Jackie Confer, 1944-2003

Jackie Confer of Rockford passed away at 8:03 a.m. Monday, Dec. 29, 2003, at her home. She was 59.

At a memorial service Jan. 3 at Third Presbyterian Church, family, friends and colleagues remembered Confer for her tremendous sense of humor, her passion for the community, her dedication to Rockford, and her warm and caring personality.

During a time of sharing and remembering at the memorial service, a former colleague mentioned that Confer was probably the only person to have been “yelled at” by two Rockford mayors (Doug Scott was not one of them). Since Confer and both mayors were driven by the same passion, it wasn’t really yelling, but more frustration, the colleague said.

The avid Cubs fan who called her grandson after every Sammy Sosa home run will probably be best recognized within the community as the president of the only school board in Rockford’s history to have the courage to close schools in an attempt to save money.

In February 1989, despite intense resistance and death threats against her family, Confer oversaw a school board that adopted a reorganization plan called “Together Toward a Brighter Tomorrow,” which authorized the closing of 10 schools, including West High School. The plan ultimately resulted in 13 years of court desegregation battles and millions of dollars in legal fees.

Confer was driven by her passion and a belief that Rockford could be a better place. She served as past president of Haight School PTO, was co-founder of Education Forum, co-founder of Legislation, Education and Direction (LEAD), and was a volunteer for the 1983 school referendum. She was a member of the Rockford School Board from 1985 until 1992, including two terms as president in 1989 and 1990. Confer was also co-chairman of the 1992 Rockford Gun Buy Back Program, was a founding member of Women Electing Women (an organization that promoted women in local government), was the creator and co-founder of the Sara Ingrassia Dictionary Fund, volunteered at St. Patrick’s Food Pantry, and was a founding member of Forest City 2000 Investment Club.

Confer was born July 7, 1944, to Hawley and Viola (Mitchell) Pinkley. She graduated from West High School in 1962 and received an associate’s degree from Kansas City Junior College. She was owner of Confer Landscaping.

Confer is survived by her husband, Gary, of Rockford; her children, Kristian (Charlotte) Confer, Meredith (David) Paterson, and Graham Confer; grandchildren Jacob and Allison Paterson, Garrett Confer and Madalyne and Payton (Duffy) Confer; brother Lee (Betty) Pinkley; and many friends. She was predeceased by her parents.

The family requests donations be made to Sara Ingrassia Dictionary Fund, Box 589, Rockford, IL 61105; or St. Patrick Food Pantry, 2505 School St., Rockford, IL 61101.

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