Jack Buys inspired many in FL

Teacher, township clerk, master gardener passes away at 88


Cliff Buchan
Staff Writer

When Jack Buys landed a teaching job at Forest Lake High School in 1958, he was intent on staying just one year. He had taught at Atwater in west central Minnesota the three previous years and it was only after signing his contract to teach here that job offers floated in from schools in Ohio and California.

A man of his word, Buys followed the advice of his superintendent in Atwater to honor the contract in Forest Lake and explore new job opportunities in a year. But when 1959 arrived and no serious job offers came, Buys stayed in Forest Lake.

It was a fortuitous break for Forest Lake as Buys went on to complete a 34-year teaching career here and spend a lifetime of community service.

Buys was 88 when he died on Tuesday, April 2, at Birchwood Health Care Center. Buys and his wife Jean moved to the Arbors assisted living facility late last summer. A series of strokes in recent years led to a decline in health, said his son, Joel Buys.

Jack Buys retired from teaching business education in 1992. It was the same year that he retired from his elective position as Forest Lake Town Clerk, a position that he held for 21 years.

“He touched a lot of people in Forest Lake,” Joel Buys said of his father.

Throughout his retirement years, Jack Buys devoted himself to supporting community efforts and causes, his son said. He took great pride in the flower and vegetable garden that he faithfully tended at his home on Clear Lake, Joel Buys said.

He became well known in Forest Lake as the flower man. During the flowering season, Buys would make regular visits to banks, the nursing home and other businesses where he would deliver flower bouquets, complete with a vase.

“He worked it last year,” his son said. “We’d help but it was pretty much his gig.”

Joel Buys said he would go along with his dad and mother as they would scour garage sales, grabbing unwanted flower vases and jars that would work for his future displays. An inventory of unused vases and jars was kept in storage, Joel Buys said. He said his father would sort through the inventory looking for the perfect vase to match a floral display.

During his visit to the Central Bank and Wells Fargo Bank in Forest Lake, tellers would be left with fresh flowers that brightened their work station, Joel Buys said.

An Easterner

Jack Buys was not from here, but he quickly made Minnesota his home in the years following World War II.

He was born in Franklin, Pa., on Oct. 15, 1924, and graduated from Greenville High School in June 1943. That fall he enlisted in the United States Navy and completed radio school training in New York. He was assigned to the destroyer USS Knapp as a radioman third class. He spent parts of 1944 and 1945 serving in the Pacific war front.

Following his discharge in March 1946, he returned to Pennsylvania and enrolled at Allegheny College, Meadville, Pa., where he earned a bachelor’s in business education in 1949. He was married to Jean Boughner in 1948.

He did not turn to teaching immediately.

In 1950, Jack and Jean Buys moved to St. Paul, where he enrolled at St. Paul Bible College (Crown College today). He earned a Bachelor of Theology in missions. He served one year as an interim pastor at the Church of God in St. Paul before moving to Atwater to begin his teaching career.

After leaving Atwater, the Buys rented a home in Stacy for that first year of teaching in Forest Lake. He served as pastor of the Stacy Baptist Church for a short time during his first year in this area.

When it became clear he would stay at Forest Lake High School, the couple bought their home on the east shore of Clear Lake.

A Fixture

Buys became a fixture at the high school here where he led the business education department and at the town hall where he worked as clerk and kept town supervisors on schedule during meetings.

Jack Buys in his classroom at Forest Lake High School. He started work there in 1959. (File photo)
Jack Buys in his classroom at Forest Lake High School. He started work there in 1959. (File photo)

At the high school, Buys transcended the business curriculum from the days of manual typewriters to computer labs. Computer labs were first being introduced in his latter years of teaching.

He led a successful business education initiative that formed the school’s first on-the-job-training program. Buys recruited a dozen area businesses who opened up jobs for students who wished to enhance their job skills beyond the classroom. That was in the early 1970s and Buys often found more businesses willing to take part than students.

One of the participating businesses, the Forest Lake Times, went on to hire a number of students who were in the program to full-time jobs after high school.

Buys also was a leader in the development of the office education association program that resulted in many students winning state and national honors.

In 2011 Buys was named a charter member of the Forest Lake School District Hall of Fame recognizing his service to the school system and community.

He was a stickler for details at Forest Lake Town Board meetings, said Dick Damchik, a former town board supervisor who worked with Buys for many years.

“He was a good guy, always punctual,” Damchik said of Buys.

Damchik said Buys would regularly correct supervisors on Robert’s rules or order when it came to conducting official meetings.

“He was a parliamentarian and knew how to run a meeting,” Damchik said. “If you were out of order, he’d let you know.”

Damchik said he fondly recalled the times when Buys would politely suggest that Damchik’s cigar should not be smoked at meetings.

Damchik said Buys took meticulous meeting notes and kept records that were easy to follow and accurate. “Jack was very organized,” he added.

Funeral Details

A funeral service for Jack L. Buys was Monday, April 8, at Faith Lutheran Church in Forest Lake. Interment with full military honors from the Forest Lake American Legion and VFW was at Scandinavian Cemetery, Forest Lake.

He is survived by his wife of nearly 65 years, Jean; four children, Earl of Manhattan, N.Y., Paul (Julie) of Oakdale, Jail Be of Mexico, and Joel (Kathy Marking) of Forest Lake; four grandchildren; one great-granddaughter; and one sister, Olive Francis of California.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Ethel and James Buys; and one daughter-in-law, Wendy Hoffman, New York.

Memorials are preferred to the Forest Lake Community Scholarship Foundation. They may be sent in care of Mattson Funeral Home, 343 North Shore Drive, Forest Lake, MN 55025.