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Dr. LeRoy J. Kaufman

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Dr. LeRoy James Kaufman, 75, Freeman, S.D., died Sunday, June 2, 2019 at Freeman Regional Health Services after suffering a heart attack.

LeRoy was born March 13, 1944 in Yankton, S.D. to Sollie and Nellie (Preheim) Kaufman. He grew up on the family farm southwest of Marion, S.D. and graduated from Marion High School in 1962. He attended Freeman Junior College in Freeman for two years before moving on to Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind., where he received his master’s degree in optometry in 1968.

While attending Indiana University, he met fellow classmate Dawn Crocker. They married March 23, 1968 and moved to Freeman to begin their optometry practice. They cared for patients at their clinics in Freeman, Parker, S.D. and Parkston, S.D. for 38 years before retiring in 2006. During their careers, LeRoy and Dawn worked in numerous capacities for the betterment of optometry, serving in leadership roles for the South Dakota Optometric Society, the North Central States Optometric Council and the American Optometric Association. Working together, as they did at their practice, they co-authored a chapter on children and adolescent care in An Optometrist’s Guide to Clinical Ethics, published in 2000 by the American Optometric Association.

They both received an award for distinguished service from the South Dakota Optometric Society in 2007.

He was elected as a representative from what was then District 14, serving Hutchinson and parts of Turner and Douglas counties, to the South Dakota State Legislature in 1972 and served until 1976. He worked extensively in local civic organizations, such as the Freeman Community Development Corporation and the Freeman Community Foundation, taking special interest in economic development and strengthening local health care services.

He was a lifelong and active member of Salem-Zion Mennonite Church, where he enjoyed worshiping with family, friends and patients, both as part of the congregation and a member of the men’s and chancel choirs, among many other roles.

After Dawn’s death in 2007 he continued to live at the rural Freeman home they renovated and lived in together until he moved to Freeman in 2017. He remained an active part of the community, volunteering to drive local residents to doctor appointments, delivering for Meals on Wheels and working with the Freeman Community Foundation until his death. He was also a longtime participant in the M2 Prison Ministries program.

Throughout his life, LeRoy enjoyed following Indiana University athletics, cheering on the local men’s fast-pitch softball team, traveling to visit with distant family and friends, reading books on American history and studiously completing crossword puzzles. He cherished many friendships with former patients, employees, optometry colleagues and members of the community at large.

He is survived by two sons, Erik and David Kaufman, Freeman; a brother, Larry (Lois) Kaufman, Parker; a sister, Muriel Kaufman, Freeman; a niece, Angela (Ron) Kaufman, Canton, S.D.; and nephews Clayton (LeAnn) Kaufman, Marion, Karl Graber, Parker; and Kent (Kendra) Graber, Norman, Okla.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Sollie and Nellie, and his wife, Dawn.

A time of celebration was held at the Salem-Zion Mennonite Church Monday, June 10, with pastor Corey Miller officiating. Music was provided by the men’s choir, with Ruby Waltner on organ and Dan Graber on piano. 

Internment will be at the Salem-Zion Mennonite Cemetery at a later date.