'A heart as big as the universe'

Milford gives a grand f

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  • Grandson Brendan McNamara with his mother, Patricia McNamara (Photo by Marilyn Rosenthal)

  • Two tables were filled with memorabilia and clippings documenting Barbara Buchanan's life of service to others (Photo by Marilyn Rosenthal)

"Barbara embodied the utmost definition of philanthropy. She was here, there, and everywhere — always with a welcoming smile."
Beth Nikles

By Marilyn Rosenthal

— About 150 people braved the snowstorm's aftermath last Friday to attend Mass at St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Milford, where they said goodbye to one of its most faithful and famous parishioners, Barbara Juel Buchanan.

"With a heart as big as the universe, what propelled her?" asked the Rev. Joseph J. Manarchuck, who talked about Buchanan's legendary acts and deeds. "What gave her the strength to help and inspire so many in our community?"

Perhaps it was her faith in God. Buchanan converted to Catholicism when she was only 12 years old. She had a vision related to the Virgin Mary and knew the Catholic Church was her calling.

Perhaps because of her strong faith, Buchanan believed that "To whom much is given, much is expected."

So many lofty nouns have been used to describe Buchanan's life's work — in Genoa, Italy; in New Orleans; and in her beloved Milford. One could not talk about or work with Barbara and not mention her generosity, kindness, organizational skills, humanity, and philanthropy .

She took on each new task with laser-like focus. Her piercing blue eyes commanded attention as she worked to inspire others. At the end of many of her projects, she would clap her hands gleefully and say, "Mission accomplished!"

Buchanan supported a wide range of causes in human services, the arts, music, civic improvement, and historic preservation. One of her noblest contributions was to the Greater Pike Community Foundation. She helped the foundation in its early years and continued her support. Greater Pike's first fund, the Barbara J. Buchanan Fund, was established in 2014. It has since provided financial support to more than 20 local organizations.

The board of Greater Pike says Buchanan was the embodiment of their motto: "For Good. Forever." Buchanan's family has requested that, in lieu of flowers, memorial contributions be made to this fund to continue her legacy.

Beth Nikles, a longtime family friend, shared her words of remembrance at the Mass.

"Barbara embodied the utmost definition of philanthropy," Nikles said. "She was here, there, and everywhere — always with a welcoming smile. You can see that in her children and grandchildren. And she always had that infectious laugh."

Buchanan's look-alike daughter, Patricia McNamara, was there, along with her grandchildren: Brendan McNamara with his wife, Casey, and Barbara Burt Thompson with her husband, Nicholas. A number of other family members came from far away as well.

Raymond Weeks, Buchanan's devoted companion of 10 years and a fellow parishioner at St. Patrick's, played Hammerstein and Kern's "All the Things You Are" on the piano. His love for Barbara was palpable and reverberated with all the people in the church.

Family and friends wistfully recalled their fondest memories of Barbara. Her spirit was everywhere in the church.

A repast catered by Balch's followed the Mass. Many of Barbara's friends and admirers could not make it to the church because of the snow, and the unused food was donated to The Salvation Army of Port Jervis.

Beth Nikles, in her final words, said, "God is with you, my friend. God is with you."

And so we bid farewell to our Grande Dame, Barbara J. Buchanan

Long live our Grande Dame!

Related:See these related stories at pikecountycourier.com:

"Barbara Buchanan, in memorium: As we mourn her loss, we delight in the honor of having known her"

"Barbara Juel Buchanan, devoted to service above self, dies at age 95"

"Complete with thanks, and very giving"

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