Springfield community leader Jerry Redfern, 84, dies

Jerry Redfern/Musgrave Foundation

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (Edited News Release) -- The Springfield community is mourning the loss of Jerry Lee Redfern.

He was 84-years-old.

Redfern served as the manager for the Musgrave Foundation, the Roy W. Slusher Foundation, the Heuer Foundation, and directed the David D. Lewis Trust. His commitment and passion for ensuring communities and their people thrive is well-known and celebrated. Redfern’s influence will live on through his spirit of generosity and example of leadership.

“Jerry’s leadership has been very important to the Musgrave Foundation’s service to the community, true to it’s founder, Jeanette Musgrave’s vision and intent," Rob Baird, chairman of the Musgrave Foundation Grant Committee, stated. "He has always kept the notion of care for those who need a helping hand at the forefront of the foundation‘s giving. He did this with joy, grace and wisdom! He truly enjoyed the role, and was very good at it!”

Redfern championed efforts for community funding and projects supported by the foundations he managed. Through community representation and engagement with various agencies and their boards, grant application review and fund disbursement, and event/project oversight, Redfern helped to bring positive change to the Ozarks.

“Jerry was beloved by the non-profit community due to his generous personality, his warmth, and his humble spirit. I am grateful to have known him as a colleague, and a friend. A bright light has gone out in our community and region, but his legacy will last for many years to come,” expressed Brian Fogle, Community Foundation of the Ozarks president.

Under the guidance of Redfern, millions of grant dollars have been distributed from these foundations to support hundreds of different agencies, in addition to tens of thousands of dollars awarded in scholarship money. Construction of public spaces such as the Musgrave Foundation’s Max Jahn Depot in Grant Beach Park, Springfield, and the Slusher Foundation’s Fishing with Charlie Campbell permanent exhibit at the White River Valley Historical Society Museum in Forsyth has also been important to the foundations’ missions. Redfern was an enthusiastic, solution-driven leader who brought organizations and people together to take action and change lives.

“My life has been shaped by the good people I have come to know, and Jerry was at the top of the list," former Springfield mayor Tom Carlson noted. "No matter what the situation, he always found a way to do the right thing.”

Redfern attended Forsyth, Mo. Public Schools and graduated from high school in 1953. He then attended Drury College and received his bachelor’s degree in music in 1957. While in college, Redfern performed with L.D. Keller and the Promenaders on the nationally televised, Ozark Jubilee. He traveled with the Promenaders all over the United States and Canada while they performed with country music stars of the time such as Gene Autry and Red Foley. Redfern received his law degree from Washington University in St. Louis in 1961. He served as the law clerk to Judge Randall Webber of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri before joining Neale, Newman, Bradshaw and Freeman law firm (currently The Law Firm of Neale & Newman) in 1962, where he spent his entire legal career. Redfern served as president of the Springfield Metropolitan Bar Association and in 2000 was honored with its Distinguished Attorney Award. He handled many cases on a pro bono basis for the then Legal Aid of Southwest Missouri and in 1994, received their Pro Bono Award. In 1995, he was presented with the Pro Bono Publico Award from the Missouri Bar, in recognition of all the cases he had handled for low income clients. Redfern went on to serve on the Board of Legal Aid, including several years as president.

“Jerry was very instrumental in my development as an attorney, as he was to so many attorneys at Neale & Newman. Jerry always tried to do what was best for our firm, notably helping create the family atmosphere of which our firm is so proud and leading our firm into the direction it is currently postured," commented Paul White, partner, The Law Firm of Neale & Newman.

Redfern was also very active in other worthwhile causes such as past president of the Developmental Center of the Ozarks f/k/a the Cerebral Palsy Center, past president of the Springfield Park Board and a former United Way campaign chairman. In 2007, he received the Tom Cochran Community Service Award from the Missouri Bar and the Distinguished Alumnus Award from Drury University. Redfern has served as an elder, deacon, and trustee of the Presbyterian Church and loved to sing in his church choir.Redfern lived in Springfield with his wife, Spencer, who brought great joy into his life. He had known her since his days as a student at Drury College, where he met his first wife, Jeanne, to whom he was married for more than 50 years, and who passed away in 2012.