By Bob Callori, San Francisco Track & Field
It is with a heavy heart that I write to let you know that my very dear friend Merrill P. "Bud" Budlong passed away March 20, 2020 after a long illness.
Bud Budlong, left, with his husband, the late Don Smith, in an undated photo. Photo: Courtesy Facebook.
Along with Jack Baker and Gardner Pond, both of whom are now also deceased, Bud was one of the founders of the San Francisco FrontRunners. Jack and Gardner had advertised the group beginning in late 1974. Bud joined in 1975, and, in his typical fashion, very quickly accepted much of the leadership responsibility. It was under Bud’s leadership that the small group which met informally on Sunday mornings was organized into a club and named the FrontRunners in 1978. It was he who led all of the runs in the early years and also led all of the meetings which led to the formation of an organized group. He was still a leader in 1983 when the club was officially incorporated.
Bud Budlong, second from right
Bud and his partner Don Smith supported all of the runners who showed up on Sunday mornings. Many who showed up in those days were early in their process of coming out, and Bud was a friend to them all.
In recent years, Bud and Don had been living in an assisted living facility near Don’s family in State College, Pennsylvania. Don preceded Bud in death on October 17, 2018. They had been together for more than forty years.
Bud was always reluctant to take credit for his very central role in the development of the group, but it is fair to say that without his strong and sustained leadership, the remarkable story that is today the International FrontRunners would never have happened. That's the global group which has brought friendship and health and encouragement (and more than a few marriages) to many thousands of GLBT people. We should all be grateful for his contributions.
Bud had many accomplishments in his life and was an active participant in the early years of the gay liberation movement in San Francisco. But his contribution to the FrontRunners was one of the things of which he was quietly most proud. Bud will be remembered by some as the author of the official “History of the FrontRunners” published in the July 1994 edition of the Footprint newsletter, which gives an account of the early years of the organization.
Bud was 82 years old.
Obituaries for Bud Budlong have also been published on:
San Francisco FrontRunners In Memoriam Page
Bay Area Reporter