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Retired electrician enjoys using skills to entertain kids, find solutions

Created 'magic fountain'
During his long working career, Joseph Buckles has held many jobs, but first and foremost, he has always been a problem-solver.
   Whether he's working on a wiring project, redesigning an item with safety issues, or figuring out how to keep his grandchildren entertained, the Culver man is always using his analytical skills to come up with solutions.
   Recently, the retired electrician turned his attention to constructing a "magic fountain," which is on display at Mazatlan restaurant through the holiday season.
   The fountain, dressed up with poinsettias and chile pepper lights by family friend Beverly Gadwa, features a faucet, which does not appear to be connected to a pipe, pouring out a steady stream of water into a cup. The entire contraption appears to be suspended with string.
   Buckles, who said he got the idea from a similar fountain at his former employer, Avion Water in Bend, calls it an optical illusion. "This fountain was kind of a fun thing to do," he said. "Children love it."
   "The motivation there is to make people think -- (about) more than what they see," he said. "I enjoy challenging people, especially children, to think beyond what they see."
   With four adult children and 10 grandchildren, he's had a lot of practice.
   Buckles was born in Portland, where his father -- a Church of Christ minister -- happened to be holding a revival meeting, but grew up in locations all over the country, from Newport News, Va., to Little Rock, Ark., to Manteca, Calif.
   "He traveled a lot," said Buckles, with a hint of understatement. "He would go church to church, place to place."
   When his father was called to move, his mother would pack up the couple's five children, and the family would move to the next location -- never quite sure what awaited.
   For example, said Buckles, "In Iowa, there would be people with big farm houses," where he and his siblings would share rooms with other kids. "We'd be there a couple weeks and move on."
   Moved to Oregon
   His itinerant childhood made Buckles decide that he wanted a different life for his own family. "I determined in my own mind that I was going to stay in one place," he said.
   That place was Oregon. After graduating from high school in 1960 in Gering, Neb., Buckles saved enough money by fall to move to Portland, where he worked at a muffler shop and a medical laboratory, as he attended Northwest Bible College and considered following his father into the ministry.
   While attending the Church at Montavilla, where his father was preaching on the day he was born, he met his future wife Bonnie. They married in 1963, and he began studying chemistry, physics, and electrical engineering at Portland State.
   During the next decade, Buckles held a wide variety of jobs, from working at the Naval shipyards in Portland, to opening and operating a print shop, to earning his real estate broker license, which he held for 30 years.
   Besides working in printing and real estate, by 1967, Buckles had obtained his electrical degree from Portland Community College, and had become a journeyman electrician.
   Over the next few decades, he worked as a maintenance manager or facilities electrician at Viking Industries, Intel, and LSI Logic in Gresham.
   Obtained two patents
   At Viking Industries, where Buckles worked for 14 years, he obtained two patents -- in 1980 and 1984.
   The first was for a strap to replace double-hooked elastic tie-downs. A man who worked for him was attempting to fasten an elastic strap one day, when it came loose and hit him in the eye.
   "He lost his eye," said Buckles. "I had to take him to the hospital. I'll never forget that; it was very traumatic."
   The incident spurred Buckles to design a strap that would never snap back and hit someone -- the Omni Strap -- which he marketed for several years before selling the company.
   In 1984, he invented a pumping device "that was able to precisely mix two different components with extremely different viscosity, and yet have a consistent ratio."
   He built and sold over 40 of the pumps -- designed to mix a soft rubber for aluminum windows, which were eventually phased out.
   "What motivates me is thinking about ways to change things to make them work better -- make them more efficient and safer," explained Buckles, who moved to Culver in 2000.
   "There is never a dull moment," said his wife Bonnie. "You say one word and he is thinking of all kinds of things. There's very little that he doesn't think of a solution for."
   During the summer, she said, he solved their deer problem by installing a 6-foot wire fence with conduit across the top. "When they see where the top of the fence is, it signals them that they can't jump over," she said. "Otherwise, the deer would be sleeping in our backyard."
   A dedicated musician, Buckles grew up playing the piano, accordion, organ and guitar. "Music was a big part of our family," he said. "Music is the language of the soul. We communicate musically."
   Using brass tubing, Buckles made acoustically-tuned wind chimes for his home. "They literally howl," he said. "It goes on for quite awhile."
   His many talents, combined with all that tinkering, have proven useful around the house.
   "He figures his way around things," said Bonnie Buckles. "People say, `How do you figure all this stuff out?' He'll just say that's the way God made me."