Hemphill: On the passing of Poway’s Rose Bucher
By Allen Hemphill
If ever there was a book that could not be judged by its cover, her name was Rose Bucher.
She appeared to be a slight, quiet, demure, very pretty Midwest farm girl. She was all that until her husband, Cmdr. Lloyd Mark “Pete” Bucher, was captured by the North Koreans along with his crew on the USS Pueblo. That was January 23, 1968.
In the ensuing 12 months, Rose changed. She was strong, poised, absolutely certain and perfectly willing to tell State Department officials off, when they would say, “Now, young lady, you just leave this to us…”
She traveled across the country, accompanied by my wife, who took most of the speeches while Rose handled the TV, radio, and one-on-one interviews. Rose and Jean never turned down an invitation, and their audiences ranged from as few as 30 at Rotary, to thousands at conventions.
Rose, Jean, and I organized a Remember the Pueblo campaign to keep the plight of the crew in the media, no small feat for three rank amateurs. Too many prisoners of the North Koreans were never repatriated home after the Korean War, and Rose was not going to let that happen. She gave interviews wherever and whenever, despite assurances that if she would simply be quiet, diplomacy would eventually win the day. Rose told the State Department officials that she would give them 30 days, and then all hell would break loose. She was as good as her word!
After her first appearance on the “Mike Douglas Show,” the daily mailman became the daily mail truck. We turned the answering of letters over to a group of La Jolla women (Pro-America) who stepped in to help with receiving donations and mailing bumper stickers.
To my knowledge, Rose never turned down an interview or, when she lived with us, failed to take a 2 a.m. call from a shipmate of Pete’s overseas. She was absolutely indefatigable, taking time off only for Sunday Mass and to get her hair done. She never uttered a swear word, or raised her voice, but that voice was unmistakably from a woman who knew what she wanted. That her activity was deemed political by the Johnson administration was a shame, because I never knew her political party affiliation. I would have guessed Democrat. She didn’t want to embarrass the Johnson administration — she wanted the Pueblo crew released from what she knew was terrible torture.
When Pete returned, beaten and starved down from his normal 220 pounds to a shriveled 96 pounds at his lowest, Rose quickly retreated home to become a wife, never missing the limelight and never seeking another public appearance. She had hated the limelight, but did her duty with class.
Pete had some idea that he wanted to live in East County, but Rose found her home in Poway while Pete was being debriefed in Washington. After a brief conversation he told me, “Do whatever you have to do to get that home for her.”
Rose died peacefully last week in that home.
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