WELL HOW WE AGE BY LIZ MARCHI
Ihave said it many times: There are few days that go by that I don’t meet the most interesting and amazing people in Montana. Several weeks ago I was at the Wilderness Club to play in the first Cross Border Golf Tournament sponsored by the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, Montana West and Eureka Rural Development. The event was organized to connect businesses along the Montana/Canadian border. We had a last-minute cancellation for our team and got paired with two players we didn’t know. One owns a local business in Eureka. Our second team member, Buck Wilson, was visiting his son, the head of InterBel in Eureka.

It was a shotgun start and we drove out to the assigned tee. Buck’s clubs were old and not a complete set. I didn’t know how old he was but suspected north of 70. Buck pulled out the driver and said, “Line me up.” His partner looked at me and said, “Buck is blind and hasn’t picked a club up in nine years.” We lined Buck up and he hit a straight shot right down the middle with an old driver with a tiny head. If you are a golfer, you know how frustrating the game can be. To agree to play in a tournament, on a tough course, with someone else’s clubs and be legally blind, I knew I wanted to know Buck’s story.

As our round unfolded, I found out a lot more about Buck Wilson. He is 86, takes no medication, never smoked, drinks only wine (no beer or hard liquor), has sisters older than him and can remember every joke he has ever heard. He is one of the most entertaining and upbeat people I have ever met. What I really learned from Buck is how important attitude is. Buck is a very successful entrepreneur and technology innovator. He exudes, at 86, the confidence and interest in life and learning that every successful entrepreneur has.

Before he started his own company, he was selling phone systems door to door. One of his clients owned a theater with 10 phone lines. Every time the automated message had to be changed, the theater had to make 10 new recordings. Buck told the manager that he could put all 10 tapes on one. He sold the machine to the manager. Only problem was, the machine didn’t exist. He took $1,500, locked himself in a lab and wound up designing the basic circuitry for the first automated call sequencer ever named and patented. Buck’s company’s story – Automation Electronics Corp., a manufacturer of automatic call sequencers and other desktop telephone management information systems – was featured in Inc. Magazine in the early ‘80s. He went toe to toe with Pacific Telephone and Telegraph to allow their customers to add his company’s products to the telephone company hardware without authorized connecting devices.

Buck and his wife Colleen shared a major passion for golf. He bought and operated a public golf course near Fresno, California for many years. He would fly down on the weekends and land his Piper Navajo on the 10th fairway. He took up golf with a vengeance and became an excellent player. His wife passed away a few years ago and now his daughter drives him. Driving is the only thing Buck seems to have given up since becoming blind. He has been salmon fishing in Alaska the last few weeks.

I hope to live a lot more like Buck. He is living every moment with confidence and a great attitude and moving on past his loss of eyesight. And by the way, we won first place in the tournament and some hard cash for a “mixed” team. Yes, golfers still note that a woman on the team makes it mixed.

Liz is fascinated by the various approaches to aging – from denial, to plastic surgery, to running marathons, to depression. Given our current demographics, Liz thinks there is a lot to explore, celebrate and learn from those living and aging in the Flathead Valley. Contact her at Liz@frontierangels.com.