Constance Wall Buford, 77, passed away peacefully at her home in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico surrounded in love and a room full of flowers as beautiful and vivacious as her enduring spirit.
She died of complications related to Leukemia. For five years she also lived with Alzheimer’s. These illnesses affected her body and mind, but did not dampen her incredibly positive spirit and infectious optimism which she radiated, spread to others, and for which she will always be remembered.
During a remarkable life, Connie lived out one of her favorite teachings: “There are two things we should give our children: one is roots and one is wings.” To her own family and the countless others she knew in her life and career, she sought to pass on both.
Hers was an uncommon power to connect with people on an authentic and genuine level, and in doing so she changed countless lives and inspired many to soar. With an insatiable curiosity and love for people, Connie knew no stranger, befriended practically everyone, and always saw the best in all those she met. She was intentionally happy and respectful to all.
Proud of her family and upbringing in Beaufort, South Carolina, she always stayed true to herself and celebrated her roots. Her charming Southern accent never wavered either; miraculously, it seemed to gain strength as she ventured further from home. Of her many influences, she always spoke admiringly of her parents, Mama and Papa Wall, and her siblings, Bucky, Duncan and Nippie. Her family embodied values such as community, service, humor, empathy, and indiscriminate love, all of which she carried forth in her life and encouraged others to do the same.
After her father retired from the Marines, her parents ran Bay Florist, a family affair that became a beehive of activity in downtown Beaufort. For the rest of her life, much like a florist, Connie shared joy and brightened spirits. She may very well have been a tulip in disguise.
Connie coveted family and friendships. She gained strength in them and worked hard to build meaningful personal and professional relationships. Affectionately known as “Dobbie” (a derivative of doll baby) by her immediate family and “Our Connie” by fellow educators, her family and friends, in turn, doted on and cherished her.
“Parents and educators have the awesome responsibility for shaping the values that our children and students will carry with them forever,” Connie once wrote as the foundation for why she chose a career in education, calling it an “awesome responsibility we grown-ups have.” In a career spanning more than 45 years she thrived professionally through a number of fulfilling and fascinating “dream” jobs.
After graduating in 1965 from the University of South Carolina (USC), she became a French teacher. Ambitious for broader responsibilities and greater social impact, she earned a PhD degree from the University of North Carolina in 1977. Although her early focus was on local school improvement and statewide school desegregation, her attention turned global when exposed to international schools through partnerships and teacher professional development in her work with Richland County School District and then the USC School of Education. These opportunities planted a seed that would blossom into an illustrious career in international education.
In 1988, Connie moved with her two children to Nairobi, Kenya where she assumed the role of middle school principal at the International School of Kenya, which she held for two years, and the executive director of the Association of International Schools of Africa (AISA), which she held for nine years. She sought to change the lives of her own children – and scores of other students and fellow educators – by introducing them to a bigger world and exposing them to the amazing things happening in international schools.
Working for AISA was, in her words, “one of the best jobs in the world.” Through this work, she fostered connections and strengthened networks that resulted in individual success and improved learning and teaching for entire schools. She promoted cross-cultural learning, student community service and teacher exchange, and advanced educational opportunities for a wide range of families and educators globally.
A true master at hosting and attending conferences, she absolutely loved parties, her laughter and positive energy reverberating around the room. Her door prizes became stuff of legend!
She was a proud and active member of numerous international education professional associations and a frequent speaker and conference attendee all over the world (yet another chance to show her family the world and partake in door prizes). A highlight was the chance to teach over many summers with the Principal Training Center (PTC) and board service with the Association for the Advancement of International Education (AAIE), East Asia Regional Council of Schools (EARCOS), and The International Educator (TIE). She treasured her many mentors and colleagues.
In 1995, AAIE honored Connie with induction into its Hall of Fame and in 1997 she was invited to deliver the “Distinguished Overseas Lecture,” in which she shared important values and attitudes in international education.
Schools, she believed, should help “successful people of the future become more than masters of academics, also teaching them to be tolerant, adaptable, problem-solvers who feel responsible for the world and for their fellow citizens.” To educators, she said, “you have a great responsibility to students, to be role models, and that includes being healthy, positive, being in control, and most importantly, knowing how to have fun and enjoy yourselves.”
After AISA, Connie worked for Pearson Education and with Dr. Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots Program then landed her second “dream job,” joining the United States Department of State as a regional education officer for the Office of Overseas Schools until her retirement in 2015.
In retirement, she and her devoted husband and partner for over twenty years, Charlie Gallie, lived with their beloved dog Cotton in Delray Beach, Florida, Durham, North Carolina, and, most recently, in Puerto Vallarta, where they enjoyed long walks and making new friends at coffee shops. Nearly annually they made sojourns to Lake Kezar in western Maine and Lowcountry South Carolina and enjoyed periodic visits with grandchildren in Virginia and Montana.
Connie was predeceased by her mother and father, Mary Jenkins Wall and William Oliver Wall, and her sister, Martha Fulford (Nippie) Wall. She is survived by her husband Charlie; sister Duncan Wall and brother Bucky Wall and wife, Jean; son Warren Buford and wife, Ashley; daughter, Mary French and husband, Brian; and grandchildren Maxwell, James, Mia and Susannah.
Her family wishes to thank a wonderful team of caregivers and nurses for their devotion.
Always an inspiration, a colorful spark of joy, Connie will be missed dearly; her love and laughter and values will be a light that shines aglow forever.
Additional information regarding a Celebration of Life service near her birthday in April will be forthcoming.
The Association of International Schools in Africa is dedicated to serving its members throughout Africa during this challenging time. Please let us know if you require additional or specific information, resources and or support, and we will endeavour to assist you as soon as possible.