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Doris Buffett: 1928-2020


Doris Buffett, sister of Warren, and megaphilanthropist in her own right, passed away peacefully last month at her home in Rockport, Maine.

I never met Doris. But if it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t have been commissioned by one of her foundations to write Letters to Doris: One Woman’s Quest to Help Those with Nowhere Else to Turn.

I wouldn’t have been blessed by the creative synergy with my co-writer, Anita Mumm, and our photographer, Stephanie Craig. I would never have met Amy Kingman, the boss you want to have on a project that involves traveling across 19 states for the better part of a year.

If it weren’t for Doris, I would never experienced such heart-breaking, in the sense of heart-opening, interviews with her grant recipients. I would never have met Ken Prather in Fort Wayne, Indiana, who asked for funding so he could take terminally ill children to the zoo in a reliable vehicle. A man who was getting by himself on a tiny monthly disability check had started his own foundation.

I would never have known there were English Labs capable of detecting when a human’s blood sugar level dropped to dangerous levels, until I met one in Rockwell City, Iowa, along with her new owner, Kalie Buenting, a 12-year-old brittle diabetic. Bringing the two of them together was another of Doris’s good deeds.

I never met Doris, but I met her spirit in each of the two dozen individuals we interviewed for the book—and there were hundreds and hundreds more we could have spoken to. This is what great people do. It isn’t about meeting them; it’s about getting to know each other, about getting together to help each other through this life. That is why, when a great person dies their essence remains here more than anything is gone.

You can read Doris’s obituary in the New York Times here. And if you were lucky enough to meet Doris, you can leave a story, memory, or message on this site, which will eventually become part of a virtual celebration of Doris’s life.

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