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Obituaries - Fall 2020

Josephine Wyndham Freede

April 1, 1927–Sept. 3, 2020

Longtime philanthropist Jose Freede, beloved for her generosity, charm, and wit, died after a short illness. She was a native of Plymouth, England, and became a U.S. citizen in 1954.

She valued education and healthy living, contributing to many endowed chairs and scholarships, including at Oklahoma City University’s Meinders School of Business and the Kramer School of Nursing. OCU awarded Freede an honorary doctor of humanities and letters in 2000.

She gave her first gift to the university in 1990 for the former Mardi Gras Ball (now Awards of Excellence). She helped establish the Henry James Freede Wellness Center and established the Henry James Freede Professorship for Teaching Excellence in the Meinders School of Business with a $1 million gift.

In 2006, Freede began providing support for the Kramer School of Nursing for scholarships and capital projects. She also supported the Marianne Vannatta Race with the Stars scholarship fundraising event. She received the OCU Societies Norick Hulsey Gallery Society Award in 1996.


Freede received her Chartered Society of Physiotherapy degree before training at the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopedic Hospital in England. She met her late husband, Henry, an orthopedic surgeon, at the hospital. She came to the U.S. in 1950, and they married in New York City. The couple then returned to Oklahoma City. They built their home in Edgemere Heights in 1953, and Jose Freede insisted on installing a commercial-sized air conditioner after enduring the heat of Oklahoma summers. She lived in that home until she passed away.

Freede was proud to be a resident of her adopted state of Oklahoma. She and her husband donated to numerous state and local causes, including the dome on the State Capitol and the bridge in Bricktown. Freede also established the Henry J. Freede Liver Clinic at Baptist Integris Hospital and gave to Mercy Hospital, St. Anthony Hospital, and others.

In addition, Freede was philanthropic to the arts. During the 70th anniversary of the Oklahoma City Orchestra League, Freede was honored at the Maestro’s Ball for her service to the league and the Oklahoma City Philharmonic. She also donated to the renovation of local theaters and supported various fundraisers for the arts and education.

She also took a great interest in politics. She served as the first president of Oklahoma City Republican Women’s Club and founder of the Oklahoma Chapter of Freedom Foundation at Valley Forge, chartered in 1978. She was the first president of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Center Museum’s Docent Council and received the NCWH and Annie Oakley Society Lifetime Achievement Award.

Harvey Smith Mercer Jr.

Dec. 7, 1923–March 23, 2020

Harvey Smith Mercer Jr. was born and raised near Wheatland, Oklahoma, lived his adult life in Oklahoma City, and passed away of natural causes.

Mercer (BS Business ’49) was the oldest OCU business school alumnus before he died.

He served in the U.S. Navy from 1941 to 1945, stationed first at South Base in Norman and later in Pearl Harbor, where he served at CINCPAC headquarters working for Admiral Nimitz. He was proud of his service and, being a gifted storyteller, told many thrilling stories about his World War II experiences. He met many of his lifelong friends while in the Navy.

Mercer loved living in Oklahoma, and as an avid historian, he delighted in telling about growing up on a farm and about his grandparents’ contributions to early Oklahoma City. He was a successful insurance agent from 1960 until he retired at age 89. His business took him all over the state, where he made many friends.

Donald G. Brown

Aug. 27, 1933–Aug. 8, 2020

Donald G. Brown, born in Geary, Oklahoma, served as Oklahoma City University’s baseball coach from 1976 to 1981 and led the university to a 181–126 record. In 1977, Brown led OCU to a 39–15 mark as the Chiefs set program records by hitting 52 home runs and striking out 232 batters.

Brown oversaw significant steps in the program’s development, including renovations to OCU’s baseball facility and the start of the construction of the C.R. Sutton Baseball Complex, OCU’s indoor hitting facility. He was an assistant to head basketball coach Paul Hansen for four years.

“The Oklahoma City University baseball program would not have the national respect and prestige it has today without Don Brown,” Coach Denney Crabaugh said. “He and his teams brought the program into the national spotlight. He was a great coach but more importantly, a great man who loved baseball and his players. He was a good friend, and we had many conversations over the years talking baseball and OCU. I will miss him and those conversations.”

