Buonaiuto—Michael Benjamin Buonaiuto, 73, on June 29, 2020, peacefully in his sleep in Rogers, Ark. Michael was in a coma as a result of COVID-19 prior to his death. He was under the care of the Waters of Rogers long-term care facility, and during his final days, Circle of Life Hospice. Michael was born to Helen Sweet and Robert Buonaiuto in Greenfield, Mass., on January 7, 1947. His maternal grandparents were French Canadians who often played French Canadian music at home. His father’s family was Italian and loved to camp, fish, and cook. Michael was artistic and enjoyed drawing and painting.
Michael met Shelley Tincher at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1967. They moved to California, joined a Gurdjieff group, then moved to Chardavogne Barn in Warwick, N.Y., to study with the Gurdjieff teacher Willem Nyland. There, Michael converted an old onion barn into a beautiful home. After stints as a toymaker and stonemason at the Barn, he and Shelley began a pottery business, which developed into a lifelong artistic collaboration. In 1983, they spent seven months traveling through South America with their first two children. They moved to Santa Fe, N.M., in 1984, and began a cookie jar and resin sculpture businesses. Their third child was born in Santa Fe. The family moved to Fayetteville, Ark., in 2007.
Michael was deeply attuned to the environment, noticing beauty everywhere. He loved reading about ancient cultures and often thought about humans’ place in the universe. He cared deeply about social justice. His spiritual home was in the natural world, as well as Fayetteville Meeting.
Michael was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s within a few years of moving to Fayetteville. He met this challenge with acceptance and dignity. Michael asked for a clearness committee to help support him through the course of the disease. He became a member of Fayetteville Meeting so he could serve on the Ministry and Oversight Committee while he was able. He made hundreds of small sculptured figures, which were sold to support the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. In the care home, Michael danced with his wife and children, sang along to familiar songs, and enjoyed poetry.
Michael is survived by his wife of 49 years, Shelley Buonaiuto; three children, Ben Buonaiuto (Sage Billig), Nina Buonaiuto (partner Chuck Maxwell), and Mia Buonaiuto (Dan McIntyre); three grandchildren; a sister, Nancy Emond (Brian), and a brother, Alan Buonaiuto (Brenda); as well as nieces and nephews.