In Memoriam

In Memoriam

Dylan Donine, Staff Writer


Russell Charles Reefer Jr., known as Mr. Reefer to countless music students for over 32 years, fought a tough battle with cancer for the past six years. Unfortunately, on Saturday, October 4, 2014, Mr. Reefer passed. It’s a shame that the world has to keep turning without people like Mr. Reefer in it, but every lesson he taught and all the fun memories he left behind make it impossible to forget that he was ever here. His legacy will live on in our hearts forever.

I had the opportunity to attend the spaghetti benefit dinner that was held for Mr. Reefer a few weeks before he passed. His daughter and his wife were there, standing next to a laptop that was being used to let the guests talk to him through Skype since he could not be there, as he was in the hospital. Everyone there was so excited to talk to him, and I’m extremely glad I worked up the nerve to go speak to him. He told me something I will never forget: “Success isn’t success; failure is success because you learn from it.” I was astounded at the fact that he was still teaching, even in the last days of his life. I told him how much I appreciated everything he taught me, and that he was the reason music impacts my life so much today. That was the last time I saw and spoke to him, and I left there that day at a complete loss for words.

I attended Mr. Reefer’s viewing and funeral, and it was one of the most spiritual and emotional experiences of my life. He left a very powerful message behind, and that was to “get out of the boat”. The whole meaning behind that statement goes along with the bible story Matthew 14: 22-23. This is the story that tells of the time when Jesus walked across a lake while approaching his disciples that were in a boat on the water. Peter was the only one of Jesus’ disciples brave enough to approach Jesus by also walking on water, but he started to sink as he became fearful, and Jesus saved him. Mr. Reefer wanted people to take a chance, trust Jesus, and “get out of the boat.”  Basically, through the service, I interpreted that Mr. Reefer wanted people to trust God enough to be fearless in the start of their journey with Him, and “getting out of the boat” is the only way to start that journey.

In a section of Mr. Reefer’s obituary, it states “Mr. Reefer was known for his musical talent and his ability to play a wide range of instruments. He was also known for his sense of humor, his fun but determined teaching style and his ability to motivate and encourage students to do their best in music, school and life”. That describes him perfectly. The vibes he gave off and the aura that surrounded him, made you feel welcome and joyful, bad day or not. He impacted many people’s lives, and I’m so thankful to have been one of them. He loved his students, and his students loved him.

Redbank Valley alumni and current Redbank students who were lucky enough to have had Mr. Reefer as a teacher put together a concert that was held on Sunday, November 16th 2014 in honor of his memory. Mrs. McIntire spoke about the event and stated, “He did so much for so many people. This was seen as something we can do as a tribute to him and in honor of his legacy.”  It began at 3 p.m. in the Redbank Valley High School Auditorium. Admission was a requested donation of $3.00, and all proceeds went to the family of Mr. Reefer for outstanding expenses incurred from his care. Both choir and band students performed various songs at the concert, including many tunes that Mr. Reefer himself really enjoyed.