There was a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt on the cover of the program at Victoria Buzzo’s funeral Mass on Thursday: “Well behaved women rarely make history.”
With that tongue-in-cheek comment, Victoria Ann Buzzo's family and a close friend and colleague paid tribute to her as a person with a larger-than-life personality who had an impact on others daily.
Whether she was cutting hair at Salon Meritage, where she died with seven others in the mass killing of Oct. 12 in Seal Beach, or was simply sending her family out the door looking their best, she made a difference, they said.
"She made sure we went out and faced each day with a smile," said her husband, David, a high school sweetheart who knew his wife for nearly 40 years and was married for more than 30.
Victoria Buzzo loved her home, garden and flowers, he said, and animals, friends and family. He recounted her caring for their cancer-stricken dog for two years, and -- in reference to his family's time of need -- he told the standing-room-only crowd at Our Lady of Refuge Catholic Church in Long Beach, "Don't ever doubt that your prayers don't help."
David Buzzo made a point of reading from one of the first cards his family received in the aftermath of the tragedy, a card that was like many others sent in the wake of the 54-year-old woman's sudden death:
I am so sorry for your loss. I’ve been a client of Victoria’s for more than 10 years. Every six weeks I would sit in her chair and share life’s ups and downs. She was a joy to be with, and no matter how I felt when I walked in the door, I always felt happy and beautiful when I left. I always wished I could be more like Victoria; she seemed to live life from her heart.
Rev. Al Scott, who presided over the Mass, encouraged those in attendance to honor Buzzo's legacy by reaching out as she might. "The greatest tribute you can pay to Victoria and her family is to turn off the technology ... for a while every week, go to the nursing homes, hold someone's hand and say, 'How are you doing, dear?' " Scott said. "Victoria cared about them."
David, who remains behind with sons Van and Davy, said his wife "did not live a storybook life—it was even better." But he acknowledged more than just the good times. "Just as important to me," he said, "were the tough times we got through together. She told us and showed us how much she loved us every day."
Her oldest son, Van, recalled how he and his brother were Victoria's personal Ken dolls. "You tell her what you want, and she gives you what she wants," he said. "You're like her little Ken doll, she colors your hair and cuts it—and that's it."
He also told of when he began performing in high school plays and his mom volunteered to help with the cast hair, and how it was the first time he really understood what she did for a living even though he had been dragged to the salon for years.
"The first time she was there, people were very hesitant to get in the seat—I always was," Van said, drawing laughter. "I was actually able to see her develop relationships with people from the beginning, so that as the weeks progressed, everyone—especially the girls—were fighting to go first. The parent/student/kid boundary dissolved. ... She enriched everyone she came into contact with."
Davy, who said he is outspoken like his mother and, similarly, used to getting his way, added, "One of her greatest joys was to spread joy to others." That joy made for a family that wasn't defined by blood. "All you have to do," he said, "is look around this room and see how large our family has become."
Also speaking was Gordon Gallego, who worked with Buzzo at Salon Meritage and was a best friend with her and Laura Webb Elody. He spoke of a short window in which he had an opportunity to get married in San Francisco and he booked a same-date flight; the next day, Buzzo gave him some additional news: "No one should get married alone," he recalled Buzzo saying. "Dave, me and Laura will stand up for you and we're going to share your day."
Gallego also said they argued like a brother and sister, and that on the fateful Wednesday in which Seal Beach was shattered, he had been her first client that morning. "I was on time, and she was late," he said of his colleague, who had to commute from her home in Laguna Beach. "So our day began. We laughed, we argued and she took an hour to cut my short hair. I got up out of the chair and gave her the biggest hug and kiss and said, 'Finally, finally, it's perfect.' "
Gallego also provided one of the most emotional moments of the nearly two-hour afternoon service.
"As I move past this day to find a salon, for the first time I won't be doing it with the intention of having three chairs available, for Victoria, Laura and myself," he said. "It will be one chair, but I will not be alone. I will have the two most amazing angels on my shoulder."
Buzzo's outgoing personality often got the last word, and son Van made note of this in his final thought.
"It's very wonderful to have a mom like mine as a mother, and it's very comforting to know how many peoples' lives she's touched," he said. "And she's definitely a loud voice that will never go silent."