Patricia “Trish” Buckley Bozell, sister of the late William F. Buckley Jr., died this weekend after a fight with cancer. National Review Online invited friends to pay tribute.
Working for Bill and Priscilla Buckley at National Review, I had known their sister Trish Bozell for decades, but at a distance — precisely, the distance between New York City and Washington, D.C. Then we started being in regular contact when she retired as an editor with Regnery and started proofreading part-time for National Review. Even so, the way she welcomed me into her home when I needed to come to D.C. for a wedding eleven years ago was remarkable. Even more remarkable was the way our friendship began in medias res — as if it were resuming and not beginning. It didn’t hurt that, as a recent convert, I was eager to talk about matters theological and liturgical, always favorite topics for Trish (“My family think I’m a religious nut,” she told me early on). About two years ago the balance of conversation shifted toward her beloved brother Bill (with whom, as he once wrote, she was “paired from infancy”), and whether there was anything practical to be done about his health. One week after his memorial service, she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. “I always told Bill,” she said, “‘If you go first, I’ll be right after you.’”
– Linda Bridges, a National Review senior editor, is author of Strictly Right: William F. Buckley Jr. and the American Conservative Movement.
I did not know Trish well but was privileged to have enjoyed several rollicking lunches with her in the company of Priscilla. No one who came within her orbit could fail to notice that she had a glow about her. Even in old age she was beautiful and serene and sparkling. Like all the Buckleys she had piercing intelligence, terrific warmth, and loved wit and humor, but above all, one came away with the sense that this was the very definition of a lady. R.I.P.
– Mona Charen is a nationally syndicated columnist.
Many moons ago I met her for lunch in Washington to discuss NR publishing a children’s book (it never worked out, to my shame). What a joyful meal. She was captivating, in every sense: beautiful, radiant, sweet. She mined me for information about my children, and took particular interest in my then youngest, the saintly Andy. Fifteen years later, when I saw her on an Amtrak train bound for Connecticut, where she was heading to visit her ailing brother, she was still asking me about him. I am confident she prayed for him (which is why he is still saintly) and me and my family more than I myself have.
We all speak in kneejerk superlatives, but I have reflected on this much over the last few weeks, as she bore her cross of advanced cancer and embraced her fate, and I have decided that the nicest person I have ever met is Trish Bozell.
When I found out she was dying I wrote her to say just what I thought about her, and she wrote back
Okay, so I love you too — from the very first when we peered around the Madison Hotel searching each other out for our first meeting. Nothing came of the book (which is too bad, I think) but what did emerge overpowers anything else — my love for you. Which endures. And will continue to endure.
I told Bill when he said a few days before his death that he was dying that I wouldn’t be far behind. And Voila! Bill never was one for patience.
Boy, did he ever love her, and vice versa. And why not? Especially as both had an impish gene. This from Bill’s Miles Gone By, recounting the Buckley children at play, horsing around at a horse show, with the high and mighty:
Some of the horse shows were also social occasions, calling for elaborate picnics and forms of fraternization. Every year in Rhinebeck, New York, a few miles north of Hyde Park, the box alongside my father’s was occupied by the president of the United States, who played the country squire at least once every season at the Duchess County Horse Show. I remember the afternoon when Trish won the blue ribbon. Protocol requires the winner to ride around the ring to receive the plaudits of the spectators. When she rode by the president’s box, FDR applauded lustily, whereupon Trish abruptly turned her pigtailed head to one side. A moment later, blue ribbon and riding crop in one hand, she came buoyantly to the family box.
“Why didn’t you nod to the president?” my father whispered to her.
“I thought you didn’t like him!” Trish’s face was pained with surprise.
It’s not everyone who can claim to have flipped a pigtail at FDR. As for pained looks of surprise, surely there was no cause for that when she received her Eternal Reward this weekend. If anyone deserved V.I.P access, it’s Trish. Well, holy and impish and lovely lady, wonderful mother and grandmother and wife and sibling and friend, good bye. Your newfound happiness swamps any sadness we might have. And if you don’t mind, given your proximity to The Ear, keep putting in a good word for us as you have been these many years.
– Jack Fowler is the publisher of National Review.
The e-mailing world has lost its most brilliant star. No one — no one — could write a sillier, kinder, sweeter, deeper, or wittier e-mail than PBBRC@AOL.COM. At a time we were both being treated for cancer, an e-mail arrives for me from PBBRC: “After some thought, I’ve decided I don’t really care for cancer. What do you think of our switching to, say, measles, or adolescent acne? Let me know what you think, please.” She could write or talk delightfully about anything, except herself. Even in the final days of her terrible illness, she wouldn’t dare allow the conversation to focus on a topic as unimportant as her health. She was doing fine, she would say, and add that her children were caring for her beautifully (“Did I ever tell you I had angels for children–ALL the way down the line?”) and then switch to what seemed important to her: How were you? The family? She spoke lightly of her cancer because it really wasn’t that important to her. What mattered to her were her family, friends and Catholic faith. Indeed, PBBRC sums her up pretty neatly: Patricia Buckley Bozell Roman Catholic. To that, I would like to add, at the beginning, The Unforgettable.
– Kevin Lynch is a former NR staffer.
One of the oldest — and still best — pieces of advice to evangelists is: “Preach the Gospel. Use words only when necessary.” Trish Bozell was highly articulate when it came to her Roman Catholic faith, but what made her such an inspiration for so many of us — not just her fellow Catholics, but Protestants such as myself, and even agnostics — was the way she lived that faith. She lived as someone would who had seen something, who had an unshakable intuition that death is a transition from God’s created universe to the joy, face to face, of His very presence. To talk with Trish was to feel the radiance of this believer’s assurance, and it was a palpable grace to those who us who were fortunate enough to experience it. One would not go wrong by saying, at St. Peter’s Gate, “Me? I’m with Trish Bozell.”
– Michael Potemra is National Review’s literary editor.
Trish Bozell was one of the liveliest and warmest women I have ever known. Her smile could warm up the coldest room.
She was working in tandem with her brother when I joined NR in 1957, and continued to do so for several years. She was a highly competent writer and editor, and I know that Bill relied on her heavily. They were extremely close, and almost laughably alike in many ways.
When family responsibilities finally forced her to step down, we were all desolate. Thereafter I watched as she managed the growth of her ten children–all of whom matured into political carbon copies of herself, her brother Bill, and the other siblings in that wonderful family.
If I had to single out one characteristic of her personality, I think it would be her conviviality. Any group of people seemed to become almost automatically more vivacious when Trish joined it.
It is touching, but not surprising, that she followed Bill so soon after his death. They were, and all their lives remained, a team. My condolences go to her family and her many friends. May she find in Heaven the welcome she deserves.
– Bill Rusher is former publisher of NR.