Brown coached high school and college baseball for 41 years. He directed his teams to a 828–359 record. OCU inducted Brown into its Athletics Hall of Fame in 1993.

“I like coaching baseball more than anything else I’ve done,” Brown told The Oklahoman upon his retirement from coaching at age 69. “I enjoy getting out in the field in the sun and wind. I love teaching baseball.”

Brown coached basketball for 22 years and served as a football official for the Southwest Conference for 15 years. He competed in baseball and basketball at the University of Central Oklahoma.

Elizabeth Ann Hedrick

Feb. 13, 1944–June 24, 2020

Elizabeth Ann Hedrick was born in Camden, Arkansas, to Maurice William “Sully” and Evelyn L. Sullenberger. She was a former associate vice president for administrative services at Oklahoma City University.

In 1967, Elizabeth married her childhood friend, Walter Evan Hedrick. Their happiest adventure was raising their daughter, Shelle, born in 1979.

Hedrick focused on helping others through her family, profession, and community. Liz and Walt were house parents for the first juvenile shelter in the state. When Hedrick received Oklahoma’s first Emergency Teaching Certificate, her lifelong career in education began. She founded the first preschool daycare for children with special needs in McAlester; taught in Pauls Valley, Midwest City, and Norman; served as Norman schools’ director of personnel; and worked for OCU for 15 years. Hedrick was an innovator and motivator dedicated to giving people opportunities to be their best.

In retirement, she focused on volunteering, serving on The Christmas Store board and making more than 100 baby blankets every year for families in need.

Hedrick was passionate about the mission of Bridges of Norman, a nonprofit serving high school students in family crises by providing housing and support services so they could pursue their education without obstacles.

Dato’ Dr. Choong Tuck Yew

Sept. 26, 1938–May 20, 2020

Dato’ Dr. Choong Tuck Yew earned an MBA from Oklahoma City University’s Kuala Lumpur program in 1995 and was awarded an honorary doctor of commercial science in 1999. An accountant by trade, he became an influential member of the Malaysian business community. Among his many accomplishments was becoming chief manager for the Central Bank of Malaysia.

Dato’ Dr. Choong was appointed to the board of directors of Poh Kong Holdings Berhad as an independent non-executive director in 2004 at the age of 76. He was promoted to senior independent non-executive director in 2005.

He was a chartered member of the Malaysian Institute of Accountants and a member of the Malaysian Institute of Certified Public Accountants. He was also a fellow of the CPA Australia, a fellow of the Malaysian Association of the institute of Chartered secretaries and Administrators, a fellow of the Chartered Taxation institute of Malaysia, and a chartered fellow and chartered audit committee director of the Institute of Internal Auditors, Malaysia.

In the early years of his career, Dato’ Dr. Choong worked as an accountant in several companies. In 1968, he joined Bank Negara Malaysia (Central Bank of Malaysia) and, in 1987, was appointed as the chief manager of the Central Bank of Malaysia. In 1990, he was seconded as the managing director of Visia Finance Berhad, a finance company. He was later the deputy chairman of a private investigation company.

His other business interests included directorships at UOB Asset Management (Malaysia) Berhad, and SCC Holdings Bhd. Dato’ Dr. Choong was a council member of the World Association of Detectives and a life member of the International Professional Security Association and Asian Professional Security Association. He had been a guest speaker at various conferences in Malaysia as well as abroad.

In 2014, he was conferred the Darjah indera Mahkota Pahang, which carries the title of Dato’.

John Sawyer

March 21, 1971–May 10, 2020

Oklahoma City University musical theater alumnus John Sawyer (BM ’93) made his Broadway debut in the Frank Wildhorn musical “The Civil War,” recorded a solo album titled “The Real Me,” and worked as a real estate agent in Tulsa, his hometown.

John Bedford, dean of the Ann Lacy School of American Dance and Entertainment, remembered Sawyer as talented, generous, and respected.

OCU’s American Spirit Dance Company collaborated with the Oklahoma City Philharmonic for Yuletide Festival in about 2000, working with Sawyer as a guest star. Both a singer and dancer, Sawyer performed “Singin’ in the Snow” to the music of “Singin’ in the Rain.” A star of the original movie “Singin’ in the Rain,” Donald O’Connor, was friends with Bedford and Professor Jo Rowan, writer and director of the show.

