How much money is in Charlie Buck's estate?
The long-running saga of Stonington's Charlie Buck, accused of pushing his wife down the stairs to run off with a waitress from a Mystic restaurant, is beginning to run on its last legs, as his estate is settled.
The story, which probably has delivered as many national headlines about the region in recent memory as Pfizer's development of Viagra and Taylor Swift's settlement in Watch Hill, took its last quirky turn when Buck, who was acquitted by a three-judge panel in 2002 of the charges of murdering wife Leslie, fell at his childhood home on Elm Street last year. He died after a short convalescence, reportedly paralyzed, in a nursing home.
Some who believed him guilty of the murder of his beloved wife, an elementary school teacher, may have thought that a poetic ending to a profoundly sad story.
Last week, sadness was heavy in the air as strangers were allowed to pick through Buck's possessions, which filled the rambling rooms of the Victorian house on Elm where he grew up, one of two children whose father, Fred, ran a successful electric contracting business, in which Charlie succeeded him.
Indeed, many of the things at the estate sale seemed to date back to the time when Josephine and Fred Buck raised their two boys on Elm Street: old pictures, Victorian furniture, antique appliances, dial telephones. It looked like no one ever threw anything away all those years.
Charlie, like his father, ran the business from the barn on the property, which also was filled to the rafters with tools and equipment, some old, some new, and all kinds of Stonington memorabilia, including an enormous Stonington Borough black safe inscribed in gilt letters.
Also included in the sale was the detritus of Buck's hobbies, boats and cars, including a Rolls Royce sedan, a convertible Volkswagen bug, an MG roadster, a Jeep and an antique fire-engine-red Buck Electric work truck.
The most startling thing I saw in all of it was the large portrait of a beautiful young Leslie Buck, in a wedding dress, which hangs prominently in the front parlor of the house.
Charlie and Leslie, who had no children together, lived on Mason's Island Road, while Charlie continued to use the Elm Street property for his business.
The lawyers who got him acquitted took the Mason's Island Road house, where Leslie took her fatal tumble down the stairs, in payment, and it was subsequently sold and torn down to make way for a new home. Charlie had moved back to the house where he grew up.
The estate sale, with online bidding, was scheduled to wrap up Saturday.
Just how much money is in the estate remains a mystery.
Buck's 2005 will put Mystic attorney Susan Pochal in charge. When probate Judge Nicholas Kepple approved her appointment Nov. 29, he set a two-month deadline for Pochal to submit a complete inventory of all property of the estate. She wrote to the judge Feb. 6 saying she needed more time to finish the inventory and would file it when it was done.
It appears that the primary beneficiary will be Richard Buck of Seminole, Fla., Charlie's brother, who is in his 80s. It would have been their mother, Josephine, but she died after the will was written.
Buck's daughter from a previous marriage, Carol Ann, died after Buck was acquitted but before the will was written. The will identifies Carol's four children, all listed with uncertain addresses, who were not named as beneficiaries. The probate judge appointed a guardian to find them, but he reported back that he had no luck in locating Buck's grandchildren.
The only other beneficiary cited in the will was the charity created in Leslie's honor, the Leslie Buck Memorial Fund, which was to get a Stonington Road house that Buck owned and which was occupied by Leslie's mother.
Buck's mother-in-law died after the will was written, though, and he sold the house in 2010, so the memorial fund will get nothing from the estate.
I tracked down Anna Greene, who used to teach second grade at Deans Mill School with Leslie and who now heads the Leslie Buck Memorial Fund. I could almost still hear the pain in Greene's voice as she politely answered questions about the work of the fund named for her close friend.
Greene told me about all the wonderful things the fund does, from supplying books to children who can't afford them to providing scholarships to high school students and grants to elementary school teachers for teaching aids.
The fund mostly is administered by retired teachers, like herself, who knew Leslie, Greene said. But younger teachers also are getting involved.
"It is nice that they pitch in and keep it going," she said. "Eventually we will bow out."
Wouldn't it be great if Richard Buck could make good on the unfilled promise in his brother's original will, to generously contribute to the Leslie Buck Memorial Fund.
That fund is the only glimmer of light and hope in a dark tale, the legend of Stonington's Charlie Buck.
This is the opinion of David Collins.