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Hometown Hero

"Naomi Buzard tends some of the trees in her back yard, one of her many interests.Matt Johnson, staff reporterNaomi Buzard began working in show business as a professional singer at the age of 3, performing with stars such as Bob Hope, Gene Autry, Sammy Davis Jr. and Stan Boreson. And she was taught always to put on a happy face, no matter how she felt on the inside (because that's show biz, she says).The early practice helped her form a positive outlook that, she says, has served her well throughout her life, and has taught her to discipline her mind to focus on uplifting thoughts.Buzard acknowledges that others may disagree with this philosophy, arguing that it's important to honor our true feelings. Indeed, she says, there are times in life that evoke sadness and grief, when time is the best healer.But much of life's suffering could be softened with the turning up of the corner of our mouth, or humming a happy song, said Buzard, who is this month's Hometown Hero.You've got to have deep laugh wrinkles in your face if you want to live your life to its fullest, she said. When you smile or laugh, your whole outlook begins to match your face, and laughter is contagious, so you're going to be around more smiling people.It's a proven fact, she added, that when humor is used daily in hospitals and nursing homes, the patients need less pain medication, and fewer anti-depressants.Naomi's infectious sense of humor just naturally lifts the spirits of everyone around her, said Lenora Eckert. She inspires others to smile more and to be friendly and loving.Anne Pringle added: You can't help but feel more joy in your own life with Naomi's chuckles, jokes and sunny disposition. I've personally learned from Naomi to make the most of every single day.Buzard says show business taught her to say yes to life. The show must go on, and so does life, she said. The older I become the more I realize we have such a limited amount of time on this earth, it seems a waste to have many lousy days. She begins each of her days in a prayer of thanks and ends it the same way.One way I feel I can give my appreciation back to God is to live in joy. The other way is to be of service to God's people, she said.Buzard is compassionate as well, said Tody Workman.When I had three family tragedies happen during the holidays, Naomi was a good listener, Workman said. She gave me a teddy bear and told me that whenever I felt low, I should hold the bear tight because he was a 'happy bear.'Life is full of joy, Buzard says, but it certainly isn't without its heartbreaks.I would hate to think someone I knew was suffering all alone, she said.Dee Marshall, a South Whidbey resident, recalls a time when, she said, It was Naomi who literally saved my life. Her husband had died suddenly, and she lost all purpose of going on, she said.Knowing I was probably suicidal, Naomi made a verbal agreement with me that I wouldn't make any big decisions without calling her first.Buzard never gave up on her, Marshall said, keeping in constant contact with her for two years, even when I got down to skin and bones. Buzard kept telling her, 'You're going to make i, Dee. God has a plan for you.'Today, Marshall reports happily, My friend Naomi was right. Once again I have meaning and happiness in my life.Buzard says the hardest time in her life was when she had to say goodbye to her husband of 45 years, Walter Foote, when Visser's funeral home drove away with him on April 4, 1987.During another period of grieving, she said, she remembers going to bed, pulling the covers over her head and not coming out for nearly two weeks.Eventually she applied the showbiz attitude. She got up and went to the Bayview Senior Center to volunteer and get her thoughts away from her own grief.It was 50 years ago that Buzard discovered what pure joy comes out of volunteering and being of service to others.I went to the Little Red Schoolhouse in Seattle, a place for severely mentally and physically disabled children, she said. As she walked in on her first day, a little boy with cerebral palsy scooted on his side over to me, using his arms to move himself, she said. Then climbed right up my body and gave me a big wet smooch. I fell in love with all the children, and they loved to laugh and have fun.For many years she has volunteered with all the kids at the Senior Center.I live to go there Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, she said. We get to know each person personally -- who doesn't like peas, or who wants seconds on custard, who needs help walking to the restroom or reading their bingo cards.One day a man came in with a white cane, so Buzard asked him if he could see at all. He answered no. Then I look like a mixture of Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield, she said. The two became good friends, and he always called her Marilyn.One never knows when Naomi's strange and wonderful sense of humor will spring up, said Donna Beaty.She recalled Naomi coming to a Halloween bowling party dressed as the absent-minded professor. When she went to the bathroom and came out, she went up to bowl and, staying right in character, she pretended she had forgotten to put on her pants. Naomi had outfitted herself complete with a bare derriere! We all laughed so hard we cried, Beaty said. Last month, Buzard's name, spelled with two z's, was mentioned in the senior center newsletter.Two weeks later the extra 'z' came back in the mail, 'in case we needed it for someone else,' said the senior center's Jim Self. Buzard is full of crazy jokes and humor and wears a perpetual smile.Mary Lou Mack says Buzard seems to have a passion for helping people find joy in their lives.No matter how down or bad someone may be, Naomi is able to make anyone feel better. She is so talented, fun and sympathetic, and understanding too, Mack said. Buzard could be out making money with her skills at entertaining, but she chooses instead to give her gifts away by volunteering, and staying mostly in the background.Buzard grew up having the fame, the big lights, money and the sound of audience applause. But nothing, she says, can compare to touching a life one-on-one. One sincere hug or a shared smile is worth a hundred roaring crowds, she said. Being with family or volunteering, trying to bring a little joy into someone's life, this is true bliss.As far as becoming well known or receiving monetary compensation, she says, When you're doing what you love, nothing can match the joy and contentment you get back. Happiness is measured by the love we give to others.She quotes a passage by Bishop Pike as one of her favorites: What we do for ourselves dies with us, but what we do for others remains and is immortal. "

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