Longtime Vienna residents may remember Mary Margaret Smallpage Buckley as "the politician's wife." Her husband, E. Ross Buckley, held public office for a decade as a member of the Vienna Town Council.
But Mary, who raised many of her five children in Vienna, was the natural politician, relishing in the service opportunities the small town had to offer and befriending just about anyone she'd meet, her son John Buckley said.
"She was active in civic groups, and would serve as something like treasurer, but she didn't want to be in the limelight," he said. "She would make friends with the checkout people at the store or waiting in line... She loved this town."
Buckley died in her sleep Sunday at the Emeritus at Arlington. She was 84.
Friends and family remember how the town was a "home away from home" for Buckley and her family, who volunteered for local groups, held political offices and served Republican campaigns at the state and national level.
A native of New Orleans, Buckley graduated from that city's Isidore Newman High School and attended H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College for two years before her marriage in 1948. A proud native of Louisiana, she loved Mardi Gras, pecan pie, and "all things Southern," John Buckley said.
But when E. Ross Buckley took a job at the U.S. Department of Justice, Mary moved with her five children to Vienna and was immediately drawn to the small-town atmosphere — the same aspect of Vienna that attracts people today, John Buckley said.
"They loved the idea you could get to know your neighbors," he said. "Politicians still talk about maintaining (that)."
In Vienna, she was the treasurer of the Westbriar Civic Association and treasurer and vice president of the Greater Vienna Republican Women’s Club. Her husband served on the council from 1976 to 1986.
Buckley was a delegate to state conventions of the Republican Party of Virginia from 1973 to 1988 and also served several campaigns, her son said, including Richard Obenshain for U.S. Senate in 1978; Ronald Reagan for president in 1976, 1980 and 1984; U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf's successful run in 1980 and Richard Viguerie's bid for lieutenant governor in 1985.
She also helped her son get elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1979.
E. Ross Buckley left the Justice Department in 1982 for the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, of which he would eventually be chairman.
In 1989, with their children grown, the Buckleys left Vienna for Las Cruces, N.M. In retirement, she and her husband traveled to Europe on the Queen Elizabeth II, returning on the Concorde. In 1990, she realized a lifelong dream of visiting Australia, where she cuddled a newborn koala in her arms, John Buckley said.
When E. Ross Buckley died in 1992, Mary stayed in New Mexico. But in 2005 she made the move to Charlotte, N.C. And in 2009 she came back to Northern Virginia, this time to Arlington, to be near her son John.
For the past three years, John Buckley said he took his mother through Vienna frequently, down St. Andrew's Drive NE to see the houses of old neighbors, through neighborhoods filled with azaleas and usually ending at Wu's Garden — where she and her family "probably dined a thousand times."
"She marveled at many of the changes on Maple Avenue — marveled at the traffic, marveled at how many businesses were thriving and growing and how many new businesses had opened down Route 123," said John Buckley, who noted his mother and father were early fans of Anita's when it still occupied the space now home to Maple Avenue Restaurant.
This week, the family will gather at Wu's to celebrate Mary Buckley's life.
"She loved this town," John Buckley said. "Her favorite song was 'When the Saints Go Marching In.' Now she’s marching in the grand parade herself as well."
Buckley is survived by her five children, E. Ross Buckley Jr. and his wife Lydia Williams Buckley, of Metairie, La.; Margaret B. Doll and her husband James Doll, of Waxhaw, N.C.; John S. Buckley and his partner Michael Duffy, of Arlington; Michael S. Buckley and his wife Vicky Newton Buckley, of
Noonan, Ga.; and Brian L. Buckley, of Highland, N.C.; eight grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren. A private memorial will be held in Arlington for the immediate family.