Cover photo for Richard McKinley Renfro's Obituary
Richard McKinley Renfro Profile Photo

Richard McKinley Renfro

d. May 13, 2019

Richard McKinley Renfro died May 13, 2019 in Sylva, NC. He was 104 years old. He was born January 29, 1915 to Emma Dee and Richard Logan Renfro on the family farm in Harrison County, Missouri.

Richard began school at Liberty School, a one room school house. In second grade he rode his pony Old Dan to school. By third grade the family had moved to town, Bethany, Missouri where Richard lived until he graduated from high school. He and his future wife, Marian were classmates there.

Richard attended Park College in Parkville, near Kansas City, Missouri where he earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in music. In 1939, he earned his Master of Arts degree from the State University of Iowa in Iowa City. After a stint as a Chaplain’s Assistant in the Navy stationed in Shoemaker, California during World War II, Richard continued his education and earned his Doctor of Education degree from Columbia University in New York City.

After a year teaching at the University of Wyoming in Powell, Wyoming and another year with Davis and Elkins College in West Virginia, the Renfro family moved to Cullowhee in 1950. Richard worked in the music department at Western Carolina University for 30 years serving as head of the department for 15 years. He was church organist for Cullowhee Baptist Church 1950 – 51. Then he became Organist and Director of Music for the Cullowhee United Methodist Church for 15 years.

Richard enjoyed attending music concerts. He loved to travel and in his later years was a faithful participant in his exercise class at the Cardiac Rehabilitation Center at Harris Regional Hospital in Sylva.

Richard was preceded in death by his wife of 64 years, Marian Wightman Renfro and his daughter, Johana Dee Roberts and his sister Winifred Petralli. He is survived by his daughter Judith Margaret Ingle, his grandchildren Kelly Caines Buchanan, Gordon Robert Ingle, Richard Lee Ingle (Krista) and great grandchildren Lila and Lee Ingle.

The family wants to thank personnel at Harris Regional Hospital and Skyland Care Center, emergency team and transportation team, and special thanks to Cathy Jones.

Visitation will be Thursday, May 23, 5 – 7 PM at Appalachian Funeral Services in Sylva. Burial will be a family graveside service on Friday at Shepherd’s Memorial Park in Hendersonville.

In lieu of flowers donations may be made to the Renfro Music Education Scholarship Fund at Western Carolina University, Office of Advancement, 201 Robinson Building, Cullowhee, NC 28723.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Richard McKinley Renfro, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services


Thursday, May 23, 2019

5:00 - 7:00 pm (Eastern time)

Appalachian Funeral Services

165 Skyland Drive, Sylva, NC 28779

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