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Sally Buckner (1931-2018)

Summing up a life like Sally Buckner’s, who was a longtime friend of the North Carolina Writers’ Network and a beloved member of our state’s literary community, inevitably fails to do the person justice.

We could talk about how Sally earned her Ph.D from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Or how she spent more than a quarter-century teaching at Peace College in Raleigh. Or how she was integral to the current iterations of the North Carolina Poetry Society, International Poetry Festival, and North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame, often introducing inductees and offering up her encyclopedic knowledge of our state’s writers to enhance the ceremony program.

We could talk about her publication credits, mostly fiction and poetry, or her work as an editor on books such as Words and Witness: 100 Years of North Carolina Poetry (CAP, 1999) or as a staff writer for Asheville Poetry Review. We could even talk about her vast correspondence with literary lights such as NC Literary Hall of Fame inductees Betty Adcock, Doris Betts, Fred Chappell, Sam Ragan, Shelby Stephenson, and many others.

But all of these accomplishments, as impressive and beautiful as they are, still don’t capture what Sally Buckner meant to her community and most of all, to her friends. Many, many writers have expressed deep gratitude to Sally for the impact she had on their lives. In this weekend’s outpouring on social media, words such as “friend,” “mentor,” and “beloved” pop up time and time again.

Were her life a word cloud, these descriptors would be at the center. And that is a life to admire.

In 2016, Sally Buckner was honored with The Order of the Long Leaf Pine. Among the most prestigious awards conferred by the Governor of North Carolina, this award is bestowed upon a person for exemplary service to the State of North Carolina and their communities above and beyond the call of duty, and which has made a significant impact and strengthened North Carolina.

“Sally was one of the lights of this state,” said NCWN Executive Director Ed Southern.

She is irreplaceable, and will be missed.

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