May 24, 2024

Reflection / Natalie Hoefer

Honoring Criterion poet Hilda Buck, 106, and her lifelong witness of faith

Natalie HoeferSince shortly after I began working for The Criterion in 2013, one of my weekly responsibilities has been coordinating the “My Journey to God” poetry section. In this role, I’m blessed to get to know many faith-filled Catholics whom God has touched with poetic talent.

One of those poets is Hilda Buck, a longtime member of St. Lawrence Parish in Lawrenceburg. Her well-crafted, inspiring verses pointed to her deep love for Christ and the faith.

In December of 2015, she e-mailed a submission from the account of her daughter, Kathy Shapiro. Hilda noted in the message that she was “at my daughter’s house at the present time in Anderson, Ind.”

I thought little of the fact.

I realized Hilda must be on the wiser side of life in 2019 when her next submission—again from Kathy’s account—listed a retirement community in Anderson as her home address.

I didn’t realize just how “wise” until March of 2020 when I received another poem, this time with a note from Kathy: “Natalie, please find attached a poem my mother has written at this time of uncertainty with the coronavirus. … Not bad for a 102.5 year old.”

A centenarian still writing and sharing faith-inspired poems—may we all be blessed with such talent and mental acuity at that age (and in the decades before, for that matter)!

Six months later came another

Hilda-written poem with a Kathy-written message: “Mom is at it again. She turned 103 in July but is still working on her writings.” Another new poem came that November.

There was nothing for a year and a half—at that age, you get a pass for dry spells.

Then I received an e-mail from Kathy in July of 2022. No poem was attached, but a pleasant message noted, “Thought I would let you know that Hilda will be 105 years old on 7/22/22. Hasn’t been up to writing any poems lately, unfortunately, but still mentally there.”

A few weeks ago, on May 3, Kathy wrote again. I felt a tug in my heart when I read that Hilda and her way with words were lifted up to be with the Word for all eternity on April 28. She was 106.

Kathy noted it meant so much to her mother “that she could share her poems with others” in The Criterion.

She included a link to the obituary. As I read it, I marveled at the full, fascinating and faith-filled life Hilda lived.

Hilda Farabaugh Buck was born in Pennsylvania in 1917, surviving two pandemics and alive during both World Wars. According to those listed as preceding her in death, she was one of 11 siblings.

Hilda married the late Cyrus Buck in 1943, with whom she raised five children. At the time of her death, she was blessed to be the grandmother of eight and great-grandmother of 13.

The couple shared a love for national and international travel, with a journey to Egypt and the Holy Land being “their favorite trip together.”

The obituary lists several jobs Hilda held through the years, even working as a tax examiner for the Internal Revenue Service in Kentucky after her children were grown.

She became a certified Master Gardner, “showcasing her love for nature and beautifying her surroundings,” and she had a “thirst for knowledge” that led her at the age of 77 to take classes in art, photography, psychology, English, poetry and more at Mount St. Joseph College in Cincinnati. It was there that see discovered her gift for verse.

While Hilda didn’t start expressing her faith through poems until she was nearly 80, her whole life was a witness to her love for Christ and the Church.

“As an active member of St. Lawrence …, Hilda’s faith was an integral part of her life,” her obituary states. “She served as a lector, Eucharistic Minister, CCD [children’s religious education] teacher, and was involved in numerous committees including the Liturgy Committee, Church Decoration Committee, Christ Renews His Parish group, Daughters of Isabella society and Prison Ministry.”

Hilda maintained her membership with St. Lawrence even after her move to Anderson.

While Ann Hutchinson didn’t know Hilda personally, the St. Lawrence business manager has heard many “wonderful things” about her since Hilda’s death was announced at the parish.

“Everyone here has been talking about Hilda, the ‘church lady’ who was always here and so active, so involved,” says Ann.

Hilda Buck, 106: daughter, sibling, wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, Master Gardener, experienced traveler, seeker of knowledge and late-blooming poet from age 77 to at least 103.

May the poem of each of our lives read like hers: loving family, living life as fully as we’re able, sharing our God-given talents and shining as lifelong witnesses of our faith.

In Hilda’s honor, the poem for this issue’s “My Journey to God” on page 17 is one she wrote that was published in the May 24, 2013, issue of The Criterion.

(Natalie Hoefer is a reporter for The Criterion.)

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