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Telling the History of Claremore…one story at a time

This article was written by Claremore Museum of History Board of Directors Chairman, Steve Robinson on May 7, 2023.

Who needs a Professor Harold Hill when you are blessed with a Professor Jerry Lingenfelter?   Claremore lost a treasure with the passing of this man who impacted so many students lives down through the years.  He will be remembered for his loyalty, his sense of humor, and his love of music, which enriched the lives of our entire community.

Jerry was born on September 29, 1935, in Claremore, Oklahoma, to Ralph Howard and Jessie Isabell (Webb) Lingenfelter.   He graduated from Claremore High School in 1954, and then from the University of the Ozarks in Clarksville, Arkansas with a Bachelor of Music Education. While in college, he met Latricia Ann Voss.  They feel in love and were married in 1959. In 1967, he received an M.A. in Music Education from the University of Tulsa.

After teaching vocal and instrumental music in Siloam Springs, Arkansas, for three years, Jerry returned to Claremore, where he taught elementary, junior high, and high school music for 27 years. Countless trips to band festivals, college bowl games and marching in Claremore Homecoming Parades were standard practice for Claremore’s version of Professor Harold Hill who insisted on excellence in every performance under his direction.

Jerry came out of retirement to begin and lead the band program at Justice-Tiawah Public Schools for five years. Known for receiving superior ratings 18 consecutive years and remembering scores of students by name, he was proud that many of his students themselves became music educators.

In 2016, Jerry was instrumental to the Claremore Museum of History when we started working on our Claremore Public School Exhibit.   The museum wanted to highlight the fine arts portion of CPS history, and Jerry was all in on the idea.   I remember the trip to his and Latricia’s home to go through all of his band memorabilia.   He had enough items that he could have started his own museum!   Jerry was more than happy to loan items to the MoH for us to display.

If you think the story ends there, well you would be mistaken.   For most music professors it probably would have.   But just like Professor Harold Hill couldn’t leave Gary, Indiana in the movie, The Music Man, Jerry’s efforts to help the Claremore Museum of History didn’t’ end with loaning his items.   His pride in both the museum, as well as the history behind all of the memories he helped shape were important to him to be shared.   And just like the precision of his marching band’s lines or the requirement that every instrument was playing in tune and with the right rhythm, Jerry insisted that the school music display at the museum stay in perfect order.  

You see, one of the items Jerry provided to the museum was his personal trumpet.  It is front and center in the display case.   Long after the exhibit opened and as regular as clockwork, Jerry would show up at the museum to check in with our staff.   He was there to polish his trumpet.   He never missed a beat and kept his trumpet as shiny in our display case of the museum as it was the very first day he took it out of its case.

How do you replace a Professor Jerry Lingenfelter?   You don’t…but you can celebrate his life, the lives he touched and you can hum the marching band song, “76Trombones Led the Big Parade” or perhaps Jerry’s version “As the Zebras Go Galloping On” when you think of him.

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