Leroy Fredrik Buss of Boynton Beach, was born in Weslaco, Texas. His Father was Leroy Howard Buss and his mother was Ruth Rives. He had one sister, Mary Kathryn and two younger brothers, Donald and Richard. In high school, Fred played football, was in the band and received his preacher’s license. In 1953, he enrolled in the University of Texas Plan II Honors Liberal Arts program. In college, Fred was a member of the Phi Gamma Delta Fraternity and the Silver Spurs. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1957 and became a member of the Friar Society, which recognizes students who have made significant contributions to the University. During his last year at UT, he joined the Christian Faith and Life Community in Austin. After a year of graduate study in Political Science at the University of Delhi, he enrolled in Yale University in 1958, where he received a Master of Divinity Degree. On July 21, 1962 Fred married Sarah Hicks in Ozona, Texas. They had two children, a daughter Elizabeth and a son Lindsey. In 1962 they joined with other families to form the faculty of the Ecumenical Institute in Evanston Illinois, now the Ecumenical Institute (EI) /Institute of Cultural Affairs, Chicago (ICA). In his early career, Fred engaged in church renewal and social justice. In 1957 he worked with refugees in Greece under the sponsorship of the Ecumenical Volunteer Program. He was active in Civil Rights and was jailed with Dr Martin Luther King in Albany, Georgia in 1962. From 1962 to 1978, he worked with the EI/ICA in Kenya, Australia, Egypt, Belgium, and Hong Kong and teaching and training local leadership to address social suffering in those countries. He engaged in United Nations Development Program service contracts in Kazakhstan and Poland (1996-1997) and served as Chief of Party, US AID in Botswana (1988-89) In his later life, after receiving a Master’s of Education from Texas State University, Fred pursued a teaching career. Starting in 1992, he taught courses in sociology, psychology, religion and student life skills at a number of community colleges and universities; at Austin Community College and Schreiner University in Texas; and at Broward College, Broward Community College, Palm Beach Community College, Florida Community College in Jacksonville, and Jacksonville University, in Florida. Fred and Sarah were divorced in 1988. Sarah currently resides in Austin, Texas. Fred is survived by his sister Mary Kathryn Risteen and his brother Donald Buss; his daughter Metta Karuna (Elizabeth); his son Lindsey Buss and daughter-in-law Dr. Betina Franceschini and his grandchildren Jackson and Alexa; and Ann Zampano his companion in Boynton Beach since 2005.
We held a moving memorial to Fred at “4750” by the locals) on Saturday. The memorial was held in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Room. How appropriate since Fred was very involved in the civil rights movement and was even jailed once with Dr. King in Albany, GA, in 1962.
Fred’s history goes very deep in the life of ICA. (At many levels it will always be the Order or EI for me, but I have come to understand the evolution that has occurred and our place in history now goes forward as ICA. I learned so much more about this history last weekend.) He joined the Christian Faith and Life Community at the University of Texas in Austin in 1956. His roommate in the community was Don Warren. Don Warren’s wife was part of the women’s branch of the Community and both Don and his wife were among the original six families that came to Evanston in 1962 to become the Ecumenical Institute of Chicago.
Don was the lead liturgist at the memorial service. He also gave an unexpected, extensive eulogy at the end of the service as he was not listed on the order of service to do a eulogy. Other eulogies were given by Kaze Gadway (I learned that the name Kaze was how children in some country in which she served pronounced Kay Hayes), Lindsey Buss and Paul Schrijnen. Bettina said a Buddhist prayer on behalf of Meta Karuna (formerly Elizabeth Buss and presently a Buddhist nun). Charles Hahn was the other lead liturgist.
They were surrounded by a could of witnesses including Doris Hahn, Patrick Moriarity, Marsha Hahn, Jim and Karen Troxel, Charles Lingo, Joyce Townley, Laura Spencer, Terry and Pam Bergdall, Frank Knutson (formerly Bob Knutson), Paul Noah, Marge and Paula Philbrook, Sally Fenton, Carol Pierce, Dick Alton, friends of Lindsey, Karen Sims, Roy Stansbury and many others.
Following the service, we went to the 6th floor Guild Suite where sat in a circle and told stories of Fred. Apparently Fred was better than anyone at doing the sex section of the Missional Family course. Lindsey inquired whether he should leave the room while this was being discussed. Paul recounted that Fred’s frequent greeting when he was in Australia around 1968 was “Are you keeping despair at bay?” I reported that he advised priors of religious houses when giving their reports in Chicago should imagine themselves as German commanders giving reports of progress on the western front during the last days of World War II.
