William (Bill) Buck Richard Eastland
The death of William (Bill) Buck on March 16, 2019, reverberated throughout Edmonton’s inner city where he had been a faithful volunteer with the House of Refuge Mission since 1979. Like a John Wayne of the street, Bill was tough but gentle, and a staunch defender of his faith in God. He proudly wore a baseball cap with the word Jesus embroidered in red across the front and joked that no one ever tried to steal it.
Bill was from northern Saskatchewan but lived in Edmonton for more than 40 years. He was born October 10, 1936, but the birthday he celebrated was his spiritual birthday, December 31, 1979. That was the day he met Jesus at one of Max Solbrekkens’s evangelistic meetings. Bill was sensitive about his age, saying, “Age is just a number,” and kept on working right up until the three days before he died, picking up food at Edmonton’s Food Bank, then taking it down to the street to be given to those in need. He passed away following surgery to repair a ruptured hernia.
At the House of Refuge Mission, Bill was always there seven days a week, doing everything from putting on the coffee and making soup, to acting as a bouncer for unruly clients, and cleaning up at the end of the day. He did food pick-ups and was always ready to take food hampers to those in need. He was also a handyman and could put up drywall, do repairs, and unplug toilets as needed. He never neglected the prayer meetings. After the building burned down in 2012, Bill continued to work, giving out food outside on the parking lot of Edmonton Cash Register, even on the coldest winter days. He was proud of his position as president of the board of directors of the House of Refuge mission since 2008.At the memorial service for Bill on March 31, Brian, Bill’s friend and former co-worker at the House of Refuge Mission, said, “No man was too big or too small or too crazy that Bill couldn’t handle. He could take them outside. Bill would clean the place up, open the doors, and lock them up at night.”
Bob Vandergrift knew Bill since the 1980s and worked with Bill at the House of Refuge Mission since 2007. He said, “Bill would make people take off their hats at the house of Refuge. I talked to his son about his dad. His dad loved Jesus and the people on the streets. It was my honour and privilege to work with Bill. He was a strong man.”
Glen Davis, who preached at the House of Refuge Mission from 1996 until 2012, said, “Bill was a friend and fellow minister for many years. We had coffee together every morning for the last few years. I have known him for 23 years. I met him in 1996 and he invited me to preach. He didn’t like hospitals. He was a good friend to help.”
Bill was hard of hearing, but refused to consider a hearing aid. Josh Branston remembers Bill from when Josh was eight years old and visited the House of Refuge to help out his grandmother, who was a volunteer. He said, “These two guys were fighting. Bill told them to go outside. One went but the other said he was scared and didn’t want to leave. Bill grabbed him by the jacket and hauled him out anyway. I don’t think Bill even heard him.”
Bill’s death is strongly felt by those he served and those he served with, but the work on the House of Refuge mission continues. Every evening at 6 p.m. food is distributed those in need on the parking pad of Edmonton Cash Register on the corner of 103A Avenue and 95 Street in Edmonton.
Linda lives in the area and edits Edmonton Street News_._ She is a former editor of_ Boyle McCauley News.)_