I was so sad to read today of the passing in 2019 of Buckwheat Donohue. He left a lasting impression on me when I visited Skagway in 2005 as a member of The Philadelphia Boys Choir and Chorale. My wife and I had visited Alaska in a 2004 cruise and Skagway was one of our stops. However, in 2005 the “Philly” Boys Choir (90 boys and 25 men) made their first visit to Alaska (also a cruise.)
We were all so impressed with the spirit and friendliness of your own ambassador of goodwill, Buckwheat Donohue. While there, we took a short hike to a quaint quiet location by the river where Buckwheat mesmerized us with his excellent dramatic recitation of several adventure poems about fictional Alaskan characters. He had us all in the palm of his hands. We also had a terrific spaghetti lunch in the local Presbyterian Church and then did something I do not believe the choir had ever done before– we marched down the main street and sang a few patriotic songs as we headed to the main square. There we sang a few more songs, exchanged pleasantries with Buckwheat and presented him with a small souvenir Liberty Bell, sent with us from the mayor of Philadelphia. Buckwheat promised to put it on his mantel next to The Holy Bible.
I heard later that he was planning a walking trip from Florida all the way to Alaska to raise funds for a clinic in Skagway, and I often wondered if that ever happened. Today I found out that he did make it all the way to Alaska, and I also sadly read of his passing last year. He was a fine human being who certainly won the hearts of The Philadelphia Boys Choir in 2005, and we will never forget this fantastic experience with Buckwheat Donohue. He certainly loved Skagway, as did we.
L. Bruce Smith, Baritone Singer in Philadelphia Boys Choir and Chorale