virtues of humility, compassion, and helping others daily.
After the blessing of a beautiful Thanksgiving day with his favorite foods and people visiting, Patrick John Buckley died on Tuesday, November 29th, 2022 surrounded by family at home in Waltham following a period of declining health. The last song he sang was a spontaneous rendition of something he had performed hundreds of times before, The National Anthem. In his mind, he was watching his beloved Red Sox win one last game. He was 84.
Waiting for him in heaven are his most beloved parents, Patrick and Bridget, sisters Margaret and Mary, and his near and dear Aunt Kit, as well as many family members and friends who’ve gone before. He leaves his wife of 59 years, Beverly, his five daughters, Veronica, Doreen, Denise, Bernadette, and Patrice; his four sons-in-law, Greg Platt, Chip Gulledge, Jim Ryan, and Mike Vanaria; his nine grandchildren, Gregory, Sarah, and Catherine Platt, Tyler, Kaleena, and Patrick Gulledge, Michael and Joseph Vanaria, and James Ryan; his sister, Elizabeth and her husband Juan Rodriguez, and many nieces and nephews and their families.
Family and friends will honor and remember Pat’s life by gathering for calling hours in Saint Peter Church, 100 Concord Ave., Cambridge on Friday, December 9th from 4-7 PM. His Funeral Mass will be Saturday, December 10th at 10AM followed by burial in Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge.
Those who would like to view Pat’s Funeral Mass may do so via www.HarborView.live with prelude music shortly prior to the beginning of services. Memorial donations may be made to The Lupus Foundation, The Kidney Foundation, Marist Hill Nursing Home in Waltham, Saint Peter Parish in Cambridge, Sacred Heart Parish in Watertown, or the charity of your choice.
To the world you were a dad, but to our family, you were the world. We will try to find solace in knowing you are at peace. Days after your passing, we found a verse of an old song in your handwriting: If that I were there, I would be, then should I be where I am not, here am I where I must be, and where I would be I cannot. Though we’d give anything to hear you sing O Holy Night once more this holiday season, we know you are this year’s featured soloist in the choir of angels. Merry Christmas, Dad!