|Please read the following regarding of one of Mississippi Opera's most prized Board Members |
| Barbara Herfurth Johnson Moffitt of Jackson, a longtime community arts activist, died of pancreatic cancer on Friday, August 24, at her brother's home in Osage Beach, MO. She was 75.|
Visitation will begin at 12 noon on Wednesday, August 29, at Wright and Ferguson Funeral Home on High Street, with the service following at 2 p.m. in the chapel there. The Rev. Dr. Ruth Wallace Black, director of pastoral services at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, will officiate.
A native of Eldon, MO, Mrs. Moffitt was the daughter of the late Matilda Haldiman Herfurth and Theodore R. Herfurth. She attended the Eldon Public Schools where she was active in all music activities and played piano, flute, oboe and violin. She also played organ for her church. She was a member of her high school honor society, editor of her high school newspaper and salutatorian of her class. She also served as auditor for the American Legion Girls' State.
After high school graduation, she attended William Woods College and Central Missouri State College – both on a music scholarship – and Radcliffe (night school) in journalism. She earned her baccalaureate degree cum laude at Belhaven College in Jackson.
In l952, she married John Harold White, Jr., and they had one son, John Harold White III, who died in 2003.
Mrs. Moffitt earned her law degree at the Mississippi College School of Law where she graduated cum laude. She was a member of the Mississippi State Bar and a charter member of the Mississippi Women Lawyers' Association. She was a former member of St. Andrew's Episcopal Cathedral.
Always involved in the community, Mrs. Moffitt was a member of the Jackson Symphony League and served as league secretary and chairman of the league's 1973 Odyssey Ball. She served as president of the Community Children's Theatre of Jackson and the Jackson Family Service Association and as a member of the board of the Mississippi Kidney Association.
She also was a member of the One O'Clock Club, the Holiday Club, the Serendipity Luncheon Club, the Mississippi Museum of Art, the Bridge Aunties, the University Club, Women in Art and the Women's Fund of the Greater Jackson Foundation. A past president of the Contemporary Drama Club, she was named "a volunteer of the year" by Goodwill Auxiliaries in 1992.
Mrs. Moffitt worked on the Mississippi Arts Festival from its inception as the Pops Plus and Maytime Mosaic in the late 60s. She served as co-chair, chair and advisor for the annual event and president and board member of the parent organization, the Mississippi Arts Festival, Inc.
Longtime friend Lois Clover said she was a part of the arts scene in Jackson since her college days at Belhaven.
"The Mississippi Arts Festival – which was staged at the coliseum/fairgrounds -- wrapped symphony, opera, theatre, art exhibitions and children's events into one package," Mrs. Clover said. "Barbara chaired one of our most spectacular festivals. She had an innate talent for handling contracts with performing artists and particular brilliance with artistic programming, fundraising and budgeting. Other volunteers were happy to follow her leadership."
But her love in the arts was opera. She began her volunteer career with the Mississippi Opera Association (then the Jackson Opera Guild) in 1958 as promotion chair and subsequently served as a member of the organization's board for many years. She was production director of the Mississippi Opera Company for nine years – during which the company did 22 productions. She also served as president of the Mississippi Opera Guild and as administrative director for the Opera Company for two years and as general manager of the company for two years.
The Mississippi Opera is a charter member of Opera America, an organization that provides a voice for opera in this country. Mrs. Moffitt represented the state organization for more than a decade at Opera America's annual meetings. She also was elected to the organization's Board of Directors, the first nonprofessional named to that body.
"For many years," said Richard B. Wilson, Jr., former president and board chairman of the Mississippi Opera Association, " Barbara served as the volunteer production manager of our company. It was she who was responsible for getting red cabbages (if needed for props) or a firing squad composed of prominent bankers, lawyers and businessmen to execute a tenor in the final scene of Tosca, " he said. " We could not have paid her enough to do what she did as a volunteer. Truly, Barbara was the backbone of the Mississippi Opera during its glory days."
Edwina Goodman, who performed in many productions during that period, said Barbara "was dedicated to doing whatever it took to present a performance equal to those of numerous larger companies.
"Having sung in several productions, I can say she was always the catalyst for the production. She was wonderful in making the lead singers, the chorus, the conductors, the stage managers and the members of the orchestra feel that they were doing something truly enlightening and important for the community," Mrs. Goodman said.
Mrs. Moffitt also was a member of the board of Friends of the Arts in Mississippi, the support organization of the Mississippi Arts Commission, and served as its executive director for two years. She was chosen for listing in Who's Who in America and Who's Who in Arts Entertainment for her contributions to the arts.
Mrs. Moffitt had a wide circle of friends, among them Jay Wiener who as a young professional moved next door to Barbara and her husband, Dr. Sam Johnson, whom she married in 1982. Wiener said:
"High among my good fortune in life is that of moving next door to Barbara and Sam Johnson, shortly after graduating from law school, in my 20s. Any fear that adulthood is marked by dull conformity was allayed by Barbara and Sam's example.
"They were cultured, intelligent, and pragmatic, with puckish senses of humor, rivaling any experienced at college," Wiener said. " We were devoted neighbors from the outset, and I cherish Barbara's model; given her commitment to the community's cultural health; her progressive passion to make the world a better place; and her unwillingness to suffer fools gladly, when to do so is acquiescence in low expectations, in a world in which short term considerations increasingly eclipse community health and progress."
Dr. Johnson, who was chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, died in a white water rafting accident in 2000. Barbara married Dr. Ellis Moffitt, a retired allergist, in 2001. He died in 2004.
In addition to her love for the arts, Barbara's passion was for animals – especially her standard poodle, Cara. She is survived by her brother, James T. Herfurth; her nephew, Matt Herfurth, his wife, Jeane, and their children, Abbey and Grace, all of Osage Beach, MO; niece, Kimberly Herfurth-Ayscue of Raleigh, NC, and her children Michael and Andrew Boyle of Tallahassee, FL; stepchildren, Margaret Sudduth of Jackson, Alice Johnson of Jackson, Dr. Lee Johnson of Ft. Worth, TX, Dr. Virginia Crawford of Hattiesburg, and Dr. John Moffitt of Madison; ten step grandchildren; and her beloved poodle, Cara.
Friends named as honorary pallbearers include R. James Young, Dr. D. E. Magee, Dr. C. J. Chen, Joe Harris, Richard B. Wilson, Jr., Mueller Addkison, Charles Daley, E. Grady Jolly, Jr., and Dr. Don Mitchell, all of Jackson.
Memorials may be made to the Mississippi Opera, the Mississippi Animal Rescue League or a charity of choice.
Published in the Clarion Ledger on 8/28/2007.