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Buck “had a big heart but didn’t let it get in the way of a good political fight”

January 8, 2021   ·   0 Comments

Evelyn Buck, Aurora’s first female mayor, is being remembered for her passion for the community she represented for decades.

Ms. Buck, who began her political career in the early 1960s and served multiple terms on Council through 2014, died Monday, December 21, at the age of 92 after a brief battle with multiple myeloma.

Born Evelyn Mary Finnigan in Ayshire, Scotland, on December 1, 1928, she and husband Cyril Buck, emigrated to Canada in the mid-1950s before settling in a new home in what is now Aurora’s Regency Acres community in 1960.

The Bucks raised seven children in this home and it was from this home that she began her public life by chairing the Regency Acres Ratepayers Association. It was soon after that Ms. Buck won her first seat on Aurora Council. She served in various capacities on Council, including serving as the Town’s last Reeve, before beginning two terms as Mayor in 1976.

After flirting with other levels of government in subsequent decades, including standing locally for the provincial NDP, she returned to where it all began in 2003 with another Council run, where she served as a Councillor in multiple terms until 2014.

At the time, Ms. Buck said there was an opportunity to “restore integrity” to Council and “lift it out from where it was at.”

“It was only a matter of someone being there who knew the difference between how they were functioning and how they should function,” Ms. Buck told The Auroran in 2014. “My main objective was to bring back some civility to our Council Chamber by being the kind of person that I am.”

Ms. Buck was rarely out of the headlines during her political third act, which concluded in her narrow Council defeat in 2014 by just 42 votes. But, following that election, she was philosophical about her loss, telling The Auroran “politics is a harsh taskmaster.”

“It doesn’t matter how popular you are. It is a hard, hard thing to be involved in. I have exalted in it. It is less a matter of being privileged or honoured, or any of that. I have enjoyed it because I have taken all kinds of risks. I have no regrets about it because I couldn’t have done it any other way. I couldn’t be anybody else except who I am – and I have survived.”

“You can be courageous and you can be successful in politics if you have the courage,” she added, in advice to the next generation of Council members. “People will recognize it and they will give you credit for it. They may not agree with you, but they will give you credit for being absolutely honest. People don’t ask for much, so it is not hard to give them something they can trust.”

From the perspective of Evelyn Buck’s daughter Theresa, her mother’s philosophy could be distilled even further.

“Her passion for Aurora was so strong and the people of Aurora were like family to her,” said Theresa, the morning following her mother’s passing.

In the days following Ms. Buck’s death, tributes from community leaders past and present poured in.

“I was saddened to learn of the passing of Evelyn Buck,” said Mayor Tom Mrakas. “Anyone that knew Ms. Buck knew she was passionate and wore her heart on her sleeve. Ms. Buck cared deeply about our Town and was involved in municipal politics for many years, serving as Aurora’s first female mayor. On behalf of Aurora Town Council and Aurorans, I offer deepest sympathies and condolences to Ms. Buck’s family and friends.”
Former mayor George Timpson said he first met the woman who would ultimately be his predecessor in 1972 when aged just 26. He remembers Ms. Buck as “quite the colourful mayor” while in office and remembers her making a splash at a Federation of Canadian Municipalities Conference held in Charlottetown.

“She nearly broke up Confederation with her comments about living standards in PEI!” Timpson joked, recalling political battles including the widening of Wellington Street. “Evelyn was always concerned about maintaining good employment opportunities in Aurora and this is why, when [what is now the York Region District School Board] had to vacate the Church Street School building, Evelyn seized the opportunity to keep the school board offices in Aurora and eventually the new Town and Board offices were built [on Wellington Street West] in the building which straddles Tannery Creek.

“Evelyn enjoyed a little tipple of whisky from time to time and she gave me the advice of drinking rye and water as a preference [as] the water would keep one from becoming dehydrated! During my mayorality, Evelyn was elected as Councillor in 1980. She was constructive in her work with me as Mayor and we got along well, given our history. She always had Aurora in her mind and, in her own way, always tried to do what was right and good for the Town and its citizens.”

When Tim Jones, Aurora’s longest-serving mayor, first got his feet wet at the Council table, he says he didn’t know quite what to expect – but soon found out.

“I believe she lived the job when she was on Council, which made it natural for her to speak from the heart on issues,” says Mr. Jones. “There were times she may not have read the agenda before a meeting, but that never stopped her from offering her opinion. She had a big heart, but didn’t let it get in the way of a good political fight.”

“With Dick Illingworth and John West in the room, there were some spirited debates,” he adds, referencing one instance where he had to ask Ms. Buck for an apology after she rolled up a newspaper and hit a fellow Councillor over the head with it at the table – with said Councillor being the newspaper’s publisher. “In the early days someone referred to me as a ‘watchdog’ on Council. Ev was quick to clarify that should probably be ‘watch puppy.’ You couldn’t help but admire Ev for her energy both on and off Council when she took on an issue. Hopefully someone has given Ron Wallace a heads-up in case Ev brings a copy of The Auroran with her to heaven!”

Ms. Buck last served as Councillor under the first Council led by then-mayor Geoff Dawe in 2010- 2014. Mr. Dawe recalls first becoming aware of her work in 1977 when he and wife Henny first moved to Regency Acres. But his first “real” encounter was at a reception held at Town Hall in 2008 where she was “holding court, waxing eloquently.”

“I will always be grateful to Evelyn for her endorsement when I ran for Mayor in 2010,” says Mr. Dawe. “I have no doubt that it helped in my victory. And then, she was a big help to the ‘newbies’ as we found our ‘sea legs.’ Like others, I benefited from her stories and experienced her razor-sharp wit. The depth and breadth of her interests was truly astounding! She was truly a living history book.

“While it is safe to say we did not always agree (she disagreed with me when I once suggested that we would have to agree to disagree on a particular issue), it is also safe to say that there was no doubt about her commitment to the Town of Aurora and its residents.”

Evelyn Buck was predeceased by husband Cy, and is survived by her two daughters, five sons, numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

By Brock Weir
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter



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