Gray Matter: Lucy Buhler Yoshioka

Friday, June 16, 2006

It's a special time when an old friend, whom you haven't seen for far too long, surprises you with a call suggesting you get together for lunch.

That happened to me recently and I want to tell you about it. My friend, Lucy Yoshioka Buhler, whom many of you remember, left an indelible mark on our community more than 30 years ago. Hawaiian-born, of Japanese descent, she came to Morningside college on a scholarship to study music education. After teaching at Hartley for a year, she came to Marcus to teach vocal music. Lucy was one of those rare individuals, a true Master Teacher. Just ask anyone who sang under her tutelage and you will get unanimous agreement.

She went on to USD, Vermillion, S.D., to earn her MA. There she met Walter Buhler a grad student in the Business School, the son of a South Dakota farmer of German extraction. They were perfectly matched, and were soon married. Walt went to work for Arthur Anderson, that premier accounting firm which tragically collapsed after being unfairly accused in the Exxon scandals. Buhler was with them in their finest days.

Walt's meteoric career took them to Minneapolis, Denver and Tulsa where Lucy also taught music. In time, they became parents of Faith and Natalie whom Walt, in his inimitable humor, sometimes referred to as his little "Nippo-Krauts".

His first assignment beyond continental borders was to head the Anderson office in Rio de Janeiro. Lucy had not intended to teach full-time, but when the exclusive Ecole Americana, which the girls attended, discovered her talents, she was soon drafted. They lived in a high-rise apartment a short walk from famed Ipanema Beach, a setting of story book dimensions!

In time, they came back to the States and were posted in Portland until Walt was chosen to head Anderson's offices in Hong Kong. It was from there that he retired. In mid-summer of that very year he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and succumbed to the disease the following Christmas Day. In typical fashion, Walt spent every bit of his energy those final months making the financial arrangements - trusts, foundations, and the like, to provide for his family and, even more commendably, for his and his wife's alma maters.

Endowed scholarships have been in place at both Morningside and USD for some time. His naming gift for a much-needed School of Business building on the USD campus is being held up in one of those quagmires of which only the academics (and perhaps government bureaus) are capable. Hopefully, it will soon be ironed out and the Walter A. Buhler School of Business will grace that campus in his memory.

Lucy, who now lives in Edmonds Wash., has been actively involved on Regent's

Boards at both institutions so that explains her visits. When we do see her she always inquires about her former students, and expresses regrets that she is unable to see them. I and her best friend, Donna Dorr (with whom she taught), suggested that she come back for the Marcus Fair which is fast becoming our town's official reunion time.

Lucy seemed to like that idea, so I will keep all of you posted. In the meantime, you must promise to join Donna and me in keeping your fingers crossed!

P.S. I'm sure many of you who did not attend Marcus schools had other chances to meet Lucy Yoshioka. While here, she often presented her native hula dance in its true, almost sacred sense, for area groups. This was one way she was able to augment her meager college budget. What a charming way it was!