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Dr. Richard S Buker, Jr., 93, passed away June 29, 2018. He was born on July 18, 1924 in Boston, Massachusetts. He was born to Dr. Richard S. Buker, Sr and Minola Buker who would soon become missionaries in Burma, and the family moved there when Richard was 3 years old. His formal education took place in Burma (grade school) and India, where he attended Woodstock boarding school. He graduated from Stony Brook High School in Long Island, while his parents were on furlough from Burma. He enrolled in Bates College where he accelerated through the courses and was allowed to start medical school before graduating. He went on to graduate Yale University School of Medicine in 1948. At Bates College he met his future wife, Jean McEnaney, and they were married in 1946. From this union, two daughters were born.
Dr. Buker was accepted into medical internship at Fitzsimmons Army Hospital in Denver, CO and from there he did his residency at Madigan Army Medical Center at Fort Lewis, Washington from 1949-1951. He served at Clark Air Force Base Hospital in the Philippines and Travis Air Force Base Hospital in California from 1951-1954. Following these tours of active duty, he sought to establish a practice in a community where a doctor was badly needed.
This is when the town of Chester and Liberty County came into its fortune! The Hospital Board was seeking a new doctor and brought Dr. Buker to town for an interview. He was treated with warm and friendly hospitality which won him over! And he would stay to practice medicine in Chester for 48.5 years! Many a young doctor practiced under him and learned valuable lessons of practicing rural medicine. And what a teacher he was! In fact, he was named the National Rural Health Practitioner of the Year in 1992.
Although he resigned from active duty in the US Air Force prior to moving to Chester, Dr. Buker continued to serve his country as an active member of the United States Army Reserve for many years. He retired in 1981 with the rank of colonel.
Dr. Buker was a civic leader and he took an active role in many organizations in the community and especially in his church. Some of these were Rotary Club, Liberty County Republican Party, Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. He served many terms on the Board of Chester Public Schools and was a board member of the Chester United Methodist church where he taught adult Sunday School for many years.
Dr. Buker was an active sportsman and bird lover, engaging in trapping, hunting, fishing and various other outdoor activities. He often took pack trips into the Bob Marshall Wilderness while elk hunting and each one was an adventure!
Dr. Buker remained active in statewide and local medical organizations. Some of these were : Diplomat of the American Board of Family Practice, Montana Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Family Physicians, Hill County Medical Society, Northcentral Montana Medical Society, Montana Medical Association, American Medical Association, WICHE Commissioner, Chief of staff at Liberty County Hospital for many years, Liberty County Hospital Administrator, Liberty County Public Health Medical Director.
It should be noted that Dr. Buker practiced solo in Chester for a stint of five continuous years, and nine years total, when no other doctor could be contracted to come to Chester to help out. (No one else wanted to work that hard!) Many of these years were when the town was bustling with businesses and the population was much larger. It was not unusual for him to deliver 100 babies a year. He literally NEVER got to attend one of his daughter’s school functions without being called to the hospital. He seldom had a night without sleep interrupted by a call from the hospital. He perfected the technique of listening while sleeping. People would be amazed at how it appeared he was dozing at a school board meeting when he would suddenly join in with very pertinent comments!
Dr. Buker performed numerous surgeries so it wasn’t unusual for him to stay late at night to perform a hip pinning if someone needed one. He always wanted to keep patients near home rather than send them to a facility elsewhere.
Because of Dr. Buker we are proud to say we still have excellent medical services and facilities here on the Hi-Line. It is because of him that we have our beautiful and well-run nursing home. Dr. Buker never went a day without visiting every nursing home patient! He was always available to provide support or assistance for a struggling staff member. He had a hard time giving up his medical license and retiring because he always thought he could still be useful in some way to somebody! His loss of vision due to macular degeneration hampered him greatly, but he still always strived to learn something every day, even after he became a resident of the nursing home.
He is survived by daughter, Candace Buker Chang of Boston, and grandchildren Jean Elizabeth Kinsella, Sonia Chang-Diaz, Daniel, Benjamin, David, Rebecca, and Rachel Hoffman, Annie Oumarou and Sarah Wood.
He was preceded in death by his daughter Elizabeth Buker Hoffman, his wife Jean McEnaney Buker, his parents and his brothers Robert and Gerald. His neighbor and special friend, Gary Jensen, was at his side as a business manager, friend and confidant until his passing. Dr. Buker will be remembered as an outstanding servant of God. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him!
A “Celebration of Life” Service will be held at the Chester United Methodist Church on Wednesday, July 18th at 11 o’clock AM. The service will also be streamed live to Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Chester. A luncheon will follow in the fellowship hall at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church immediately following the service. Memorials may be given to the R. S. Buker, Jr. Scholarship Fund in care of High-Line Health Foundation in Chester or donor’s choice.