EDITOR'S NOTE: Due to an editing error, Jean Buster was incorrectly identified in the photo caption as "Trouble to her friends." Editor made mistake. The Times regrets the error and any confusion it may have caused.
Decades later, she remembers arriving in Buena Vista.
“When my husband Ted and I arrived in Buena Vista for the first time in 1987, we counted the number of churches here,” says 90-year-old Jean Buster, “and I recall Ted joking, ‘Well, there are either a lot of really great people here, or a lot of bad ones.’
“He had the greatest sense of humor, and it’s the sense of humor in life that keeps us going. You just can’t take anything too seriously.”
She says that he also said, “A traffic jam in Buena Vista is when you have two cars in line at the only stoplight in town. Well, that has changed a bit in the past 30 years, especially now that we are a two-stoplight town.”
She laughs as she recalls Ted’s humor and adds, “Laughter is truly the best medicine.”
Buster, a retired elementary school teacher from Kansas City, Mo., has kept her toes in education since moving to Buena Vista and substituting for the Buena Vista School District until age 70, then continued through volunteering with students at Avery-Parsons Elementary School.
For the past 5 years she has worked with college bound student (senior) Frank Zhang to help him beef up his English skills to help prepare him for the rigors of higher education.
“It’s been so rewarding working with Frank,” Buster says. “And I can’t say enough positive things about the culture at Buena Vista High School. The students and staff are friendly and very respectful. Every time I volunteer there, I leave feeling so energized.”
Buster feels fortunate to come from a supportive family. “There were eight kids, in my family,” she says. “My mother was a strong woman, my father was a farmer and we moved from farm to farm for most of my early years, living without electricity or running water. We were often so hungry and depleted,” she says.
“In fact, my 3-year-old twin brothers developed rickets as a result. But, no matter how poor we were, we always had a penny to put in the dish at church. I remember reading and studying by an oil lamp for years, too.”
Music was an important part of Buster’s life from early on. In her senior year of high school, she was in the lead role in the musical production, “Love Goes South.”
She also played the piano and marched in the marching band for four years, playing the bass drum, an instrument that completely dwarfed her tiny barely 5-foot frame. By the time she was a sophomore she had already fallen in love with opera while watching, “The Marriage of Figaro.”
She graduated valedictorian, and because of her academic and musical talents, was awarded several scholarships to attend college.
“Two of my teachers also kicked in bonds for me that they had saved to help make my first two years of college possible,” she says. But, after two years attending Central Methodist College in Fayette, Mo., the money ran out.
Consequently, at age 19, she landed a teaching job with 7th and 8th grade students combined into one classroom. “I was barely older than they were,” she laughs.
A year later she found herself married to her first husband and but, sadly, within 4 years was a single mother raising two daughters and a son on her own.
Years later, she met “her true soulmate, Ted.” She says, “He adored me and was a man of genuine integrity and responsibility.” For 50 years, they shared the love of big bands and dancing. “Can I Have this Dance for the Rest of My Life?” became their theme song, and together they had another son.
Ted helped Buster achieve her dreams of finishing her college education.
She attended Northwest Missouri State University to complete her teaching degree and in 1972 completed her master’s program.
“I was working part time as a children’s librarian and one day the head librarian said to me, ‘I don’t care if you are a part-time student, a full-time mother, a part-time librarian, direct two choirs, teach Sunday School, and live on a farm, but I’m the one who is tired.’” Buster says, “I don’t know how I did it all, but I did and graduated with honors, to go on to teach 5th grade for the next 17 years. I became known to my students as that red-headed teacher.”
Buster says that while her seven siblings were close, “my sister Katy was really the glue of the family. In fact, she was an actual Rosie the Riveter. She was funny, and always there for all of us in so many ways. She is 96 now, and was recently featured on the cover in a Topeka, Kan. magazine. The editor had her face scanned into the original Rosie the Riveter pose, muscles and all.”
After moving to Buena Vista in 1987, Buster immersed herself into the musical aspects of the community.
She was often a soloist at the Congregational United Church of Christ, a guest soloist at the Christian Science church, participated in numerous musicals with the High Country Fine Arts Association and sang with the Alpine Chorus, later which came to be known as the Collegiate Peaks Chorale.
Buster can be seen walking along Cedar Street, 3-4 days each week, and also exercises at Mount Princeton Hot Springs 3 days a week.
She is an avid reader and stays up to date on all the political news in the nation and listens to NPR.
She is partial to environmental issues and is a supporter of the local library, the Book Nook and the Ark-Valley Humane Society.
One piece of advice Buster can offer as she hits her ninth decade is, “Don’t take anything too seriously. Everyone has their bumps along the way.”
Buster’s life in education exemplifies the best of teachers. She has kept in touch with many of her students and has been influential in their lives as they’ve grown into adults.