Travis Lee DeFreese

Published 3:52 pm Thursday, December 17, 2020

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Travis Lee DeFreese, 89, of Ruston, La., passed away Sunday, December 13, 2020 following a long illness.

Travis was born August 4, 1931 in West Monroe, Louisiana and attended Claiborne and Crosley Grammar Schools.  In 1950, he graduated from Ouachita Parish High School in Monroe, as part of the first class to complete 12 grades.  When the new Ouachita Parish High School opened, he was one of ten representatives chosen to personify outstanding students from all the previous student bodies at Ouachita.

Mr. DeFreese received a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Louisiana Tech University in 1954.  While at Tech, he served as Student Body President, President of the Sophomore, and Junior Classes, and also President of Kappa Sigma Fraternity, Epsilon Gamma Chapter.

Email newsletter signup

After graduation, he joined General Electric on a training program in Utica, New York and Fort Wayne, Indiana before entering the United States Air Force in December 1954.  He served two years at Myrtle Beach Air Force Base in South Carolina as a radar maintenance officer.  Upon discharge, Travis began his career as a Junior Engineer with Southern Bell Telephone Company in Shreveport, Louisiana.  (He planned to spend the rest of his life in the south where it was warm.)

After transferring to New Orleans, he was chosen as one of the five engineers in the Southern Bell region to attend an Operational Education and Training Program at Bell Labs in Murray Hill, New Jersey for 18 months.  While there, he co-authored an English paper which was presented at the IEEE Convention in New York City.  Later, Travis was assigned to AT&T in New York City for two years where he handled government communications and emergency reporting systems.  At that time, he also worked on special communications in the White House.  He also served as a member of the Public Fire Service Communications for New York City.

After two years, he chose to return to Louisiana, first serving as District Plant Manager for South Central Bell in Shreveport and later the Lafayette District, before transferring to Alabama as Birmingham District Manager and then N. Alabama District Manager for Bell South in Decatur, Alabama.  In 1993, he retired from the phone company and settled in Ruston, Louisiana to be near family.

Mr. DeFreese’s life was dedicated to public service.  Wherever he lived, he was active in the community, serving in the Jaycees, Kiwanis, and always in the Methodist church, participating fully.  Travis was willing to do whatever needed doing.  Serving others was his creed and no job was too insignificant for him to do cheerfully. He headed United Way campaigns in both LA and AL.  He was also a founding board member of the Live Oak Multi-Faith Retirement Center.

After his move to Ruston, Mr. DeFreese was a loyal Sunday School and choir member at Trinity United Methodist Church.  He chaired the Building Committee for two additions.  He participated in Friends of the Library,  received Kiwanis Club awards and was actively involved with the renovation of Dixie Center for the Arts.  He received the Russ Award in 2000.  He was a founding member of the Louisiana Tech University Foundation Board.  He also served as a long-time member of the Ruston Planning and Zoning Board, serving several terms as Chairperson.

As Travis liked to say, his life was built on a stable chair, a foundation with four legs: the first one, church and God; the second, family; the third, work, and after work came the community. He balanced his life on those four things.

Travis is preceded in death by his parents, Marvin and Azalea Shaw DeFreese, long-time West Monroe, Claiborne community residents; sister, Virginia Simmons and brother, Ragan C. DeFreese.

Left behind to cherish his memory are his wife, Clydia(Kitty) DeFreese, daughters Stephanie Walker(James) of Brewton, Alabama and Laura McKinney(Richard) of Ruston, Louisiana and son, Craig DeFreese(Alice) of Decatur, Alabama;  grandchildren, Leigh Walker, of Birmingham, Alabama, Gavin McKinney(Nina), of Birmingham, Alabama, Brady McKinney(Bailey), of Ruston, Louisiana, and Courtney McKinney,of Nashville, TN, and great-granddaughter, Celia Macrae Walker of Birmingham, Alabama.  He is also survived by two nephews and two nieces and their families, all of whom he treasured.

The family would like to express their sincere appreciation to Dr. Mark Blackwelder and Dr. George Smith for their continued care over the years and in the final days, Tender Touch Services for their care and compassion.

A private graveside service will be held at Kilpatrick Cemetery, West Monroe, on Thursday, December 17, 2020.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to  Louisiana Tech Foundation, Travis and Clydia DeFreese Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 3183, Ruston, LA  71272.