John Buchanan was born on October 2, 1934. He left the world on June 24, 2021 with his family by his side.
John was born in Chicago, Illinois, the first child of Earl “Buck” and Marjorie Buchanan. He loved visiting Chicago over the years; the year the Cubs won the World Series was celebrated in John’s typical quiet fashion. John attended Northwestern University, graduating in 1956 with a degree in Liberal Arts and in 1959 with a degree in Divinity. John moved to Ellensburg, Washington, as a campus minister at Central Washington University where he met the love of his life, LeeSanne. Married in 1962, John and LeeSanne moved to Greeley, Colorado, to complete a transition program to teach. Children followed, some in the predictable fashion, with the birth of Karen in 1963, Kristin in 1964 and Scott in 1967, and some with a bit more flair with the adoption of Timothy in 1969 and Kim Oanh in 1974.
John’s love of history, learning, books, and his beloved Green Bay Packers was the framework of his life. He always had at least one but often two books he was currently reading. He was able to discuss politics, religion, history, and sports with equal wit and intelligence.
John was a beloved father and loving husband. You could set a clock by his daily routines of dog walking, pipe smoking, dishwashing, always quietly lending a hand in a busy household of five children. But throughout his life, he was always happy to sit and read stacks of books to eager children and grandchildren. All of his children fondly remember John teaching them to drive; John’s memories of that time involve more fear, especially the time Tim narrowly avoided a collision with a parked car. They came home shaky, but both dismissed the incident, one with teen bravado and one with the resignation of a person who had taught his young wife to drive years before tackling those five teen drivers. John taught life lessons quietly, Kim Oanh can still vividly recall the summer of ping pong matches in the outdoor living room. She was so confident she could beat him that she bet her whole summer savings on the final game, John cautioned her against it, and in the end, accepted the wager. LeeSanne remembers how John wrestled with the decision- should he throw the game or play his best? Having John collect the money after he won was a lesson Kim remembers to this day.
John taught history and Religions of the World at Cherry Creek High school from 1963 to 1989. His quiet humor, encouragement of deep learning, and love of history made him a popular teacher and beloved colleague. On his retirement, John and LeeSanne moved full time to Redstone, Colorado, where they operated the Ice House Cafe with John learning new skills of scooping ice cream and serving up perfectly crafted sandwiches. With retirement also came the freedom to travel. John and LeeSanne spent many happy years exploring the country in their RoadTrek. Trips included the Washington DC museums, The Natchez Trace, always trips to the Midwest.
Life brought joy along with challenges and sadness; the death of a son, Scott, in 1990 and daughter, Karen, in 2012 were wounds that continued to hurt over the years. John’s childhood polio made an unwelcome reappearance in the form of the post-polio syndrome; John’s years of long walks changed first to a mobility scooter and finally a power wheelchair. He dealt with these difficulties with his characteristic grit and grace.
Joy was found in the birth of nine grandchildren, with John and LeeSanne playing an active role in their lives. Games, hours of reading books, and sharing adventures were part of his role as a grandparent. Melissa remembers that “my love for reading absolutely stemmed from Papa and the countless books he would read to me growing up. I specifically remember all the Dr. Seuss books that were my favorite.” Ryan remembers the years of Papa waiting for him and Melissa after school, ready to drive them back to Maga and Papa’s house for a snack, a long walk, and often money for treats at the General Store. Elizabeth remembers a summer trip with evenings playing Clue with Maga and Papa. “Papa would be a good sport by not accusing both of us of trying to cheat (Liam was a better cheater than I was) and had the best laugh the whole time.” Liam has happy memories of Abbott and Costello movies and summer mornings with Papa supplying well-buttered toast while they watched cartoons together. Patrick and Papa found a common connection in football when they both cheered for the Green Bay Packers. Victoria and Katherine became suppliers of the baked goods Papa loved. Julia provided recordings of herself playing Karen’s flute, bringing a happy smile to Papa’s face as he remembered Karen playing for him. John smoked a pipe for many years and the scent of his favorite tobacco brings back memories. Julia recalls “I will always remember the way he smelled. I learned to associate the smell of pipe smoke with him. It was comforting. His hugs filled you with the sweet scent of his tobacco. Nothing will ever feel quite like the warm caress of Bapa’s “smoky-filled” hug.” John was delighted to meet his first great-grandchild, Selah, born in November 2019.
Life can’t be summed up in a list of places he lived, jobs, and travels but may be illustrated in the small daily acts that revealed his kindness, wit, and character. John did the dishes every day, started the fires in the fireplace, and was always standing ready to help unload the car from any shopping trip. He would magically appear at the end of any marathon baking session, professing that the well-done cookies were his favorite and that he loved to clean up the kitchen. His daughter Kristin was well into adulthood before she realized that burnt cookie wasn’t his favorite flavor. His love of extra butter or whipped cream was a constant throughout his life.
In his last weeks and days, John was able to spend time with his children and grandchildren. Many of those he loved and cared for were also able to visit him. He continued to focus his care and love on those that would be left behind. He never neglected to thank every person that helped care for him up until the very end.
"Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.” Louise Erdrich
John is survived by his wife, LeeSanne, children Kristin (Patrick), Kim-Oanh DeJulio (Greg), Timothy, Grandchildren Elizabeth, Katherine, Victoria and Patrick III, Melissa. Ryan, Liam, Julia and Eleanor. Great grandchild: Selah