Buddy Chance doesn’t much like talking about himself.
“This,” he says, holding a photograph of him, his wife, Patsy, and their three children, “is my greatest accomplishment.”
Add the five grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren and his love of the Austin County community where he served Helping One Another-Meals on Wheels for most of three decades, and he really will talk.
“I’ve been so fortunate to know so many good people in and around Austin County,” he said.
He served on the appraisal board, Bellville City Council, Chamber of Commerce board, Lions Club, Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo board and was a member of the Masonic Lodge, American Legion and Elks Lodge.
“I’ve been there, done that,” Chance said.
Chance grew up in the Heights area of Houston and in Bryan-College Station. He graduated from high school in 1956, got married at age 19 then worked at everything from driving a milk truck to selling men’s clothing to working as a special investigator on death claims.
He got a big break when he joined the U.S. Army and subsequently earned multiple degrees, even though he didn’t get to do what he wanted.
He was a second alternate to the U.S. Military Academy and attended chemical warfare school.
“There were two defeats along the way,” he remembered. “I was the second alternate to the U.S. Military Academy because of my own doing, because I didn’t have the mathematical skills.”
A kidney stone deterred him from becoming a helicopter pilot.
“That concluded my efforts to fly,” he said. “I’m not going to fly a desk, so I went ahead and got out. I really wanted to fly, and I couldn’t do it.”
His exit from the military got him to Austin County and a job in banking. Yes, the man who professes to “hate numbers” was a banker.
“Other people supported me and that made me look better,” he said.
It was while working as a banker he got to know some people who worked with HOA-Meals on Wheels. That meeting turned into a calling that saw him help hundreds of people over the years by delivering daily meals and sticking around for a visit.
And, he’ll talk about that — he’ll talk about it a lot.
“It touches so many people – those that are homebound, those that are frail, fragile people, those that don’t have much outside contact with others, not much family,” he said. “It’s a valuable community resource to keep these people in touch with the world. You don’t just go out and drop off that meal. It’s more than that.”
Chance put a lot of himself into the Meals on Wheels program.
When he began volunteering at HOA in 1990, “there was some turmoil and a lack of management,” he said. “We began to do some things to help shape the future and where we are now, relying on volunteers and trying to get people aware of what we do. We made the decision that we’ve got to go and we’ve got to grow.”
Over time, the group earned more recognition, more funding and, finally, a new building.
And that’s when chance, who turns 81 in April, retired.
“I just didn’t have the time or energy to do it anymore,” he said, though he’s offered to assist the board as operations continue.
Carolyn Bilski, president of the HOA board, says Chance’s service was valuable to not only the people he delivered meals to but also to the board and the community at large.
“Serving the senior citizens of Austin County to ensure nutritious meals five days a week for the past 30 years was Buddy’s goal,” Bilski said. “The county is blessed to have board members, volunteers and staff that will continue his dedicated service that – regardless of ability to pay – senior citizens will be served.”
“You’ve got to have a special place, a certain feel,” Chance said. “The volunteers really have that care and that attitude. They’re there because they want to be there. When I retired, we were in the process of putting together telephone reassurance, which would be a program where someone comes in with a list of two or three people for us to call, so you don’t have to worry that because you’re not going to see your grandmother today, someone else will be checking on her.”
Even in retirement, Chance keeps working.
“When I left HOA back in July, on a Friday, the next Monday I went to work with my grandson’s [plastics manufacturing company] in Brehnam, just to have that contact,” he said. “I couldn’t see myself just sitting and doing nothing.”
Chance’s job there is reconciling financial data for the company – even though he still maintains that he doesn’t like numbers.
“I go every day and spend four to five hours there every day,” he said. “I enjoy going and being with people.”
It takes a special person to serve the elderly and disabled, he said.
Even in retirement, he still reaches out to the friends he used to deliver meals to.
After all, while he was born with the name Thomas, he’s become everyone’s Buddy.