Anyone who has spent any time at all in Lutz is likely to have run across Auralee Buckingham.
After all, for decades, she had a hand in just about everything involving this community, north of Tampa.
Buckingham, who was 91 at her death on May 13, will be honored in a Resurrection Mass at 11 a.m., on June 26, at St. Timothy Catholic Church, 17512 Lakeshore Drive in Lutz.
The mark she left on the community of Lutz will not be soon forgotten.
Pat Serio, who sits on the board of the GFWC Lutz-Land O’ Lakes Woman’s Club, described Buckingham as “a true force of nature.
“You name it and Auralee ran it,” said Serio, noting that not only was Buckingham a past president of the woman’s club, but she also had held nearly every office and chaired nearly every club event.
“She was a mover and a shaker, involved in everything that happened in the Lutz community at large, and knew how to get things done,” Serio said, via email.
Buckingham organized the Fourth of July parades and celebrations, and the community’s Christmas in the Park festivities. She beautified the landscaping at the Lutz Branch Library. She raised money and supported causes that went far beyond the woman’s club, including the Lutz Civic Association, the former Lutz Volunteer Fire Department and the Old Lutz School.
She was deeply involved in the Oscar Cooler Youth Sports Complex, and with scouting, too, Serio noted.
Ardyth Bahr, a longtime friend of Buckingham’s, said, via email, that those who had met Buckingham could not forget her.
Bahr characterized her friend as “a pillar in the community of Lutz.
“She (Buckingham) was the one to go to in Lutz if you wanted anything done. She was unstoppable.”
Jay Muffly, another longtime Lutz civic leader, said Buckingham was “the busiest person in Lutz.”
He credited her for her contributions to many projects and activities in the community, as well as being “a great person.”
News reports published over the years in The Tampa Tribune frequently included Buckingham’s views on issues affecting the community.
For instance, when the Hillsborough County public school district was looking at sites for a high school, the Lutz civic leader weighed in.
Buckingham said she would welcome it, as long as the high school was kept to 1,000 students or fewer, so it would fit into the Lutz community.
The school board — which wanted to build a larger school — found another location.
Buckingham’s involvement was obvious, and her friends decided to celebrate her with a surprise party months before her 80th birthday.
More than 100 people showed up and spent about two hours lavishing Buckingham with praise for her many contributions and accomplishments, according to a Tampa Tribune account.
During that party, the dedicated community volunteer also received a copy of a document proclaiming May 21 as Auralee Buckingham Day in Hillsborough County, the Tribune reported.
Charlie Reese, who was editor of the Lutz Community News (now The Laker/Lutz News), became quite familiar with Buckingham through his reporting.
“Auralee was one of the first persons I met when I covered news stories in the Lutz/Land O’Lakes area, and before long I realized that she was probably at every event that the woman’s club was involved in,” Reese, a Lutz resident, said, via email. “She was constantly busy and had the loudest laugh, which was often heard above the din of the 4th of July parade in Lutz or the annual arts and crafts show.
“I remember her attending to many tasks at these signature events in our community, and even though she handled many duties, she was never too busy to splash her bright smile at everyone she saw,” Reese added.
She wasn’t shy about sharing her views, noted Reese.
That was back in the days when U.S. 41, North Dale Mabry Highway and State Road 54 were all two-lane roads, Reese said.
It also was “when pastures outnumbered big box stores — but change was on the horizon,” Reese said.
“She loved Lutz.
“And, because she was so dedicated to causes and events that enhanced our community, Lutz loved her,” Reese said.
Buckingham is survived by daughters Kristi Mackey, Ashley Gracey (Tony) and Beth Busbee (Jeff); grandchildren Kristopher Mackey (Tatiana), Jennifer Swisher (Eugene), Brittany Desmarais (C.J.), Dillon and Leah Hulme; great grandchildren Wesson Swisher, Damon Mackey, Mack Swisher and Kiara Mackey; and sister Hazel Cox, children and grandchildren.
A Resurrection Mass will be held at 11 a.m., on June 26, at St. Timothy Catholic Church, 17512 Lakeshore Road in Lutz.
Published June 23, 2021