“John was always concerned about the quality of his performances,” Bedford recalled. Before one of the performances, Bedford told him O’Connor would be attending.

“That night, John delivered one of his best performances of ‘Singin’ in the Snow,’” Bedford said. “As he struck his final pose, he looked up at the box were Donald and his wife, Gloria, were seated to see Donald standing and giving him an enthusiastic double thumbs-up!”

Danny Charles Masters

Dec. 15, 1943–Feb. 25, 2020

Danny Charles Masters was born in Olestee, Oklahoma, to RB and Betty Ruth Masters.

He graduated salutatorian of his Duke High School class of 1962 and later attended Oklahoma City University on a Great Plan Scholarship, graduating with a philosophy degree in 1967.

Masters learned the value of hard work as a teen working for his family’s custom harvesting business. In 1969, he joined the U.S. Marine Corps, achieving the rank of captain and serving in Cuba.

After his service, he served as commissioner of health at the Oklahoma State Department of Health. He also managed a family-owned business, the University Park Apartments in Weatherford.

Masters married Elaine Roubik in 1982, together raising teenagers, a new role for Masters, which he loved. (Roubik was the inaugural dean of the Kramer School of Nursing.)

In 1986, Masters’ entrepreneurism kicked in as co-owner/operator of the Indy 1500 Gun and Knife Show in Indianapolis. Together, he and his business partner and loyal friend celebrated their 150th trade show last year where many lifelong friendships were made.

Masters served 25 years as a board member for the Oklahoma Foundation for the Disabled, on the OCU alumni board, and as a scholarship contributor for the Kramer School of Nursing. He was an avid fan and donor to the Lyric Theater. Danny was a member of Faith Bible Church.

He married Dianna Giles in 2005, both having lost spouses to cancer.

Our Condolences

1940s

Harvey S. Mercer (’49)

1950s

Carl Don Manning (’51)

Charles D. Neal (’53)

Genie A. Tumilty (’53)

Wilbur E. Thorsen (’55)

Kenneth L. Kofoed (’56)

Jess J. Smethers (’56)

Martha Proctor (’56)

Wayne E. Schooley (’56)

Lyle G. Ambler (’57)

Giles E. Gere (’58)

William K. Stone (’58)

Eudenea B. Newcomb (’59)

1960s

Clair F. Jones (’60)

Coye G. Bray (’61)

Eugene T. Cox (’61)

Willis P. McCoy (’62)

Michael H. Christy (’63)

Billy Jayne Granger (Deaton) (’65, ’69)

Eldon D. Lyon (’65)

John T. Ivester (’65)

Joel C. Bernard (’65)

John W. McGaw (’67)

Bob G. Bates (’67)

Danny C. Masters (’67)

Ronald L. Buckelew (’68)

Leroy W. Kitch (’69)

1970s

James A. Huff (’70)

James C. Brant (’70)

Robert R. Kurz (’70)

Lewis E. Childress (’71)

Richard D. Cato (’71)

Harold J. Collins (’75)

William D. Putnam (’75)

Robert A. Forbes (’75)

William W. Gorden (’75)

Lucy A. McKenzie (’77)

Patrick C. Jackson (’77)

Edward W. Dzialo (’78)

Rickey P. Andrews (’79)

Frank Bourland (’79)

John D. McDermott (’79)

Daniel T. Sprouse (’79)

1980s

Phyllis D. Walta (’80)

Robert F. Lower (’80)

Tommy Duncan (’81)

Walter Gaidaroff (’81)

Eric G. Melders (’82)

Robert N. Naifeh (’83)

Thomas E. Batista (’84)

Richard T. Waddingham (’85)

Evelyn A. Reiss (’85)

Donald K. Keen (’87)

Randy P. Conner (’87)

John L. Jeter (’89)

1990s

Richard B. Douglass (’90)

Juanita P. Mithlo (’90)

Georgia Pitts (’91)

Mary Adjei (’93)

Mary K. Kunc (’94)

Barry N. Hollis (’95)

Fang Yan (’99)

Sonja R. Porter (’99)

2000s

Paul A. Foster (’00)

John R. Pevehouse (’04)

Steven N. Hall (’07)

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