Skip directly to content

Obituary: Carolyn (CJ) Buckner July 9, 1941 – May 7, 2019

on July 29, 2019 - 12:54pm

CAROLYN (CJ) BUCKNER July 9, 2019 – May 7, 2019

Beloved artist and long-time resident of Los Alamos, Carolyn (CJ) Buckner passed away May 7, 2019, after a yearlong battle with neuroendocrine cancer. She was just shy of her 78th birthday at the time of her passing.

CJ, as she preferred to be called, was born in Cedar Rapids, WI. on July 9, 1941. Daughter of Valentine and Alice Birch, CJ spent most of her childhood moving around in the upper Midwest in several different parts of Iowa and Wisconsin.

Upon completing high school, she began her undergraduate studies at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. CJ became involved with and had been a fairly active alumnus and supporter of Alpha Chi Omega Sorority. Upon graduation with a Bachelor of Science degree, CJ moved to Los Alamos to become a biology science teacher at Cumbres Junior High School. After teaching for a few years, CJ’s life changed.

Imagine seeing a strapping young gent driving a 64 Corvette convertible through the parking lot of your apartment complex. You aren’t intrigued by the car or the man but the little blue-eyed kitten riding on the man’s shoulder. A chance Siamese kitten encounter introduced CJ to David Buckner. The two began dating and soon marriage.

A job opportunity for Dave took the pair to Phoenix, Arizona where CJ began working on her Masters degree in Biology at Arizona State. Funny how Los Alamos can call you home. A new opportunity at LASL arrived on the doorstep of Dave and CJ a little over a year later and plans to return to Los Alamos began to come together. All good things come in threes, as the new job was combined with the news that they were soon to become parents, on top of CJ’s Master’s thesis being due. They moved back to Los Alamos, bought new home in White Rock, and welcomed their son Adam into the world. That November was a busy time and the pair relied on so many good friends to help with the baby while CJ finished her thesis.

Both David and CJ were uber, multifaceted crafts people. While Dave enjoyed building things, silversmithing and sculpture, CJ started exploring a talent she thought she had forgotten:  painting and drawing. CJ kept busy with her toddler son while she focused on watercolor painting and developing her skills. She began to accumulate a very impressive body of work. She began showing her paintings at the Los Alamos Crafts Fair at Fuller Lodge and becoming active with the New Mexico Watercolor Society as well as showing her work annually at The Rio Grande Arts & Crafts Fair in Albuquerque.

Several galleries including Cornwell’s Gallery in White Rock, Weem’s Gallery in Albuquerque and a couple galleries in Taos caught onto her unique talent, demand for her paintings was to a degree, meteoric. The New Mexico State Fair, Weem’s ArtFest also became of favorite venues to be able to speak with her personally and enjoy her warm yet warped sense of humor directly, in addition to viewing her artwork. She was also instrumental in organizing the first Los Alamos Artist’s Studio Tours and gained the attention of magazines (Southwest Art, New Mexico Magazine, etc.) as well as local and regional collectors. Several of her paintings are on permanent collection at the New Mexico State Fair Gallery from achieving their “Purchase Award” for the gallery.

On a stranger note, CJ and local artist friends were the culprits for possibly causing more than a few accidents at the corner of State Road 4 and Rover in White Rock! CJ and friends were often the minds behind some of the more creative dressings of the White Rock “White Rock”. The most memorable was when CJ and friends painted and decorated the “Rock” as a chicken for the 50th Anniversary of White Rock. The Chicken version of the “Rock” was probably the most visible and remembered state of the locally famous and ever-changing monolith and stayed decorated that way far longer than any of the other iterations.

CJ’s paintings can be found in so many of the homes of families in Los Alamos, Santa Fe and surrounding areas. Comments from her close friends and others say the same thing, they considered her art to be heirlooms to be passed onto future generations of families. They would be passed on not because of the price paid, but for the feelings and beauty imbued into each one. Far too many stories have been relayed from collectors and owners who lost their treasures in the LA Fires and the obvious remorse that so many of CJ’s paintings had been lost.

CJ continued painting, doing shows and galleries until 1993 as well as keeping up with family excursions and events. With her son out of high school and in college, CJ’s creative talents made a shift from 2 dimensions to 3 dimensional. The pace she kept while painting for so many years was incredible, and she felt she needed to explore new avenues in Raku clay sculpture, thus continuing her artistic path but on a new creative playing field.

Her new direction with Raku focused mainly on using river rocks as the shape and sizing for comical clay animal caricatures. Combining the natural shapes, expressions and the beauty/unpredictable nature of the Raku process, she captured some of the most whimsical yet fascinating of the world’s creatures. These animals again caught on with collectors and those familiar with her previous work. With her break from painting, she started co-op galleries with fellow artists in both Santa Fe and Cuyamunge. She also donated quite a bit of her time volunteering at the Los Alamos Art Center at Fuller Lodge.

All work and no play could have made CJ a dull girl so the rest of her time when not at the gallery was spent with David on trips to Russia, Portugal, and Spain. CJ and friends continued the gallery Galaria el Jardin on the Santa Fe Highway until construction woes and re-routing of exits around Buffalo Thunder Resort dropped the direct access of tourists and locals to a slow trickle and the gallery was closed. CJ continued to create her sculptures but at a slower pace and chose to spend more time volunteering and with family and friends.

In July 2012, CJ’s husband David passed away somewhat unexpectedly from an aneurism but chose to keep the family home. She continued her volunteering at The White Rock Visitors Center, growing vegetables in her garden and enjoying time with friends. When the burdens of keeping the family home in White Rock became too much, she opted to downsize and move to Santa Fe to El Castillo Senior Living in the fall of 2017.

During the summer of 2018, she was diagnosed with neuroendocrine cancer after a routine mammogram. She and her family, with the consultation of friends, opted for chemotherapy. The treatments worked for a time but eventually cancer took the upper hand. Carolyn Joyce Buckner passed away peacefully in the morning May 7th, 2019. She was so grateful for the new friends and new family that she became involved with at El Castillo. CJ’s immediate family would like to express their sincere thanks for being friends and helping them through her diagnosis and treatment.

CJ was preceded in death by her mother Alice Birch, father Valentine Birch, brother Leonard Birch and husband David Buckner. She is survived by her son Adam Buckner, his wife Angie Felice-Buckner, grandsons Jaymeson Perry and Tyler Buckner, as well as countless friends.

In lieu of flowers or any other remembrance, CJ’s wish was to have any donations made to either the Alzheimer’s Association or the International 5P- Society benefiting children with the same genetic syndrome as her grandson Tyler.