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Richard Buffum, 82; Wrote Columns for The Times' Orange County Edition

October 01, 2003|Jean O. Pasco | Times Staff Writer

Richard Buffum, a former columnist for the Orange County edition of the Los Angeles Times, has died. He was 82.

In declining health for some time, Buffum died Sept. 23 of a heart attack and aortic aneurysm at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach.

During 18 years as a columnist for The Times, Buffum wrote about Orange County, his life on Balboa Island, his travels along the coast and the love of his life, sailing.

This year, he and his wife, Marjorie, self-published "Catalina Saga," a book based on the many adventures aboard their boat, the Herald Bird.

"The thing I remember best about Dick is that he wrote very personal columns," said George Cotliar, a former managing editor of The Times who also was editor of the Orange County edition in 1970 and 1971. "For some columnists, the personal touch doesn't work, but that was his strength."

Buffum joined the Orange County edition when it opened in 1968, moving to Costa Mesa from the Santa Barbara area with his first wife, Hazel. After her death, he married Marjorie Driscoll, who worked for the society pages at the Orange County edition of The Times.

Buffum was born into a prominent Long Beach family. His grandfather was one of the founders of Buffums, a department store chain that operated in Southern California from the early 1900s until 1991.

Buffum's aunt, the late Dorothy Buffum Chandler, was the wife of Norman Chandler, the third publisher of the Los Angeles Times. Buffum's cousin Otis Chandler was the paper's fourth publisher.

Buffum majored in English at Pomona College and graduated in 1942. He immediately joined the Coast Guard, serving throughout World War II.

After the war, Buffum found work as a reporter and feature writer at the Long Beach Independent from 1946 to 1950. He followed that with stints at local radio and television stations in Washington and California.

From 1958 to 1968, he was editor and publisher of the Goleta Gazette-Citizen.

Buffum often entertained co-workers with stories about operating a small weekly newspaper, former Orange County opinion editor Don Angel said.

"I remember we were talking and he was saying that one day, he didn't get the horoscopes in, so he made them all up," Angel said. "That's what you do when you have a small paper."

Buffum also was a talented magician, specializing in classic Victorian-era illusions, and shared his love of conjuration with his grandchildren. He was a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians and a gold star member of the Inner Magic Circle of London.

Though from a well-to-do family, Buffum was unassuming and loved journalism more than the family business, friends said. He self-published three books, including two on magic.

In addition to his wife, Buffum is survived by children Richard Thomas Buffum, Susan Buffum Holbrook and Julie Anna Holmes; and stepchildren Alison Smith, Kimberley Browne and Sanford Smith. He is also survived by 10 grandchildren and step-grandchildren.

The family says donations in his name may be made to the Sherman Library, 614 Dahlia Ave., Corona del Mar, CA 92625.

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