According to Buffa, he joined the West Side YMCA in New York City at age 15. He became a YMCA Leader and boy’s gymnast coach in 1940. He came under the influence of Anton Klar, whom he regarded as his primary coach. Klar was a former national AAU champion on pommel horse (1910) who competed for the Bohemian Sokol. Buffa became a two-time National AAU rings champion (1943 & 1948) and placed second several times. According to Helen Schifano Sjursen, the 1948 Olympian and very active in New Jersey YMCA gymnastics, Buffa introduced the “L” Cross and a straight body pull/press from hang to handstand on rings. George Gulack, a gold medalist on rings at the 1932 Olympics and later Chairman of the National AAU Gymnastics Committee, guided Buffa to his first title on rings in 1943. Buffa dominated the Metropolitan AAU in this event winning ten rings titles between 1939 and 1954. By 1941, he became the gymnastics leader at the Westside “Y” and coached as a volunteer for more than a quarter of a century. His leadership extended to the Metropolitan AAU and he was highly regarded by Roy E. Moore of the national AAU office and other city leaders in gymnastics. During his years at the “Y,” John Pesha, Abie Grossfeld and Pat Bird came under his influence. At the suggestion of Moore and with the support of Dr. Harold Friermood, National YMCA Secretary, Buffa founded the National YMCA Gymnastics Committee in 1953 and he dedicated the majority of his career to the advancement of “Y” gymnastics contributing to a number of publications inclusive of a Comprehensive Gymnastics Guide written together with his friend and YMCA Coach, John Van Aalten. He initiated a “Y” Gymnastics Newsletter and National “Y” Championships the first of which was conducted at the Brooklyn Central YMCA in 1954. He initiated the National YMCA Women’s Championships as well. In 1983, the YMCA honored Buffa for thirty years of service. He was elected to the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 1988 as an Athlete, Coach and Contributor. Buffa worked professionally as a computer systems engineer for IBM and was retired living in Connecticut at the time of his death. He loved to paint and had a number of his paintings hanging in his home. Buffa was also a consummate storyteller. He is survived by his wife Jeannette, a son and a daughter.
Sources: Sjursen, Helen, “End of an Era: William Buffa Retires from the YMCA.” International Gymnast. August, 1984, p. 40.
Buffa’s Biographical Information Questionnaire, April, 2000.