(Reprinted from "Let's Just Talk," January-February 2014.)
Buddy Brown Spivey was born Dec. 31, 1941 in Washington, D.C. and died on Jan. 9, 2014 in North Little Rock, Ark. He was a true American hero. When asked how he was doing, Buddy always responded with an emphatic "OUT-STANDING!"
Buddy and his story were remarkable. Buddy attended the University of Arkansas and earned a bachelor of arts in commercial art. His talents were broad. He painted remarkable portraits, landscapes, and abstracts. He also excelled at technical and commercial drawings. He loved designing cars. After graduation, instead of designing cars, he volunteered for the United States Marine Corps. As much as anything else, Buddy was a Marine.
On Dec. 7, 1967, he was severely injured by an explosion in Vietnam. He spent 18 months in the Philadelphia Naval Hospital. He was totally blind, lost his right leg and suffered brain damage. But he never lost his spirit. Buddy earned two Purple Hearts, two Bronze Stars, and retired from the Marines at the rank of captain. Despite the odds, Buddy picked himself up and lived a full and fun-filled life after his injury.
After years of physical and blind rehabilitation, Buddy returned to the University of Arkansas, where he earned a master's degree in counseling (1971) and an education specialist degree (1972). Buddy worked a full career until he retired in 2007. He served as a field representative for the Blinded Veterans Association for 10 years. He traveled alone over 14 states counseling and helping other blinded veterans. He later worked as a counseling psychologist and social worker at the VA Hospital in Little Rock. He rarely missed a day of work. He was an active member of the Disabled American Veterans Association.
Buddy was the DAV "Outstanding Disabled Veteran of the Year" in 1975. He received the DAV Department of Arkansas Achievement Award the same year. In 1976, he received the Tau Kappa Epsilon National Achievement Award. He received the "No Greater Love Award" for Vietnam Veterans presented by Congressman John Paul Hammerschmidt in 1977. He was an Outstanding Young Men of America honoree in 1981. In 1989, he received the Major General Melvin J. Mass Achievement Award from the Blinded Veterans Association. He also served as a board member for the Arkansas Division of Services for the Blind from 1975 to 2006.
Buddy was a gifted artist and musician. He was one of the all-time great Razorback fans. He loved telling people that he played in two Cotton Bowls and two Sugar Bowls during his time at the University of Arkansas. Most times (but not always) he would later admit that he actually played as a member of the Razorback Marching Band, which he affectionately referred to as the "Stumbling 100." He was a talented saxophone player.
Buddy loved being a part of something bigger than himself, whether it was the marching band, the Marine Corps, the Disabled American Veterans Association, the Blinded Veterans Association or even the Edsel Owner's Club. He was also a member of Tau Kappa Epsilon, the American Legion, the First Marine Division, the Third Marine Division, the Marine Corps League, the Retired Officers Association, the National Order of Trench Rats, the Arkansas BVA Razorbacks Regional Group, the Military Order of the Purple Heart, and the First United Methodist Church in North Little Rock.
Buddy was truly larger than life. He was the biggest personality in the room. People were drawn to him not only because of his personal story, but because of the way he told stories, and because of the way he loved and listened to others. He always wanted to know about other people and to hear their stories.
Buddy danced on American Bandstand as a teenager. He loved cars and knew all about them. He collected hundreds of model cars. Buddy lived in big cities like Washington, D.C., Cleveland and Philadelphia growing up, but he spent a lot of his time in Arkansas, where his grandparents lived.
Buddy was an immaculate dresser. He wore his suit and tie to work long after the rest of the world had moved to business casual. He was at times a flashy dresser. He loved bright colors with lots of flare. He enjoyed standing out from the crowd.
He was a Methodist and devout Christian. He prayed for others all day, every day. He always told his friends and family how much he loved them and how proud he was of them. Buddy had unlimited compassion for others, but he never felt sorry for himself. Semper Fi!
Buddy is survived by his wife, Jeanne Spivey; his son and daughter-in-law, Patrick and Elizabeth Spivey of Little Rock; his stepdaughter, who Buddy thought of as a daughter, and son-in-law, Michelle and Andrew Nichols of Oceanside, Calif.; two grandchildren, Audrey and Adeline Spivey of Little Rock; his uncle Calvin Spivey of Rogers; his aunt Adeline Spivey of Rogers; and numerous cousins.
Funeral services for Buddy were held Jan. 17 at the First United Methodist Church in North Little Rock. He will be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorials be made in Buddy's honor to the Blinded Veterans Association, 477 H St. NW, Washington, DC 20001-2694 (www.bva.org); or the Marine Corps League Foundation, PO Box 3070, Merrifield, VA 22116-3070 (www.mclfoundation.org).