The love that James Lee Buckley, 65, in Cambria, had for his father, Pewter Plough Playhouse founder Jim “J.B.” Buckley, is recognized by all who knew him.
Friends described the younger Buckley, who died Dec. 22, as a caring, conscientious and passionate person who cared deeply about the people he encountered. He was a detailed writer, quick-witted and generous, they said.
James Buckley, a longtime fixture at the playhouse, spent a quarter of a century working in the New York City publishing businesses before moving back to California in 1998 upon his mother’s death.
He worked side by side with his father at the theater — keeping his father’s passion a vital part of the community. James Buckley and his 101-year old father were inseparable in recent years as he cared for him.
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“It is a great shame and a horrible waste of a beautiful life,” Jim Buckley said. “He was such a sweet man; we loved each other. I am so happy that he was my companion.”
James Buckley bartended at the theater’s café piano bar at night and handled publicity and other daily operations for the 37-year-old Pewter Plough.
“He didn’t miss anything,” said Viv Goff, treasurer and office manager who worked alongside Buckley for 15 years. “If things needed fixing, he fixed it.”
Goff described James Buckley as a perfectionist who was driven by passion and a deep-rooted love for his father.
“He was an icon here,” Goff said. “He loved this theater.”
David Manion, musical director and board president, said James Buckley enjoyed talking with people and sharing his opinions and debating with others.
“He was like a brother to me,” Manion said. “Bartending at night was like his stage. He was very amiable and was definitely his own mold. He did everything he could for his father and was a very devoted son.”
James Buckley, who died of a heart attack, would have turned 66 on Jan. 12.
“He was the voice that people knew and people identified him with the theater,” said Anita Schwaber, who has acted and directed plays there for 13 years. “He cared very much about his dad and about keeping the playhouse going forever and ever.”
The board of directors will continue to operate the playhouse and honor any decisions that Jim Buckley makes regarding its future.
“We all intend for it to go on,” Goff said.