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.

Allen Hemphill

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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Posted by Steve Dreyer on Sep 11 2013. Filed under Columnists. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

6 Comments for “Hemphill: On the passing of Poway’s Rose Bucher”

  1. Barry

    What an absolutely fascinating story! Thanks so very much for sharing this wonderful tribute. "Bravo Zulu" to you, sir.

  2. EducatedThinker

    Allen: Although you and I frequently disagree on matters of politics and policy, we are of one mind on this matter. I too knew Rose and Pete (not nearly as well as you, and I confess that I haven't spoken with Rose in at least a year or more), as well as some of Rose's family from Missouri. Rose Bucher was a beautiful woman in all senses of the word. "Strong and poised" are absolutely correct. She will be missed. And I again offer my warm regards and heartfelt thanks to you for the huge support role you played when Pete was captured and thereafter. "Bravo Zulu" indeed!

  3. Mahalo for the kindness — even crusty old columnists appreciate it.

    There is a new book coming out for the Christmas sales period, titled "Act of War" by Jack Cheevers. Jack had access to many now declassified documents on the Pueblo seizure, and at least in the initial manuscript he covered the activities that Rose was such a leader in — whether that made it passed the Editors or not is always questionable. I know that Jack was about 20,000 words over what the Editors wanted at one point.

    (Writers work hard to protect each word of their "deathless prose" — but Editors are merciless! :-)

    Jack worked on that book for about 15 years, and interviewed just about everyone extensively. He had great respect for Rose and her leadership, and wrote columns about her death in other newspapers. He was greatly impressed, as we all were.

    • Barry

      When you visit the Poway VFW, you will see a very nice framed image of the USS Pueblo displayed prominently upon the canteen bulkhead. If I'm not mistaken, it was donated to us by Rose herself a couple years ago. What an honor.

  4. Pueblo Crewman

    Thank You !!!!

  5. julie

    i am one of the few tourists who has been to north korea and has boarded the pueblo, which sits shamelessly in a downtown canal as a “war trophy”. if i had had it in my power to bring it back — or to BLOW IT UP — i certainly would have!

    i did bring back many anti-US propaganda pamphlets and sent pete the ones about the pueblo after a brief conversation. i hope he used them for dartboards, litter boxes, whatever.

    bless both him and rose for all they did for this country. i was born after the war, but i stand in awe of what they and so many others went through.

    i hope they are both at peace now.

    oh, and may dennis rodman rot in hell!

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