Talented swimmer was dedicated to family, friends
Published in the July 21, 2017 edition
MELROSE — Cara (Linehan) Buckwell, 34, a premier Division 1 swimmer and marathon runner, tackled every athletic endeavor with fervor and a pronounced focus on achievement. When faced with a Stage 4 lung cancer diagnosis in March, she applied the same will, commitment and determination to her recovery. Tough, resilient and graceful. It was an unfair match, despite her lifelong preparation. She died on July 11, 2017.
The daughter of Jim and Ann Linehan, Cara grew up in Melrose with her sisters Drew and the late Laura Linehan in their parents’ home on Wyoming Heights. She attended Melrose schools until she entered Bishop Fenwick as a freshman, where she enjoyed a stellar swimming career and captained the swim team, catapulting her to the University of Maryland, Baltimore, where she swam on a scholarship at the championship level for four years. She captained UMBC her senior year. She was an accomplished breaststroker and did a mean I.M.
While at UMBC, she studied art and graphic design, which she practiced professionally since graduating in 2005, working as the art director at Vistaprint for the last nine years. She has served as the family and friend graphic designer for all weddings, events and parties for those she loved.
Cara chose to share her talent in swimming by coaching at the Melrose YMCA and then for the Bishop Fenwick High School team. Bishop Fenwick was undefeated in her last three years as coach, and Cara was named the Boston Globe Division 2 Girls’ Swim Coach of the Year in 2016.
She married her best friend and soulmate Daniel Buckwell on October 13, 2012. Their first date was in July of 2007. They became parents last August to Claire Christine Buckwell, an exceptionally smiley, well-dispositioned, playful and adventure-seeking child.
Cara and her family and friends were supportive of the Liver Foundation as a result of losing her then 20-year-old sister Laura while she was awaiting a liver transplant in 2008. Cara ran for the “Run for Research” team in the Boston Marathon in 2011 in the name of her sister, and cries of “Go Liver” dominated the day as she ran her first marathon in just over four hours. Cara raised money and awareness for both the American Liver Foundation and Donate Life for organ donation.
Always active, Cara loved swimming with her Masters team and playing on champion co-ed softball teams. She also loved her job, and her co-workers were a second family to her. Her family, her friends, her co-workers, her teammates and her swimmers were very special to Cara. She thrived in the pool, had fun at the beach and on the Cape, and cherished her trips abroad.
Cara and Dan bought their first house in 2013, bringing their “can do” spirit to a home renovation project. Ever the resourceful couple, they built, repaired and reclaimed what they could to make their house beautiful with a lot of sweat equity and hard work.
Among the many people with broken hearts who have not yet been mentioned are her brother-in-law Alex Jacobs of Melrose; her grandmother Elizabeth Linehan of Cambridge; Dan’s parents, Stephen and Laurie (McGregor) Buckwell and his brother Christopher, all of Hamilton; and a load of loving aunts, uncles, cousins and fast friends.
After beating pneumonia, Cara was diagnosed with Stage 4, non-small cell lung cancer. From April – July 11, 2017, Cara was given all treatments available to fight the disease. Few therapies helped. Her entire circuit of family and friends worked together to ensure she was included in the latest clinical drug trial at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston.
During every step, Cara was polite, accommodating and never complained. Cara was so incredibly strong from her years of swimming, running and spinning that she defied science at the end. Never a smoker, lung cancer was an inconceivable opponent. Her strength and mindset persevered. She did not, would not, surrender. Eventually, her lungs were not able to maintain the oxygen level needed, and she passed away under the care of her amazing medical team. Her death was a cruel and tragic blow at the age of 34.
As an advocate for organ donation, it is an honor for Cara to be able to donate her cornea, which will give sight to two people. Additionally, tissue has also been donated for cancer research in hopes of sparing anyone who may suffer from this disease in the future.
Her husband Dan wants her to be remembered as a strong woman who treasured family and friends. Her favorite color was purple, and friends and family were asked to consider wearing purple when choosing their attire as a sweet gesture to Cara at her services.
A wake for Cara was held at the Gately Funeral Home, 79 West Foster St., Melrose, on Sunday, July 16, and her funeral Mass was celebrated at St. Mary’s in Melrose on Monday, July 17. She will be buried at Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge.
The family has established the Cara Buckwell Foundation and donations may be made at Melrose Bank, 638 Main St., Melrose, MA 02176. The family prefers donations to the foundation, but if folks want to send flowers it would be a nice tribute in purple.