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Art Buchwald, Community Services fundraiser-in-chief, died January 17, at 81Art Buchwald, a Pulitzer Prize winning newspaper columnist and a long-time Vineyard seasonal resident who annually presided over the Possible Dreams Auction, raising thousands of dollars for needy Islanders in the process, died Wednesday night of kidney failure at his son’s home in Washington, D.C. He was 81.
Last February, after his leg was amputated below the knee due to a vascular ailment and his kidneys failed, Mr. Buchwald checked into a Washington, D.C. hospice in order to plan the details of his funeral and stage a gentle exit. His well-chronicled stay was given international and national media coverage. Ambassadors, government leaders, authors, and entertainment icons came to bid farewell and pay homage.
In August of last year, he took the podium at the annual Possible Dreams Auction - his 26th year cajoling bids and banging the gavel to raise money for Martha’s Vineyard Community Services. During his long reign as MVCS fundraiser-in-chief, Mr. Buchwald raised more than $4 million for the social services organization.
Mr. Buchwald’s 35th book, "Too Soon to Say Goodbye,” (Random House. 2006. 179 pages. $17.95) was published last year and included a description of his hospice stay.
In the book Mr. Buchwald described his plans to have his ashes buried on the Vineyard, next to his ex-wife Ann's grave. "I think of her on Martha's Vineyard, and dream that I'll be with her soon,” he wrote.
Mr. Buchwald's mother died at 65, after having been institutionalized for 35 years without ever meeting him. He spent most of his childhood in Queens, New York, in foster care, dropped out of high school, and lied about his age to join the Marines when he was 17. After serving in the Pacific Theater until 1945, and a short stint at the University of Southern California, he bought a one-way ticket to Paris, eventually writing a commentary column for the International New York Herald Tribune, followed by his syndicated column, more than 30 books, and celebrity status, with all the associations and perks that came with it.