Angelo “Buffy” Buffas Jr.
Angelo Buffas Jr. was born April 27, 1942 in Nome, Alaska to Angelo Buffas Sr. and Mary Stanley, the eldest of their three children. Buffas Sr. immigrated to America from Kastri, Tripoli, Greece as Angelos Stavros Perdicaris and changed his name. As a 20-year-old, Buffas Sr. was licensed in Washington State in 1912 as a chauffeur, a business he would bring to Nome in 1940.
Mary Stanley’s family was from Shishmaref.
At the young age of 5, Buffy was tasked to be caregiver for his younger siblings Norma and Steve as Angelo Sr. worked long hours at the Café and taxi business. Buffy attended Nome Schools, eventually old enough to be helping at his father’s place of business. Buffy was surrounded by the cliquish Greek community with acquaintances of his father’s Jimmy Pappas and Nick Simeon. As a youngster his dad would send him down the street to Italian storeowner Fred Cavota to get new shoes or clothes. Old Man Cavota would give him a hard time, but in the end he would tell him “get what ya want and get outta here”.
Buffy enlisted in the Army September 9, 1960, serving in Germany where he trained as a mechanic. He worked his whole life fixing anything and everything. Buffy’s vast experience with cars, trucks and heavy equipment would help him support his family throughout his life. If he couldn’t figure it out, he would often “sleep on it” to find a solution to a problem. Buffy was discharged after three years and two days of service, September 10, 1963, and returned to Nome with is first wife “Ellie” Eleanor Notrod whom he had married in Germany. Buffy’s first two sons, Angelo and Gino were born in Nome.
As a child, Buffy watched planes flying in and out of Marks Air Force base, which fascinated him. As a young boy, he flew with Bill Munz who had a local air taxi service, and he knew and idolized Willie Foster, another famous pilot. He started to fly when he got out of the service.
Buffy worked various jobs prior to taking a position with the City of Nome Public Works, then worked for the State of Alaska, Department of Transportation as a mechanic, and later, as Nome Airport Manager. He took a lot of pride in doing a good job wherever he worked.
Buffy married the love of his life, Edna Christine Johnsen on October 24, 1966. To this marriage Edna brought two daughters Doreen Ann and Angela Jo, and three more kids joined the Buffas clan: Renita Sue, Briggetta and Sterling Edward.
Buffy and Edna raised their children in Nome and often took care of friends of their younger children. The family home was on East Second across from Nome Machine Works, and business owners Doug and Claudia Doyle kept watchful eye out for them. Buffy and Edna moved out to Snake River in the early 1980’s, and with his mechanical abilities was able to provide heat and power by generators he kept running so the family was safe, warm and comfortable in their new wild surroundings.
The Buffas family was at home out in the country more than in town, and enjoyed all the beauty Alaska has to offer. Whether it was camping at Pilgrim, gold mining at Coffee Creek, seal hunting on the Bering Sea, fourwheel driving to Serpentine Hot Springs, flying the beaches up and down the coast or fishing in the rivers all around Nome, the younger kids were often in tow.
All learned fourwheel driving, being taught at a very young age, first sitting on Mom’s lap, then graduating to looking through the steering wheel and sitting on a pile of coats. Buffy would “find” his family out berry picking or hunting and fishing, buzzing them with his airplane, landing on the road to check on them. Buffy often took his younger children on fourwheeling trips with Doug and Claudia Doyle, Stan Andersen, Carl and Clara Langton, and John and Kathy Bahnke. Some of his travel adventures included destinations such as the Port Clarence Loran Coast Guard Station, Serpentine Hot Spring and even to Deering.
Buffy was an accomplished snow machine racer, earning many trophies including the race record for the Nome-Golovin Race win in 1969 on a King Cat 800. The “Mad Greek” was honored by retiring Number One for the Nome-Golovin Race. Buffy as a proud father followed by aircraft his daughter Sweet Pea at 100mph to her victories in her snow machine races.
Although Buffy wrecked almost every plane he had, Gene Starkweather “Starky” was always there to pick up the pieces to rebuild each plane with the help of Muffin, Sweet Pea, Briggetta and Sterling. Rib stitching the wings and shrinking the fabric was a regular job for the kids. Starky always paid the kids for an honest day of work. Buffy was most at home in the air, buzzing friends all over the Seward Peninsula, landing on beaches, roads and even took off on his short driveway at Snake River.
