He left the world a better place. I know, it’s trite. But the truth is John Crawford Buckner left the world a better place.
He grew from a boy who never wanted for a meal to a man who dedicated a lot of his time and money making sure fewer Americans go hungry.
The guy asked no thanks, took no bows, avoided publicity.
John died the third day of October at his home in Massachusetts. He was 55.
His legacy in our state is NewMexicoResources.org, a website to help the needy.
John grew up in Seattle, the son of a father with newspaper ownership in New Mexico and other states. He attended Stanford University, a varsity baseball player there, a psychology major who graduated with honors.
He added “doctor” to his title at the University of Maryland where he earned his PhD, and that journey was a key turning point. His course work included interviewing homeless women on the streets of Baltimore.
What he discovered is a huge gap between federal programs, such as food stamps, and their intended recipients, who don’t know how to access such programs.
Buckner accomplished a stellar research career in psychiatric epidemiology and prevention at the National Institutes of Mental Health, the National Center of Family Homelessness, and finally at Harvard Children’s Hospital Boston.
A passion for helping the poor led to the founding of his non-profit Community Resources Information, Inc. and its website — www.massresources.com — that helps needy individuals and families learn how to access food stamps and other basic needs. It was a labor of love that consumed much of his free time.
Buckner chose New Mexico to expand his cause beyond Massachusetts. It was a decision that led to a two-year quest to find the appropriate organization to operate the website and sponsors to finance its day to day maintenance. New Mexico Resources is a clone of his Massachusetts work.
A soft-spoken man, John’s quiet humor lightened a drive from Albuquerque to Moriarty in a mild snowfall that threatened to turn ugly. The driver offered to turn back if the snow were making him nervous. “I’m from Boston,” he quipped.
The New Mexico effort eventually led Buckner to the door of Diane Harrison Ogawa, executive director of PNM Foundation. Thanks to her work, PNM, Don Chalmers Ford, and Wells Fargo Bank put up the seed money to support the New Mexico website. Diane further recruited Central New Mexico Community College to accept responsibility for operating New Mexico Resources.
“John Buckner invested in the future of New Mexico. He brought the Community Resources website to our state and in doing so improved access for thousands and thousands of New Mexicans. Without fanfare or need for accolades, his investment connected people in need with the resources available to help them,” Ogawa said,
The college now has full responsibility for the website and it continues to evolve under that leadership. It is soon to affiliate with Share New Mexico and will be a central part of that statewide data platform.
During one visit to work on the New Mexico project, John was dining at a Nob Hill restaurant when he was asked, “Here you sit 2,000 miles from Boston working to help New Mexico needy when you could be resting comfortably at home. What drives you?”
John Buckner answered with a reference to the Luke passage advising to whom much is given, much is expected.
Kind of nice when people actually live by the word, isn’t it?
Ned Cantwell — firstname.lastname@example.org — is a friend and business associate of John Buckner.