John Buckley has been elected to the Oregon State Elks Hall of Fame, receiving the honor at the 101st state convention April 28.
“It was very exciting and something I’ll never forget,” he said this week. “I’m pretty proud of that.”
Buckley has been a longtime member — and leader — of the Hood River Elks Lodge, as well as at the district level. He was initiated into the club on Sept. 7, 1978, and has been active ever since.
He got involved in the Elks, he said, in part because of his grandfather, Eugene Buckley.
“He was a good volunteer with the American Legion and also a good member of the Elks,” Buckley said. “I wanted to do the same thing.”
Buckley also wanted to volunteer his services. And he has. Since he became an Elk, he’s held offices including Exalted Ruler (three times) and lodge secretary, has been involved with public relations for the Oregon State Elks Association since 1997, and has served on the scholarships committee since 2015. He was named Elk of the Year in 1998, has been chairman of the Christmas Basket Project and Elks Bloodmobile for 32 years and has worked on several committees that include veterans projects and holiday parties. Additionally, he’s served as district deputy and special rep at the Grand Lodge level.
That’s the tip of the iceberg and does not include his work as manager of East Fork Irrigation District, where he began in 1980, or his work with the Hood River Valley Adult Center, where he’s served on the board, among other areas.
Beyond his own work with the Elks, he has fond memories of the group from his childhood.
“My dad was a member of the Gresham Elks Lodge,” he said. “The first time I was ever going to see Santa Claus, I went there and was excited about sitting on Santa’s lap. Santa asked, ‘Have you been a good boy this year?’ and I said, ‘No.’ It scared me half to death.”
But that experience also led him to volunteer to be a Santa’s Helper at the Hood River lodge during the annual children’s Christmas party.
“The Elks have meant a lot to me,” he said. “It’s been a lot of my life and I’ve enjoyed it thoroughly. I really have.”
According to Jim Martsfield, Oregon State Elks Association, a committee of eight, all former hall of fame recipients, serve as advisers. Lodges from around the state submit a brochure on behalf of someone they feel deserving of the award, based on their work for Oregon State Elks.
The award began in 1976 and, with two exceptions, at least one Hall of Fame member is elected each year, Martsfield said. This year, three were chosen, receiving award plaques at the state convention.
“John is very deserving of this honor, and it is long overdue in coming,” said Elks member George Johnson, who helped submit the brochure. “I think his resume speaks for itself.”
Patriotism plays a role in the club, and Buckley learned a valuable lesson on that front at age nine, again from his grandfather.
His grandfather flew the American flag each morning, and Buckley decided he was going to beat him to it. On this particular morning, he got up and raised the flag — but, as it was fairly high up, he didn’t look at it again afterwards.
“Some person stopped in and asked my grandpa if there was any kind of a distress code going on, and my grandpa said, ‘No, not that I know of,’ and then he looked up and said, ‘I didn’t put the flag up this morning’ — it was upside down — ‘but I know somebody who’s gonna be in distress,’” he remembered.
“Grandpa said, ‘The next time you put up the American flag, look at it and make sure it’s up right. And I have.”