As Chairman Connie Milstein’s first recruit to the renewed French-American Cultural Foundation board, Buffy Cafritz’s wisdom and guidance were indispensable in the early period of the Foundation’s transition. Her local, national, and international perspective — gained from decades of charitable activity — will continue to be felt, even in her absence.
Buffy and her husband Bill were known for their transformational philanthropy, which had a lasting and legendary impact upon Washington cultural life and institutions. Theirs was a strategic philanthropy that was not simply about giving for giving’s sake, but concerned with meeting needs and solving challenges. The Buffy and William Cafritz Family Foundation remains a testament to their inspired outlook.
To say that Buffy was active in cultural pursuits is more than an understatement; she was truly a “force de la nature” in that realm. She was an Honorary Trustee of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; an Advisory Member of the Library of Congress Madison Council; and a former board member of Ford’s Theatre and Friends of the Arts and Preservation. Not limited to culture, she was also a founding member of the National Council on White House History, and a former board member of Ronald Reagan’s Presidential Foundation; Sasha Bruce Youthworks; the Harvard School of Public Health; and the Ronald Reagan Institute of Emergency Medicine.
Every four years, Buffy would welcome guests to a renowned black-tie Presidential Inaugural party. While her name was often preceded in the press with modifiers such as “top hostess,” “the Perle Mesta of DC,” and “Washington lady of style,” this was not merely one of the capital city’s most sought-after social invitations. It was an occasion to engage and exercise a philosophy of which Buffy was a chief proponent: bi-partisan political civility.
As the New York Times observed of the gathering in 2013, “This was the rare Washington social gathering with no corporate or political agenda, other than good old-fashioned cordiality… indeed, the civility seemed to recall a bygone Washington.” Buffy — while deeply committed to her own political party — also knew that, for the democratic experiment to be most effective, courtesy and consideration are not afterthoughts or simple social niceties; indeed, they are essential ingredients.
One of the great regrets of the past year was that we could not gather in person and enjoy each other’s company and commitment. But — pandemic or not— as we say farewell to Buffy, we nonetheless can and will reflect upon our fond memories of her.
Toute chose appartient à qui sait en jouir. (Everything belongs to those who can appreciate it.) — André Gide