Br Tony, sometimes addressed within the community as Bucko or Fred, died after a relatively short illness on 21 July 2002, aged sixty-one. In late February he had been diagnosed with aggressive, inoperable brain tumours. Six weeks of daily radium treatment did little to extend his life. Hopefully it gave him some improved quality of life. He was cared for within the community until the end. We were able to surround him with prayer on his last day. He died minutes after we had recited the prayers for the dying and celebrated the Office of Compline at his bedside.
Br Tony was born in Sydney on 21 November 1940, the son of Joseph Buckley and Edna (nee Casey). His siblings were Janet who died twenty years ago, Judith and David. His early years, during the forties, were spent out in the New South Wales countryside at Bogabri where his father managed a flour mill. The Josephites gave him most of his primary education there. By the early fifties the family had returned to Sydney. He was confirmed in St Mary’s Cathedral on 18 October 1953. His education continued under the Christian Brothers at Strathfield, then at Hawkesbury Agricultural College. Br Tony eventually went on to run a family farm at Walcha.
At about the age of eleven he survived encephalitis, no rare feat especially fifty years ago. Medication, detested and often rebelled against, became a necessary permanent feature of his life to control side effects of his brush with death. Br Tony was always extremely grateful to two friends, Paul Houston and Vince Woods, both of whom were to predecease him, for their determination not to treat him as an invalid but to include him in all aspects of growing up.
When Br Tony visited Paul to break the news that he was entering a monastery, Paul first responded with “What was that, Tony?”, and then, “Aw, have another beer, Tony!” But he did enter Tarrawarra on 31 March 1971. He received the novice’s habit on 1 November that year, made his first vows on 4 November 1972, and solemn profession on the feast of St. Bernard, 20 August 1976.
During his thirty-two years with us, Br Tony was involved in a range of activities. He worked on both the beef and dairy farms. He intermittently threw himself into vegetable growing. He was a ferocious cleaner and polisher of floors. In a more contemplative mode, he made many sets of rosary beads for sale in our gift shop. Through all of this he muttered away and responded to our “Sorry, I didn’t catch that” with “I was only talking to myself!” It was probably “Sufferin’ Geronimo!” or “Stone the crows and starve the lizards!” He is probably best remembered by our guests and friends for his years of kindness as guestmaster.
From the many lovely tributes we have received since his death, we share the following with you. “He was someone who gave so much to the monastic life and to the work of the community and, to long-standing visitors like me, he represented the essence of Cistercian hospitality and loving care. I always looked forward to his special smile when either he welcomed me back to Tarrawarra when he was guestmaster, or on later visits, he saw me turned up in choir for one of the Offices. In later years his bread making abilities were much appreciated by the guests when his excellent loaves were served up for the evening meal. “