A celebration of the life of Dene Buffington, 99-year-old Buffalo resident who passed away quietly Jan. 22 at the Amie Holt Care Center in Buffalo, will be held by her family at a time to be announced. Donations in Dene’s memory may be made to the Johnson County Fairgrounds Foundation in care of the Harness Funeral Home at 351 N. Adams in Buffalo. Online condolences may be made at www.harnessfuneralhome.com
Eldine Leila Buffington was born in farm country near Chicago on July 21, 1920 to John and Pearl Howmiller. She was born two months premature, along with her identical twin sister Elaine, with no doctor in attendance. Eighteen years later, the two women finished at the top of their high school class. Recognizing her daughters’ abilities, their mother, a first-generation immigrant who had not finished high school, was determined that her daughters attend college. She went to the principal and demanded to know how to help her daughters get a college education. Both girls subsequently were accepted to Illinois State Normal University, as is was then called, and worked their way through school to received bachelor’s degrees. Eldine later obtained a master’s degree in education.
Growing up, the twins were acquainted with hometown boys Chester and Reed Buffington. As World War II raged, Elaine married Reed June 20, 1942 and then on June 10, 1944, Eldine married Chet. Chet was a Marine and was shipped out to the Pacific theatre shorty after their marriage. Surviving the battle of Guadalcanal, Chet returned home and attended college on the G.I. bill while Dene worked at the school bookstore to support the family. Dene eventually became an award-winning teacher and taught a broad array of subjects at the elementary, junior high and high school levels. Although she had obtained a liberal arts degree, Dene always had a love for math and the sciences, and often expressed regret that she was not able to have a career in those fields.
As a little girl growing up in Illinois during the Depression, Dene dreamed of one day being able to see the ocean. Remarkably, as an adult she traveled extensively, visiting Europe, China, Latin America, the Caribbean and the Galapagos Islands with her husband and later her grandsons. Her grandsons now credit their grandmother for opening their eyes to the world and loved her deeply.
Upon retirement from their careers, Dene and Chet moved to the wine country of northern California and built a house with Reed and Elaine Buffington who had lived in California since the 1950s. The two couples lived together for many years, visited often by their children who were “double cousins.”
Dene was an outstanding seamstress, an avid bridge player, golfer and gardener. She had a passion for nature, animals, children and teaching. She also successfully studied to become a Master Gardener and shared her gardening knowledge through volunteer talks and hands-on demonstrations. She also loved to play the piano and continued to take lessons and play for Alzheimer’s patients and others throughout her life. Although she remembered the ice man delivering ice to the family ice box with his horse and wagon, she eventually learned to use a computer and email and owned a cell phone until her death. A former resident of Lansing, Illinois; Westport, Connecticut; Overland Park, Kansas; and Kenwood, California, Dene moved to Buffalo in 2010 to live with her daughter Karen.
Dene leaves behind a large family and circle of friends who will miss her and remember her with love and admiration. Survivors include daughters Karen Buffington of Buffalo and Beth Buffington of Falls Church, Virginia; grandsons Adam, Garrett, Dean and Brandt Schiche, and Reed and Ken Anzalone; and great-grandchildren Mason, Payton, Jeremy, Theo and Ashton.