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Eulogy: Richard L. Jefferson

Richard Lee Jefferson
Photo Credit: Family of Richard Jefferson

A Eulogy for

A Eulogy for Richard L. Jefferson

May 9th, 1960 – January 6th, 2024

My family and I thank you for coming to celebrate my father’s Life. Especially those of you who traveled far to join us. I also want to thank everyone that has reached out to offer condolences and respect to our father that could not be here.

Richard Lee Jefferson was born in 1960, to Robert Jefferson and Catherine Jefferson. He grew up here on the Southern Ute Reservation with his siblings Robbi Mann and Robert Jefferson. A son, father, brother, uncle, grandfather are just a few of the things he was.

He had four loves in his life, his family, his community, basketball, and knowledge.

His four loves started and evolved from a very young age.

He had so much love for his family and would do anything for them. Family meant everything to him. One of his favorite ways to show his love was to pass on knowledge. Whether it was a 30-minute rant about different ways to cook eggs, different stories of the coyote trickster or different Indigenous history. His love language was passing on knowledge, no matter what it was about, if he knew about something, he wanted to share it. I am sure all family members, friends and many community members can remember a time of hearing his stories or moments of him passing on what knowledge he wanted to share. As a kid, I didn’t always want to sit and listen to the stories, but I knew it meant a lot to him and I learned to love the knowledge he was passing to me.

Throughout his upbringing, he was a very ambitious and determined individual. He took extreme value in his education and his community. This showed through his achievements of becoming the youngest tribal member to be elected to Tribal council, (at the time). He then served as director of the Southern Ute Education Dept. From there, he then moved on to becoming the Executive Director of the largest nonprofit organization in the four corners area, (at the time). Every job he took, he wanted to make an impact, he wanted to help his community.

His love for basketball started as a child as well, always excelling in basketball all through high school. That passion never faded as he would later run up and down the courtside coaching youth AAU. I can hear him now, yelling “BOOM” every time someone made a 3-pointer, and that was a lot because we liked shooting 3’s, haha. He took pride in his coaching, his AAU team was named, K.U.T.E. (Kids United in Team Excellence). He brought together young ladies from all towns around and from our sister tribe, Ute Mountain Utes. His goal was to not only help our team excel on the court but off the court as well. He wanted to see all youth excel in life.

His passion for knowledge continued throughout his life as well. He wanted to educate and spread indigenous presence and knowledge to other Natives and non-natives. His passion for this led him into plays, one where he moved his family to Denver to star in a play as Chief Ouray and producing and putting on his own play in Ignacio, called the “Eye Juggler”. He loved production. In his later years, he went back to college to continue his education, earning an A.A. in Art in Human Services, a B.A. in Southwest Studies with a minor in Anthropology and was working on an MFA in Film/documentary Production from Hofsta University in New York. He wanted to produce a documentary about the Southern Ute Tribe. He pressed education to all youth he crossed paths with. He is the reason why I am pursuing my PhD now. He challenged me to see who would get their PhD first. His competitive side will still be pushing my completion and now I will have to finish it, just to say I won, haha.

Despite his later years of battling with alcoholism. My father was a very influential person in our family, for his kids and the community for a long time. It is because of him my brother and I love our community so much and we would do anything for our family. My brother and I embody different parts of him and that is the beauty, together we are what our dad was.

After his father and mother passed, Aunt Misty and Uncle Jim, you guys were his center, his rock, and grounded him when he needed it, he hated to disappoint you, you both meant so much to him. Thank you for being that for him. To Aunt Robbi, you were his protection and his heart’s comfort, no matter what he would always listen to you. You meant the world to him. To Uncle Robert, though you guys had your differences, he truly did love you from the bottom of his heart. To all his nieces and nephews, you were his happiness, there is not one time could talk about memories with you that he wouldn’t cry tears of happiness, reminiscing.

In closing I want to share two of his favorite quotes with you, “You will miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” and “There is more than one way to the top of the mountain”.

My brother and I are honored to be his children.

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