DR. JERRE FREEMAN
April 7, 1933 - September 3, 2023
Jerre Minor Freeman, 90, died September 3, 2023. Born in Memphis on April 7, 1933, to Izma Minor and Cecil Dupuy Freeman, he grew up in Whitehaven in a family which valued faith, service to others, education, and hard work. He graduated from Whitehaven High School in 1951 and Auburn University in 1955. He served as a Naval Aviator until he entered UT Medical School in Memphis in 1959. After his internship and residency in Memphis, he was selected for the prestigious Heed Fellowship in Ophthalmology to the Howe Laboratory of Ophthalmology at Harvard's Mass Eye and Ear Infirmary. After completing two fellowships in Boston, he became fascinated with the then highly controversial new lens implantation technique coming out of England and Europe. After studying under Sir Harold Ridley in England and Cornelius Binkhorst in The Netherlands, he became a pioneer in lens implantation cataract surgery and other advanced eye surgery techniques. Recognizing how hard pioneering and innovation of new techniques in medicine can be, he established the Sir Harold Ridley lectureship at the University of Tennessee College of Medicine to encourage perseverance and creativity in medicine.
He, along with Dr. Tom Gettelfinger, was Founder of the Memphis Eye and Cataract Associates' Outpatient Surgical Center (MECA), the first center of its kind in Tennessee, as well as a founding member of the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery. He was a clinical professor of ophthalmology at UT, was president of the Memphis Medical Society, and president of the American Board of Eye Surgery. He traveled extensively to Mexico, Africa, China, India, Pakistan, South America, and Central America, lecturing and sharing his medical expertise. These travels inspired his founding in 1978 of the World Cataract Foundation, a charitable, non-profit organization whose ongoing mission is to end cataract blindness in the world through surgery, training, and equipping. Jerre was passionate that "where there is no vision, the people perish" (Proverbs 29:18), and his work both at MECA and with the World Cataract Foundation evidenced his belief in this Proverb in its figurative and literal meaning. Jerre's vision for the World Cataract Foundation continues to bear fruit, as the lives of countless individuals locally and abroad are impacted by sight restoring surgeries.
An innovator, Jerre held over 20 patents for various aids in eye surgery. Royalties from these inventions went back into research, development, and funding of the over 120 mission trips led by Jerre throughout his lifetime. He was inducted into the Society of Entrepreneurs in Memphis for his work.
A former deacon and elder at Idlewild Presbyterian Church, Jerre was a person of faith, and his faith informed how he lived his life. He had an innate spiritual desire to see healing, cooperation, and peace among countries and people and became the first White person to join the Bluff City Medical Society for Black physicians. He enjoyed decades of friendship with this group and initiated an annual picnic to bring together members of both the Bluff City Medical Society and the Memphis Medical Society at the family's farm.
Recognizing what a fine education had done for him and troubled by failing schools in Memphis, Jerre supported Charlie McVean's Peer Power tutoring program by helping fund the program at his alma mater, Whitehaven. With the enthusiastic support of Dr. Vincent Hunter, Whitehaven principal, the program was an enormous success with over ninety percent of students now graduating and with well over a billion dollars of scholarships offered in the last 15 years.
Jerre lived his life with purpose, enthusiasm, joy, and generosity. He was humbled to receive numerous awards in his lifetime, including the Daughters of the American Revolution Honor Medal, Person of Vision Award, Global Citizens Award presented by Al Gore, Tennessee Medical Association Physician of the Year Award, and the Dr. Henry Logan Starks Distinguished Service Award from the Memphis Theological Seminary, but his greatest delight has always been his family. He cherished his wife Anne and, acknowledging how important she was to him, frequently encouraged his children and grandchildren to "marry up" as he had done, and he never missed an opportunity to tell his family that he loved them "big time." Jerre was predeceased by his parents and a brother, Robert Webber Freeman, a sister, Lola Langdon, and infant daughter, Carol Anne Freeman. In addition to his beloved wife, Anne, of 67 years, he is survived by son Dr. James Freeman and his wife Dr. Lisa Myers and their children, Sarah, Kyle, and Caitlin; son Dr. John Freeman and his wife Dr. Kimberly Freeman and their children, Benjamin and Hannah; daughter Rev. Ashley Freeman Wright and her husband Rev. Mark Wright and their sons Ethan, Eliott, and Gabriel; and his brother C. Curtis Freeman and wife Jeanne.
The family is grateful to his dedicated caretakers, Ajaners Williamson, Rosa Broome, and Charlotte Maclin.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that any memorials be sent to the World Cataract Foundation, Peer Power, or charity of the donor's choice.
The funeral service will be Saturday, September 16, 2023, at 11:00 at Idlewild Presbyterian Church, 1750 Union Ave., Memphis, Tennessee 38104. A reception and time for sharing memories will be held immediately afterword at Idlewild.