Politics & Policy

Patricia Taylor Buckley

R.I.P.

Patricia Taylor Buckley died on 2 A.M. on April 15, 2007, at the Stamford Hospital in Stamford, Conn., of an infection, following a long illness.

#ad#Born Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, July 1, 1926. Father Austin Cotterell Taylor. Mother Kathleen Elliott Taylor. Her father was a self-made industrialist whose racehorse Indian Broom competed against Seabiscuit. Mr. Taylor died in 1965. Her mother, a civic leader in Vancouver, died in 1972. Mrs. Buckley’s maternal grandfather was chief of police of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Mrs. Buckley’s brother, financier Austin G. E. Taylor of Vancouver died in 1996. Her sister, Kathleen Finucane of Vancouver, died in March.

Patricia Alden Austin Taylor was educated at Crofton House School, Vancouver. She attended Vassar College where she met her future husband through her roommate Patricia Buckley. She and her roommate’s older brother, William F. Buckley Jr. were married in Vancouver on July 6, 1950, in what was then the largest wedding in the city’s history.

Mrs. Buckley went from being a glamorous debutante to a vacuum cleaner-wielding wife of a junior faculty member of Yale. She and Mr. Buckley lived in Hamden, Connecticut, while he wrote his first book, God and Man at Yale while working as a junior instructor in the Spanish department. After Mr. Buckley did a brief stint in Mexico City with the Central Intelligence Agency — working for E. Howard Hunt, later of Watergate break-in fame — he and his wife settled in Stamford, Connecticut, their home ever since.

Their only child Christopher Taylor Buckley was born in 1952.

Mrs. Buckley became a leading member of New York society and was active in many charities and civic causes. She raised money for a number of hospitals, including St. Vincent’s. She served on numerous boards and was an honorary director of the Metropolitan Museum of Arts. For many years, she chaired the annual dinner of the museum’s Costume Institute.

Pat (as she was called) Buckley moved easily amidst notables from the worlds of politics, literature, the arts, philanthropy, fashion, and society. Her friends included Henry and Nancy Kissinger, Ronald and Nancy Reagan, Jerome Zipkin, Betsy Bloomingdale, Clare Boothe Luce, Bill Blass, Tammany leader Carmine DeSapio, Abe Rosenthal and Shirley Lord, Mrs. Gary “Rocky” Cooper, David Niven, John Kenneth Galbraith, (British director) Peter Glenville, Princess Grace of Monaco, the Don Juan de Borbon (father of the King of Spain), John Fairchild, Richard Avedon, Dominick Dunne, Bob Colacello, Alistair Horne, Aileen Mehle, Richard and Shirley Clurman, John and Drue Heinz, Reinaldo and Carolina Herrera, Tom Wolfe, Taki and Alexandra Theadoracopulos, Clay Felker, Ahmet and Mica Ertegun, C.Z. Guest, Kenneth J. Lane, Valentino, Halston, Walter Cronkite, Mike Wallace, David Halberstam, Vladimir Nabokov, Roger Moore, Truman Capote, Rosalyn Tureck, Alicia dela Rocha, James Clavell, King Constantine of Greece, Malcolm Forbes, Brooke Astor, Anne Slater, and (Mortimer’s owner) Glen Birnbaum. The late Nan Kempner was a close and lifelong friend.

Mrs. Buckley became an American citizen in the early 1990s.

She was known for her exacting taste in everything from clothes to decorating and food. She maintained a notably slender figure — Woman’s Wear Daily referred to her as the “chic and stunning Mrs. Buckley” and to her “belle poitrine.” She was an early booster of — and walking advertisement for — American designers, particularly Bill Blass. A regular on the Best Dressed List, she was inducted into its Hall of Fame in the 1990s. She favored costume jewelry made by her gin-rummy-pal, designer Kenneth J. Lane. In his memoir, Mr. Blass noted that he and Mrs. Buckley would occasionally play hooky from their hectic schedules in order to see as many movies as they could back-to-back in one day, “an operation that required near-military planning.”

Despite her elegant figure, Mrs. Buckley was a famous foodie (not a term she herself would ever have used). Unable to boil a three-minute egg when she married, she dutifully took cooking classes with no less a teacher than James Beard. In the 1970s, she became a champion of Glorious Foods, the now-famous catering firm started by Sean Driscoll. She refined her skills as a giver of fancy benefit dinners for up to 1,000 people by improving “Pat’s Pot Pie,” a chicken pot pie that eliminated the time-consuming need for serving vegetables and sauces separately. It was an innovation hailed by her famously impatient husband.

Over the years, Mrs. Buckley acted a kind of den mother to the modern conservative movement, giving dinners to the editors of her husband’s magazine, National Review every other Monday, starting in the mid-1960s. At her husband’s 80th-birthday celebration in 2005 at the Pierre Hotel in New York, her son Christopher noted in a toast that “No one ever left my mother’s house less than well and truly stuffed.”

Though she was often in the limelight, Mrs. Buckley tended to shy from it, content to leave center stage to her husband, the political and literary figure. She liked to say that she was “just a simple country girl from the woods of British Columbia,” though by any account she was anything but simple and had long since left the woods of her native British Columbia.

Patricia Taylor Buckley is survived by her husband of 56 years, William F. Buckley Jr. of Stamford, Conn.; and by her son Christopher Taylor Buckley of Washington, D.C.; also by her daughter-in-law Lucy Gregg Buckley of Washington, D.C.; granddaughter Caitlin Gregg Buckley of Charleston, S.C.; grandson William Conor Buckley of Washington, D.C. She is also survived by 52 nieces and nephews, including Kathleen Finucane Armstrong and Patricia Taylor Kreiger, both of Vancouver, Canada.

Memorial service to be announced.

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