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Buddy (on the right, above) with his son, Chuck, in back of him, and friends (2016). Buddy as a young man taken by Lady Ostapeck (at right). (Photos provided)
Life Sketches by Terry Berkson

Life Sketches: Buddy’s Song

Well over 40 years ago, my good friend Buddy Crist was diagnosed with what doctors thought was Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Believing that he didn’t have much time left, he decided not to withdraw from an active life but to instead embrace everyone he knew by throwing a weekend mountain party up on his beloved Angel Hill outside the village of Schuyler Lake. As many as 200 people would attend. Those who volunteered to prepare the grounds for the great event were later invited by Buddy and his wife, Cathy, to participate in a “shoot out” competition involving clay birds.

Incredibly, the annually-held weekend party lasted for well over 20 years—despite the progressive loss of use of Buddy’s limbs and countless medical and surgical procedures to mend his body and reduce pain. The apparent miracle of his lengthy survival was finally attributed to a misdiagnosis. What Buddy had was obviously degenerative, some kind of sclerosis that affects motor neurons and consequently mobility. When I went to visit him the other day his wife, Cathy, who is a retired nurse, came to the door and told me that Buddy was rapidly failing.

“I don’t know what keeps him going,” she said. “I guess his long-time fight with disease has made him one tough survivor.”

The following poem/song is a tribute to a good and almost undefeatable man.

“Up on Angel Hill”

Went to a mountain party
Everyone was there
Tiger, Rudy, Bird, and Ludie
And Monte came by air

Had two pigs a cookin
In an oven made of wood
Salt taters, corn and pickled beans
Boy, it all smelt good

He said, “I can’t take it with me
My million-dollar view
So, I’ll share these clouds with the
whole damn crowd
Until my life is through”

Two weeks they were groomin
All the fields were mowed

Cattails down and spirits up
On everyone I know

High up on the mountain
Takin’ in the view
Pitchin shoes and tossin eggs
And sippin Buddy’s brew

“And with my friends I share
these memories
Forget these times I never will
They’ll all come back when
winter’s over
To my place on Angel Hill”

Went to a mountain party
Usual crowd was there
Buster, Pam and popeyed Sam,
Whose music filled the air

Couples were out dancin
Passin squash to Cathy’s call
Countin rope or pitchin tents
Or doin nothin at all

“No I can’t take it with me
My million dollar view
So, I’ll share these clouds
With the whole damn crowd

Until my life is through

No I can’t take it with me
My million dollar view
So, I’ll share these clouds
With the whole damn crowd

Until my life is through.”


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