MERIDIAN — The Man
Buntin’s flare for the dramatic triggered resentment by some. However, the people who knew him best remember him as a caring individual who helped those who needed it most.
In 1969, as Hurricane Camille tore up the Gulf Coast, Buntin loaded up his boat for a different cause. Buying as much baby formula and food as he could fit in the boat, he made his way down to Bay St. Louis determined to make a difference.
Upon arriving, he realized debris from the storm had blocked any entrance his boat had to reach the stranded survivors. However, not even that could stop him.
“He couldn’t get in too close to the stranded people, so he just waded in the water to get to them,” said Bosarge, who accompanied Buntin on the trip. “Afterwards you should have seen him. He was bruised up and down from everything that crashed into him in the water.”
Helping others was nothing new for Buntin. In the last few years of his life, he ran a construction business near New Orleans. A man of equal opportunity, Buntin gathered a group of outcast workers and gave them a fresh start with the job – making sure to teach them life lessons along the way.
“Oliver would hire men with troubled pasts,” Bosarge said. “He could play poker like nobody else. On Friday nights, he would win all their money and give it back to them on Monday after the weekend to keep them out of trouble.”
A former U.S. Marine, Buntin shared a strong loyalty with the people he held close. Long time friend Ben Matthews said despite his rugged appearance, Buntin had a heart of gold.
“He was larger than life, the size of a lumberjack and nerves of steel,” Matthews said. “He was a friend all would like to have. With Bill, there was always a surprise.”