San Buschmann—1933-2017

San Buschmann

Nobody loved life and people more than San Buschmann. He was the warmest, sweetest guy to ever grace the lives of those lucky enough to have known him. He was a friend and neighbor to all, helping out and solving whatever perplexing fix-it problem might be the issue of the day.

It was San who replaced the faucets and plumbing time and again at my house after Richard passed, and it was San, along with Nancy’s son, Rory, who rebuilt my deck. He always seemed to whistle a makeshift tune, softly, happily to himself, even while the sun beat down on his back. He loved the heat and would work outside on the hottest of days.

San was born in St. Louis, Missouri on March 16, 1933, the oldest of three boys. His name was Francis, but his father was Francis as well, so they endeavored to call him Fran.  When his younger brother began to talk, he found Fran a bit too challenging and it came out San. That moniker stayed with him for the rest of his life.

In his teens, he developed a love for old cars and auto racing and helped to keep his cousin’s “heap” running for local demolition derbies. The penchant for cars and racing continued into adulthood where for a while he seemed to collect various semi-vintage relics.  Some years ago, he would drive Nancy, Kenny [Douphner] and I to Valley Concerts in the Park, riding in style in his ’79 Oldsmobile sedan. The Olds “cost more money that it was worth to repair,” so it had to go, and so ended the collection.

As often as they could, San and Nancy would attend racing events all over the country, and I knew better than to bother them on weekends when they were watching NASCAR and other races on TV.

San spent 1952–1954 in the Navy. This was in the time-frame of the Korean War, and San was due to be shipped out from Hawaii. Somehow, he was called on to drive one of the officers around in a jeep. His winning cheerful personality rubbed off on the brass and they decided to keep him around as a personal driver there in Hawaii, escorting them about the island. He was never to ship off.

After his stint in the Navy, San spent 10 years working for the United States Atomic Energy plant. Some of the work was quite dangerous and he was very careful to follow safety procedures. Many of those who failed to do so died before their time.

San and Nancy met in 1987. He was working as a pipe-fitter for McDonnell Douglas (Boeing) in Missouri, and Nancy was managing the office for an auto body shop. Since he was a friend of her boss, San would drop by every day after work. Apparently, his adoration for Nancy began at first glance, but though she looked forward to seeing him each evening, she wasn’t ready for a new relationship. It was her oldest son, Rory, who could see how right they were for each other and begged her, “Mom, can’t you take him seriously?”

In those days, McDonnell Douglas held dances every month and since both San and Nancy loved music and dancing it didn’t take long to win her over. And he did love music, all kinds of music, everything from jazz to big band to blues, to soloists. He also had a nostalgic desire to watch Lawrence Welk, and the last time I spoke to him, we agreed that we had both first watched that show with our parents “back in the day.” San and Nancy were married in 1988.

In 1996 San retired from McDonnell Douglas and the pair moved from Missouri to the Topanga home where Nancy grew up. According to Nancy, San loved it out here, especially the winters because they weren’t cold like the Midwest.

He immediately set to work remodeling the kitchen, transforming the tiny little nook into a bright clean spacious workable area with new cabinets, flooring and room for dining.

Then he built a beautiful deck three-quarters of the way around the house so Nancy “wouldn’t have to walk in the dirt with the rattlesnakes!”  

Eventually, he revamped the garage as well and attached proper fitting doors to keep the varmints out of his tools. Rory was often there, helping out all he could. He loved San and often said that he thought of San as his real father. Nancy’s other two sons loved San as well.

San and Nancy dancing at a Concert in the Park. Photos courtesy of the Buschmann family

Once the house was together, San and Nancy began to go places. Initially, San wasn’t enthused with the travel idea, but once she got him going, “he wanted to see and do as much as he could.”  And, so, they saw 96 percent of the Caribbean, visited the Panama Canal, spent 30 days on a South Pacific Cruise and rode riverboats up and down the Ohio, Mississippi and Cumberland Rivers, some of these more than once. But the favorite of all was Hawaii where they spent their Christmases for the past several years.

Dear San passed away on June 3 after a long and traumatic illness. Nancy was with him, holding the hand he always reached for her with throughout their life together. As Nancy said, “We were soulmates. Really.”

He is survived by his wife, Nancy; his two sons from a previous marriage, Scott and Terry Buschmann; and Nancy’s two sons, Rory and Rony Roderick. Two small dogs, Shilo and Spartan are seriously grieving as well.


By Lee Kelly


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