Following the conversation, au d’oeuvres and fellowship, many of us then went to Fifth City to spread Fred’s ashes on the playground behind the Fifth City Pre-School. When the preschool began in Fifth City, EI obtained a grant for playground equipment. Fred found a rocket ship/slide he wanted for the playground. He insisted that the rocket ship be part of the equipment, was overruled at least twice, he agreed to let it go, and then put it in the budget anyway. Allegedly Fred said, “Lincoln has his memorial, Grant has his tomb, and I have my rocket ship.” Now Fred rests under it. It is still part of the Fifth City Preschool. (Fred had two pictures on his wall at his death. One was of the rocket ship. Kaze Gadway wrote Zoom, Zoom Astronaut in honor of the slide.)
While in Fifth City we encountered Ray Fox, the son of Lilly and Ray Fox, now 50 and just back from serving in Iraq. How wonderful it was to talk with him. He was pleased also. The Iron Man still stands. The Program Center stands . . . empty and abandoned. Many of the buildings we knew have been cleared and there are vacant lots now—with grass. Fifth City is less dense, or so it seemed. It abides. 341 Trumbull has been tuck pointed and is ready to stand for another 100 years. The Bethany Brethren Hospital occupies the ground of the EI campus.
On a personal note, I went to this memorial because Fred and Al/Charles Lingo sustained me more than any other people during my years on the Westside in Chicago. I wasn’t very aware of Fred’s flaws. He was one of my heroes. He embodied the risen man to me–the best of EI for he brought life, abundant life to others. He was that part of Christ who was the Lord of the Dance—and we did sing this during his memorial. The Spirit lives.
~~ Herman Greene
Two weeks ago I phoned Canon Guy Wilkinson. I last saw Guy in 1976 in Brussels, when he was working for the European Union. He went to the Bayad consult and was instrumental in raising substantial amounts of money for the project there. He later became a priest, did urban parish work and then became the Archbishops’ advisor on Interfaith issues, and became a Canon. Fred was important to Guy. He gave Guy – in his words – the confidence to do the right thing. I told him that I was coming here. He asked me to ‘commend Fred to God’. I think that means to stand present to Fred’s life, as it was, celebrate it and celebrate its completeness.
My life would have been very different, if I hadn’t met Fred Buss. He wasn’t the first person of the Order I met. But it was he who found appropriate ways to raise the question about what was I going to do with my life, and why not join this International Training Program in Chicago, which years later it got clear to me was a figment of Fred’s imagination.
I am grateful for Fred’s gifts.
First of all, I am grateful for his strategic thinking and creativity. One of Fred’s earlier experiments with this was in University. He was Chairman of the Bevo committee, the committee responsible for handling the bull, which was the Mascot of the University Football team. There was an incident where University of Texas students kidnapped the bearcups, which were the mascots of the rival football team. So, the University of Texas football coach phoned Fred and asked him to do something, because the rival university team would be so motivated, so mad that their mascots had been kidnapped. So what was Fred to do? Well, he quietly moved the bull, to a pasture, not far from the one he was supposed to be and then called a press conference in the pasture where Bevo was supposed to be, but was no longer to let the world know that BEVO had disappeared. The University of Texas team won….
Fred spent a lot of time in the Order thinking about such creative ways to represent reality. Marilyn Crocker describes his role in Bayad like this: “The reason Fred and Sarah had been given that assignment had to do with their strategic savvy in a very complex society. They could bridge the gaps between educated Egyptian Friends and Guardians; leaders of the Coptic Church, especially Bishop Samuels and Bishop Athanasius; and the local people – including the Christian and Muslim leaders of the community and especially the women.” Thank you Fred, for your Strategic Thinking and Creativity, which you used to forge new life.
Second of all, I am grateful for Fred’s imagination and sense of fun. In the memoir he dictated to Lindsey, he talks about an all night high school party for 90 folks at his house in May 1953. There was music, food, swimming, a movie. He remembers how his dad had created an ice sculpture in the shape of that high school’s and had put a light underneath it, which looked really great. This impressed Fred.
There is something about that story that explain a lot of Fred’s attention. He could spend an inordinate amount of time on taking care of details, others would take for granted. I remember talking to Frank Hilliard, who described how he had to share a room with Fred and had noticed, how Fred could take a good 20 minutes to fold his trousers and hang them up….
