The Reverend Kathleen Buckley was born November 6, 1953 in Springfield, Massachusetts, and she died January 12, 2020. She was the second child of Francis and Doris Buckley. Her brother, Francis T Buckley, Jr. lives in Idaho. Her mother preceded her in death in 1989. Her father, Francis just turned 100 years old in July 2019.
Kathleen, affectionately called “Kathy”, “KRev”, “K” or “Chaplain” by some, grew up in the small town of Hampden, MA. She graduated from Hampden Elementary School and Wilbraham-Hamden High School. She was an honors student throughout school and was very active in sports, particularly basketball, field hockey and golf. Kathleen won awards as a junior golfer and she had a wonderful swing!
Kathleen was a neuroscience major in her undergraduate studies, and she graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst with a degree in Exercise Science. Kathleen attended Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL and graduated with the Master of Divinity degree in 1981. Throughout her ministry, she would draw heavily upon her science background, her gifts as a coach as well as her hospital chaplaincy experience. Kathleen completed a comprehensive residency at Lutheran General Hospital, in Park Ridge, Illinois, a tertiary care hospital.
Kathleen was ordained as Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) (PCUSA) in 1986. She completed internships at Presbyterian churches, and eventually became the Pastor of the Watervliet Presbyterian Church in Watervliet, New York, near Albany. She was deeply beloved by this congregation.
When Kathleen came out publicly as a bisexual in a same-sex relationship, she took an enormous risk, as her vocation in ministry became unstable. Her “coming out” was national news and it was a trying time in her life. She resigned from the pastorate of Watervliet, even though the parishioners wanted her to stay. She was always clear that she didn’t want to put that congregation in a precarious situation. Kathleen struggled to find steady employment for 8 years after coming out.
Before she arrived in Canton in July 2001, Kathleen served as Protestant chaplain at Union College, Schenectady, and chaplain at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs.
And in 2001, she was hired as the University Chaplain of St. Lawrence University and she served the SLU community well for the last 19 years. She taught courses in Peace Studies, Mediation and World Religions and help found St. Lawrence University’s Peace Studies Program. During this time, she changed her denomination affiliation to United Church of Christ. She worked closely with the Black River-St. Lawrence Association, New York Conference of the United Church of Christ. On campus and in the broader community, Kathleen was known for her openness, her generous spirit and her welcoming heart. As a teacher and spiritual leader, welcome and hospitality were her touchstones. When pushed on her ethos of welcome especially for marginalized groups such as LGBTQ persons, religious minorities and people of color, she would often say, “…and if I am wrong, I’d rather err on the side of love.”
Though she would truly miss being on campus and interacting with students, faculty and staff from all walks of life, she was looking forward to her upcoming retirement.
Kathleen LOVED the outdoors. She got her love for the outdoors from her mom and dad.
One of her fondest memories was that every spring, her mom would take her and neighborhood children on wildflower walks. The flower that they were most interested in finding were Lady slippers. Kathleen’s mother loved them, and they became a favorite of hers too. Kathleen enjoyed canoeing, kayaking, hiking and gardening. She has hiked in the Adirondacks, the Catskills and places in Alaska. And there were always tales of her adventures in those places. Some tales included close calls with nature!
Kathleen is survived by her partner, Shaun Whitehead of Canton, NY/Chicago, IL; her father, Francis T. Buckley of Canton, NY; her brother, Francis T. Buckley Jr. “Pawnee” of Blanchard, ID; her niece, Cyndee Burgess of Boise, ID; her adopted niece, Mukhaye Muchimuti; her traveling friends: Victoria Brooks, Rebecca Hammell and Kate McCaffrey; her spiritual advisor friends Kathy Montan and Laura Rediehs; her North Woods Road & Gardening community: Ann Heidenreich, Susan “Cat” Kramer, Jan Hutslar, Jane George, Jennifer MacGregor, Baylor Johnson, Greg and Amy Ladison, Matilda Larson, Jon Rosales, Catherine Jahncke, Rosemary Philips, David Norenberg, Annie Gaudreau, Kara McLuckie, ‘Rolake Odetoyinbo, Nelson Austin and Mark Richards; and a host of loving relatives, dear friends, faculty, staff, students and alumni of St. Lawrence University, Skidmore College and Union College; and colleagues and friends from the Christian church and other spiritual communities.
A service celebrating the life of The Reverend Kathleen Buckley took place on Sunday, Feb. 2, in Gunnison Memorial Chapel. For those Laurentians and friends who were not able to attend the service in person or watch it live online, access to the recording can be found here.
Reverend Kathleen Buckley passed away on Sunday, January 12, and Laurentians from around the world world have shared numerous stories about her impact on them and the St. Lawrence community. A memorial fund is being established at the University in her honor, which will benefit students, programs surrounding Gunnison Memorial Chapel and the University Chaplain. Gifts for the fund can be made online or mailed to St. Lawrence earmarked for the Buckley Fund: University Advancement, 23 Romoda Drive, Canton, NY 13617.