Who Were These Men?
Let's start with Rey Buono.
"A beloved and indulgent teacher ... charismatic Pied Piper of Milton's theater department ..."
(NECN news reporter)
This video shows the story of how Milton Academy alumnus Jamie Forbes began his campaign against Rey Buono.
"He always booked too few rooms for us on these trips so that he would have to share a room with a kid. One night I had to share a room with him. In the middle of the night I felt hands on my body and this disgusting bushy mustache on my face ... I told my mother when we got back home and she went to David Hume [then Headmaster of Saint David's School, 1975] who said he would no longer sanction Buono's trips." - Saint David's classmate, class of 1976
"I was on the bike trip and we were camping somewhere, so every night in my sleeping bag I had my Swiss Army knife blade open, in case Buono tried anything on me." - Saint David's classmate, class of 1976
I am a St. David's School grad from class of 1971.
Your email was a devastating piece of news. I considered Rey Buono a mentor and the teacher who had the biggest affect on my life. In fact I tracked him down about 8 years ago and wrote him a note stating such. I had not spoken to him since the 70s and wanted to know the impact he had on my life. He was my homeroom 5th grade teacher the year he began at St. David's in 1967. I believe he had recently graduated from Columbia College. Let me state this up front, he did not rape or attempt to molest me in any way. That being said, after I grew older, I thought it was peculiar he would invite boys (7th and 8th graders, myself included) to his apartment in the building next door at 22 East 89th (now the expanded school). At the time, it just seemed like a cool thing to do. I do not recall ever hearing from any classmates that he had ever done anything inappropriate. As many students did, I looked up to him. He introduced my mind to the arts, film history, filmmaking and theatre. It's gut wrenching when you hear these monstrous acts happened at any school, but when it now includes your own beloved school and your own beloved teacher, it pulls you inside out.
Rey Buono's father was Warden of Riker's Island.
By Max H. Seigel
July 5, 1977
Francis R. Buono, who presided over a 492‐acre empire in the East River as the supervising warden of Rikers Island for seven years died Sunday evening while playing volley ball in Lake Grove, L.I., with members of his family.
Mr. Buono, who was 62 years old, collapsed during the game, at the home of a stepdaughter, Geraldine E. Bletsch. He was taken to Mather Memorial Hospital in nearby Port Jefferson, L.1., where he was pronounced dead of a heart attack.
Mr. Buono, who lived at 136 Bellmore Street, Floral Park, Queens, is survived by his second wife, the former Mary E. Gatti; two sons, Reynold J., a teacher at Milton Academy in Milton, Mass.; and Bruce J., an Air Force captain stationed in Shreveport, La.; a daughter, Beth Ann; Mrs. Bletsch a stepson, Larry A. Gatt; of Lake Grove, and six grandchildren. His first wife, the former Joan Gullak, died in 1970.
Inmates Held Him in Awe
Both inmates and guards at the Rikers Island facility and in other New York City prisons have stood in awe of Mr. Buono, the stocky, brisk warden, whom they called, among other names, “the Baron of Rikers,” “the Godfather” and “the General Patton of Rikers.”
“One reason we have had no bloodshed in the New York City penal institutions is because of the well‐trained headquarters command organization run by Frank Buono,” Correction Commissioner Benjamin J. Malcolm said yesterday. “We're going to have a hell of a job finding a replacement.”
“You've got to scare them the minute they walk on the job,” Mr. Buono once said of the men in his command. “If man defies an order from me, he's telling me to go to hell. A man who defies an order from, me won't sleep nights.”
The elite headquarters command Mr. Buono set up received special training as an Emergency Response Task Force to respond to any disturbance at any city penal institution.
Last year, when inmates took over the Bronx House of Detention, Warden Buono's men went in and regained control within 50 minutes, one Correction Department official said. And last October, in Queens, “The minute Buono's men got off the bus, the men in the detention center decided to negotiate.”
Quelled Without Bloodshed
In both cases, the official said, there was no bloodshed. Mr. Buono, who was born and reared in New York City, wanted to be a police officer. Instead, he started in the Correction Department in 1939. Three years later, he went into the Army as a private, and was discharged in 1946 as a captain.
Mr. Buono served under Gen. George C. Patton in North Africa, rising in the ranks to become the acting provost marshal of that area. A great admirer of Gen. Patton, he emulated the general's autocratic behavior.
In the Army, Mr. Buono was wounded several times and won the Purple Heart with a cluster. Later, he became national commander of the Disabled American Veterans.
After Warden Buono put down the riots in the Tombs in 1970, then Mayor John V. Lindsay had a special Civil Service test created for him, and Mr. Buono became the, highest‐ranking uniformed civil servant in the city with the title of supervising warden and an annual salary of $43,000. Funeral services for Mr. Buono will be held Thursday at Our Lady of Victory Church in Flushing, Queens. Burial will be at the Long Island National Cemetery in Pinelawn.
Source:https://www.nytimes.com/1977/07/05/archives/fr-buono-62-dies-the-rikers-warden-in-76-his-teams-quelled-risings.html from search 2/23/2020
I suppose we are all contradictions to some extent or other. For every bright moment Rey Buono provided to students and friends, there were intensely dark moments too, moments which left boys damaged beyond belief. Is it that when we hold power, we feel immune to others? We feel like we are somehow not connected anymore?
Did Buono, or the other man, Bob Ludlow, feel any remorse for the pain and suffering inflicted on his victims? Did he even know what he was doing? There is something sociopathic about that - the lack of awareness, or respect for, our basic interconnection.
In Buddhism we talk of the three "poisons" being greed, hate, and delusion; these are alternately defined as desire (craving, wanting, addictive), anger (aversion, disappointment, rage), and blithe incomprehension. In Buddhism the fundamental delusion is that we are alone, that we are not connected, intimately, with others, that we make no difference in the lives of others, that we exist as islands.
This is all too human. All too human.
Because of interconnection, we also must know that to a large extent we are products of causes and conditions in our lives that have brought us to this point. And yet we also have a choice where to go, from this point. I can only speculate that Buono's upbringing, by a man who "emulated George Patton," must have been challenging. I can only speculate that he, himself, was abused by his father - if not sexually, then verbally or physically or emotionally. Living with this kind of energy, it is only to be expected, that, being human, he would pass it on.
And yet. And yet. As painful and angry as it may make us, we can try to note that Buono was trying his best. He was dealt a shitty deck of cards. He tried his best.
Since he denies any crime, though, it's hard to forgive such a man. He's not completely trying his best to realize what he did, to acknowledge what he did, to accept the consequences of his actions.
I've done things that have hurt me. Things that have hurt others, no matter how unintentional my motives. I don't hold this up in pride, but rather in humility: when I can see what I've done, and how I was led there, and how I affected others, I own it. I tell them I'm sorry. I tell them I'm sorry because in expressing sorrow, in expressing grief, in expressing loss and regret, we renew our connection to the fabric of humanity. When you own your errors and transgressions and pain, you may lose quite a lot. But you also gain an unburdened and open heart that may, just may, be willing to live again.