On the first day of March 2023, David John Buffam, 78, passed away peacefully after battling Alzheimer’s. David was born on Dec. 26, 1944, in Bombay, India, to missionaries John and Eunice (Scott) Buffam. He lived in India with his sisters Anne and Shari until age 14, attending English boarding schools and learning to play cricket.
The family visited the United States on furlough in 1949 and moved to the U.S. permanently in 1959, settling in Eau Claire, WI. These back-and-forth trips on trains and ships included stopovers in England, and he became a young Anglophile.
He attended Wheaton College (Wheaton, IL, Class of 1966), married Joanne Lindsell, and was later conscripted, serving as an Army intelligence officer in Korea. Upon returning, David attended the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts (Class of 1970) and Michigan Law School (Class of 1975), where he excelled at moot court and had the first of five sons, Jeremy. Educated, experienced, and well-traveled, he considered a diplomatic career before joining Davis Polk and Wardwell in New York, where he practiced law and met lifelong friends.
A happy client hired him some years later to manage a real estate portfolio, including hotels. The portfolio was divested, and by circumstance and persistence, he managed to acquire the last remaining property, a 103-room Hilton hotel in Bangor, ME. With longtime assistant and confidant Marian Barbieri at his side, he founded New Castle Hotels and set about to master hospitality. A skilled negotiator and accomplished lawyer, he grew the business beyond investments to include management and development and had the good fortune of working with talented people who genuinely appreciated his work ethic and optimism. An office warrior at heart and a creature of habit by nature, he rose early, stayed late, and enjoyed closing complex deals. The company expanded into Canada, restoring and rebranding historic hotels and resorts, and developed partnerships to build new hotels.
In 1982 he remarried, to Beatrice Zuppinger, eventually moving from NYC to Wilton, and had four more boys — Christopher, Ian, Nathaniel, and Julian. When not working, he loved golf, skiing, antiques, and landscaping. Having learned the game of golf from an army colonel in Korea, he never missed a yearly trip to the British Isles with Davis Polk alumni (aka the “Portly Pansies”) and enjoyed archiving these experiences at famous courses. He loved fall golf at Silver Spring Country Club in Ridgefield.
A fan of four seasons, particularly winter, he enjoyed the snow and often skied when younger and later with family, including regular trips to Switzerland and out west. A heavy New England snowfall meant another chance to plow the driveway. Whether preserving artifacts from historic hotels or seeking out his own, he revered the craftsmanship and artistry of periods long since passed. With a keen eye for detail and trees, he loved the Connecticut forest and dry-laid stone walls, overseeing the restoration of many historical walls at his beloved home on Belden Hill Rd. in Wilton. He took down tired trees, planted new specimens, and never forgave a landscaper who mistakenly cut down the wrong tree — his favorite, a large and beautiful cherry. His boys sledded and rode dirt bikes on the steep landscape, often crashing.
Later in life, David spent summers in Nova Scotia, boating and restoring a summer cottage near Halifax and hosting family and friends for extended visits. A true man of hospitality, he was well known for his generosity and love of cuisine, frequently treating family, friends, and guests to memorable outings in New York and abroad.
He is survived by his children and their spouses: Jeremy (Susie) Buffam (Ridgefield), Ian Buffam (Fort Myers), Nathaniel Buffam (Jekyll Island, GA), Julian (Daisy) Buffam (New York City); and by his grandchildren: Briggs and Dash Buffam, and Colette Buffam; by his sister, Shari Donaldson; and by his second wife, Beatrice Buffam, and his first wife, Joanne Webber. He was predeceased by his son, Christopher Buffam, and his sister, Anne Buffam.
A memorial service will be held on Wednesday, March 15, at 3 p.m. at Ridgefield Baptist Church (325 Danbury Rd., Ridgefield), followed by a reception at Silver Spring Country Club (439 Silver Spring Rd., Ridgefield). In lieu of flowers, contributions in David Buffam’s memory may be made to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Kane Funeral Home is in care of arrangements.