Citizen of the Month: Buddy Bagley

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Buddy Bagley -truck resizedBy JAYNE THURBER-SMITH 

What’s in a name? Buddy Bagley’s name says it all: he’s everyone’s buddy.  “I’m just a people person,” he smiles. “I’ve never met a stranger.” 

He doesn’t answer to Robert. His sisters nicknamed him “Buddy” shortly after his arrival as the caboose to a South Norfolk family that already had twenty siblings.

“We learned how to share very early in life,” Bagley laughs, “but we were all happy. We have a family reunion every year, and there were 130 of us together last summer. We call it ‘Cousins by the Dozens’!”

Not only is Bagley a dedicated family member but he’s also dedicated to his neighbors and community, for which former mayor William Ward nicknamed him “Mr. Chesapeake.” He’s also been called “Chesapeake’s Cheerleader” for the tremendous pride he shows for his city.

Some of his friends call him the “Ticketron of Chesapeake.” His truck, to which he fondly refers to as “his office,” is overflowing with scholarship applications, sponsorship form, and upcoming event fliers for the various charities he’s promoting.

“My wife tells me to get out of the house, so I do,” he laughs, referring to his bride of fifty-six years, Peggy. He had served faithfully with the Chesapeake Fire Department for 38 years, 17 of those years as fire chief, and retired in 1986. He appears not to know the meaning of the word “retirement” because at the age of 82 he shows no signs of slowing down.

Included in his “office” paperwork, Bagley has handfuls of business cards; only three different ones bear his own name. When he officially retired, someone asked “How are we going to get a hold of you now?” so he had some personal calling cards printed. One of his three cards is a Consultant card, although he doesn’t charge anyone for his consulting.

The second card says “Robert G. ‘Buddy’ Bagley, Chesapeake Sports Club, President 2011.”

“I’m very busy now with the Chesapeake Sports Club,” he says proudly. “Our mission is to give $1,000 athletic scholarships to each Chesapeake high school, including AtlanticShores and Greenbrier Christian. I served as the president for the first year in 2011 when we started it up. I didn’t have time to do that but I had to; we have some great athletic talent in our area.”

The third card is his Khedive Shriners card. Bagley has assisted his fellow Shriners in providing necessities, both medical and personal, to many hospitalized children.

“I’ve been very active in the upcoming March 30th Oyster Roast for the Shriners,” he says, always promoting. “We just want to provide children with leg braces, clothes, whatever they need. Those children are so happy when we visit the hospital! They say to me, ‘Thank you, Mr. Shriner.’”

The dozens of other business cards, overflowing his glove compartment, center console and Filofax, are for Bagley to be able to promote the companies who support his causes. If you ask him “Who can I hire to fix my roof?” he’ll hand you the card for a local roofer. If you ask him “Where’s a good place for seafood?” there’s a card for that.

“Altogether I have five different fundraisers going on right now, all good causes,” he says. “The business community is very gracious to support things we ask them to.”

As we get ready to photograph him in front of his namesake, the Buddy Bagley Stage in ChesapeakePark, he first walks over to stand by the sign that bears his name. Ignoring the name of the stage, he points to all the local businesses listed that have been and still are so very generous.

“I don’t have an ego – that’s long been gone,” he says. “I’ve had lots of recognition, more than anyone could expect, but I don’t do anything for that reason. Naming the stage had nothing to do with me.”

 Seventy Chesapeake businesses helped Bagley and his volunteers build the stage at a cost of $250,000.

“It made more sense to build a stage than to keep renting one, with so many occasions requiring it,” he says. “So ten years ago I raised the money for it over the summer. We conservatively estimated that more than two million people have been out here for summer concerts, the Chesapeake Virginia Wine Festival, the Chesapeake Jubilee, the nationally-recognized Barbeque Cook-off, Relay for Life, food festivals and horseshoe competitions.”

In May Bagley is looking forward to putting on the largest fireworks display ChesapeakePark has ever seen.

“I’ve been doing the fireworks since the Chesapeake Jubilee was first held at the Greenbrier Mall in 1983,” he says. “The mayor at the time wanted fireworks for the 20th anniversary celebration and I just laughed because I put out fires, I don’t build them! But then I said, ‘I don’t know anything about it, but I’ll do it.’”

The Jubilee outgrew the mall after the first three years. Buddy and his volunteer party then looked into acquiring a parcel of land further down Greenbrier Parkway that was by the correctional center, where the dog park is now. Then they got to work clearing ChesapeakePark, where the Jubilee has been celebrated ever since.

“We’re doing it big for the city’s 50th anniversary celebration at this year’s Jubilee,” he says. “We’re calling it Thunder over Chesapeake.”

He never fails to steer the conversation back to where he thinks it deserves to be: the sponsors who make his efforts all worthwhile.

“I really want to thank the business community for what they do for this city,” he says. “I don’t like to use the word ‘I’ because there’s no I in the word team and I’m a team player. All I do now is volunteer work. I really enjoy what I’m doing. I do it for the city because I love it.

“Chesapeake is a caring city: if someone needs help there’s help.”  Thanks to caring people like Buddy Bagley.

If you are interested in supporting Chesapeake’s up-and-coming high school athletes’ bright futures, you can email

Congratulations Buddy Bagley on being named Citizen of the Month.  We appreciate your dedication to public service.  The city of Chesapeake is incredibly fortunate to have you as a leader in our community.

 The Citizen welcomes your recommendations for Citizen of the Month.  Help us recognize and honor outstanding community leaders who are making a difference in our city—and the world.  Email your nominations to:

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One Response to Citizen of the Month: Buddy Bagley

  1. Anne Harriman Reply

    March 6, 2013 at 11:09 pm

    Buddy Bagley is so deserving of this recognition.

    I have known Buddy for a few years as Past Potentate of Khedive Shrine Center and know how much he does behind the scenes to help all he can to make the City of Chesapeake a better place for all of its citizens.

    Recently he bought a City of Chesapeake and State of Virginia’s Flags for the Khedive Shrine Centers Flagpole. He bought these flags out of his own pocket because he is proud of Chesapeake and Virginia.

    I am pleased to know such a great person who helps the City of Chesapeake be a better place to live.

    Webmaster of Khedive Shrine Center
    and Chesapeake Sports Club

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