He salvaged walrus heads and baleen with his younger children and close friends. Buffy was involved in many air searches and was responsible for locating many lost hunters and travelers over the years. Once in the spring of 1976 he was on the hunt for his own family consisting of his father-in-law Harry Johnsen Sr., mother-in-law Laura Johnsen, daughter Renita, brother-in-law Cookie Johnsen, Laura’s sister Irene Green and nephew Ed Walker Jr. They were lost, stranded out in the Bering Sea for two weeks. Buffy went out every day, flying over the ocean until he spotted their boat, stuck between ice packs. Soon after, the National Guard flew out and rescued the family. They had subsisted on a couple seals they caught during their cruise.
At age 22, Buffy joined the Nome Volunteer Fire Department in 1964, and spent the next 37 years supporting its function and the Nome community. He retired as a Captain in 2001, and for many years previous was well known for his loud TURKEY, TURKEY, TURKEY while selling tickets at the annual Firemen’s Carnival. He also volunteered his time to local organizations including the Nome Lions Club and the Arctic Native Brotherhood Club.
Buffy made Salmonberry and Blueberry Liquor with Everclear 180 proof that many of his close friends and acquaintances enjoyed. Buffy loved to recite the poem by Robert Service “The Cremation of Sam McGee”, a long poem he memorized and often shared with friends and family.
After 26 years with the State, both Buffy and Edna retired June 1, 1997, and they bought the Dexter Roadhouse from Steve Harris. They expanded the buildings and business, eventually selling as it was becoming too much like a job. They wanted to become snowbirds, like many of their friends. They wintered in Oregon and enjoyed gardening, road trips to visit friends and family, and attended annual Air Shows in Reno, Nevada.
With his love Edna passing in 2013, Buffy moved back to Alaska to be close to family, settling in Wasilla. His heart was always home in Alaska, and he continued to spend his summers at camp at Pilgrim, staying busy working on his “stuff”. He was occupied ivory carving, making ulus, letter openers and fishhooks for his kids and grandkids, special gifts they will always cherish.
Buffy passed away from natural causes and went home to be with his love Edna on June 30, 2017 surrounded by family and friends. He was 75. Buffy was born at a time and in a place where in order to survive you had to work hard, and be able to make something outta nothing. Buffy lived the life others only dream about. In so many ways, Nome benefitted from his life, his service, his contributions and we are indebted. He lived a lifetime of risk and reward, often putting himself in harrowing and perilous situations while rescuing and searching for others. He lived large, and on the edge, caring, and daring. He was a dancers dream, and we are sure he and Edna are making up for lost time. Buffy will be remembered for his infectious smile and booming laughter. He will be remembered for those low flying buzzing acrobatics with his plane as he flew overhead, took the top of your hat off, tipped his wings, and disappeared into the horizon.
Buffy is survived by his children Angelo “Babe” Lerner (Anita), Gino “Popeye” Lerner of Colorado Springs, Colorado, Doreen Schenkenberger of Anchorage, Angela Buffas (Tim) of Nome, Robbie Ningeulook (Nancy) of Shishmaref, Renita Magnuson (Mansey) of McGrath, Tracey Hoogendorn (Steve) of Koyuk, Briggetta Hawks (Martin) of Abu Dhabi, Sterling Buffas (Mickey) of Nome; his grandchildren Louis Buffas (Darlene), Lori Hughes (Gerald), Hattie Keller (Jarvis), Brandon, Andrew and Alex Lancaster, Timothy James Jr., Chelsea, Misty, Nicholas and Christopher Reader, Damon, Christine and Skylar Buffas, Anna Burmeister, Daniel, Dalton and Stavros Buffas, Dakota and Ryder Magnuson, Sean and Kaelyn Schenkenberger, many great grandchildren; nieces and nephews Stephanie, Tyrone and Jared Buffas, sister Norma Buffas all of White Mountain, Alaska.
He was predeceased by his father Angelo Buffas Sr., mother Mary, wife Edna, sons Brian Moto and Angelo Buffas III (Blondy), his grandson Patrick Reddaway and his brother Steve Buffas.
A service will be held in Nome at the Nome Recreation Center Tuesday, August 8, 2017 at 2 p.m.
Buffy’s ashes will join Edna’s and be spread across the countryside at the Pilgrim River family camp, mile 56, Saturday, August 12, 2017 at 7 p.m.. In lieu of flowers it was his wish that contributions be made to the Nome Volunteer Fire Department.