At a social change training program in Brussels in 75 or 76 we were working on ideas for actions, that could accelerate social change. He came up with a Mexican enchilada stand. He found a way of talking about this, that excited a roomful of participants in creating new life on an old continent.
Kay Nixon tells the wonderful story how, when she was 16 in a youth house in New York and had asked if it was really necessary to get up at 4.30 and do a collegium at 5 and daily office at 6, Fred had answered. “No, you don’t have to show up at 5, but if you do, you can hear the Angels sing.” She kept on showing up….. Fred found a way to find just the right words to motivate people. Fred, thank you for your imagination and sense of fun which forged new life.
Third, I am grateful for Fred’s sense of independence. When he was about 12 years old, Fred’s two grandfathers came to visit. Fred’s mum asked them what they liked for breakfast. Pa Rives answered, “A crab and a Budweiser.” This impressed Fred greatly. He too wanted to be a ‘free man’ when he grew up, and follow the road less travelled. So, he started to live a unique life. He was one of few fraternity students who was involved in more radical and activities.
And then in the Order he enjoyed, Doris Hahn describes how Fred tended to be found in the opposite place from his assignment. He liked to do his own thing, his own way. The range of jobs he had, M&A, IT innovation, consulting. He created his own path. Finally settling very happily into teaching at a range of community colleges in Texas and Florida. Fred, I am grateful for your sense of independence, your free spirit, you living your life in your unique way.
Do these gifts summarise Fred’s unique mystery, depth and greatness? We could take some time and discuss his flaws, which I am sure, like for the rest of us is a big long list. Would that complete the picture? What was the most important thing in his life?
Fred lived out of the Word of Possibility in extravagant ways. He struggled to go beyond strengths and weaknesses to know that he was accepted and accept that and live out of that, and lead individuals, villages, groups to live a life of sheer possibility. Thank you Fred for living the Word of Possibility. Amen.
Thanks, Fred, for the Fun and for the Memories
I want to go to the heaven where Fred is now; mostly because with Fred there it will be a fun place to be. In his time with us, he saw the humor in the every day, and he was ready to laugh at the ridiculous, the mundane and at himself. It is hard for me to remember Fred without smiling.
I remember him greeting my parents as they arrived in 5th City to prepare for our wedding. Fred made Mom and Dad feel at home…..even though there was absolutely nothing in the environment that was familiar to them. Fred was able to explain that there would be a lovely dinner in which we would be asked some very good questions to set our new family out on the right foot. He also explained that a former gymnasium would be the setting of the ceremony and that there would be two other couples being wed at the same time. There would be over 50 people setting up for the ceremony, cooking for the celebration breakfast, and hosting the guests. Mom and Dad could concentrate on having a great time. Fred had just the right words for the occasion.
I remember that it was Fred who had the idea that over 100 of us living at the Ecumenical Institute in 5th City should have a celebration weekend at the Palmer House in downtown Chicago. We needed a break, so why not have one at the Palmer House? Fred was not afraid to think big. More importantly, he and the fund development team, figured out how to have the Palmer House give us a gift. To add to the style of the occasion, Fred and team also arranged for a limousine service to pick us up as we emerged from the subway and drive us several blocks to the hotel. Remember, “We are supposed to be able to walk with kings while living in the communities where we are working..” Fred was good at the “walk with kings part”. He was able to connect our work with those in circles of power in many parts of the world.
Thank you, Fred, for the fun and the memories. Save me a place in the heaven where you are. It will be a fun place to be.
~~ Elise Packard
I did not have a lot of contact with Fred Buss, but he holds a spot on my fund raising meditative council along side George Lawson who took me to Texas in 1972 for a month to school me in the nuts and bolts of individual visits.
Fred, had just an amazing sense of being able to ask for what was needed and helping others see how they could meet that need…he might have been fun to be around but he was very serious about the ask.
I went to Brussels in 1986 to work on global fund raising. I started going to the International Protestant Church of Brussels because my daughter’s softball coach was the pastor and most of the girls were from the Church.
One morning before Church, a lady turned to me and we started chatting. It turned out she was the Chair of the Mission Committee. She asked me what I did and I said I worked for ICA. The lady looked startled. “Do you know Fred Buss from Egypt?” Yes, I do.
Well, it turns out that Fred had called up the church and asked to speak to the mission committee and was given an appointment. Fred gave the committee an overview of the El Bayad Project with the goals and strategies from the consult. They were fascinated and charmed. Then Fred said I need to ask you for $300,000 to implement this great pla