The death of Barnett “Bud” Rosenfield is being felt all across Minnesota. Rosenfield, Minnesota’s Ombudsman for Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities, died suddenly and unexpectedly of a heart attack July 8. He was 57 years old.
Rosenfield had served as ombudsman since December 2021. He was appointed to the post with a long record of committed service to Minnesotans with disabilities. His office released a tribute, stating: “ . . . his impact on our office, staff, clients, and stakeholders was immeasurable. While his time as ombudsman was far too brief, his advocacy career as a champion of the rights of people with disabilities spanned decades. He was dogged in his efforts to promote and enforce the rights, community inclusion, and informed choice of people with all types of disabilities . . . The world is a bit dimmer without you in it, Bud, but your legacy lives on as we continue your efforts promoting justice, inclusion, dignity, and choice for people with disabilities.”
Many other tributes poured in, from elected officials, disability advocacy organizations and from Rosenfield’s former colleagues at the Minnesota Disability Law Center, where he had served as supervising attorney.
The Minnesota Council on Disability stated, “Bud Rosenfield was a committed, compassionate Ombudsman and an amazing human being. He made countless contributions to the disability community. People who spoke with Bud knew he listened and cared. Whatever the issue, he was quick to act for the benefit of others. Bud was serious about advocacy, kindness, and doing the right thing, always.”
The Arc Minnesota CEO Andrea Zuber said of Rosenfield, “His life’s work made a huge impact – for the better – for Minnesotan’s with disabilities.”
“I am fortunate enough to have been able to call Bud a friend and I learned so much from him over the span of my career. He was SO smart, such a passionate activist and understood more about the disability field – past, present and future – than most. He was funny, sweet and tough, all at the same time. He had a strong spirit, and his passing leaves a huge hole – in our community – and in my heart.”
“As the sibling of a brother with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), Bud believed in and fought tirelessly for a better future for people with IDD. He was a strong supporter of The Arc Minnesota and partnered with us on countless efforts over the past 25 years, providing training and consultation, as well as supporting the advocacy we do at the individual, family and legislative level. He was a powerful thought partner and we looked to him for so many things. I feel so fortunate to have had Bud in my life, personally and professionally. He will be so missed.”
Barnett (Bud) Ian Rosenfield was a son, father, husband, brother, attorney and advocate. He attended the University of Michigan, where he met his wife Barbara. He graduated in the Class of 1987. The Rosenfields then moved to Minnesota, where he attended the University of Minnesota Law School, and graduated in 1990.
Following law school graduation, Rosenfield clerked for the Honorable Harriet Lansing, then served as the staff coordinator for the state’s Special District Apportionment Panel. Early in his career, he represented individuals in private practice in employment law and civil rights cases.
Yet his passion really grew through his work advocating for people with disabilities. For almost 25 years, Rosenfield worked at the Minnesota Disability Law Center, first as an attorney and then as a supervising attorney. In 2021, Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan appointed Rosenfield as the Ombudsman for Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities. In announcing the appointment, Walz said, “I am honored to appoint Bud Rosenfield as the Ombudsman for Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities. Mr. Rosenfield is a dedicated public servant with a proven track record as a passionate advocate for justice. I am confident that he will use his knowledge, experience, and role to create a more just, inclusive, and equitable Minnesota.”
Over the course of his career, Rosenfield served on numerous state and national committees and working groups, genuinely leaning in to tackle huge social and political issues. He received numerous awards for his work and advocacy. But he valued equally the cards and letters he received from individuals and families he had helped.
His obituary describes Rosenfield as “ thoughtful, compassionate, and whip smart.”
Rosenfield is described as a sports fanatic, rooting for the Red Sox, Twins, Saints, Vikings and Celtics. While some might think watching the Red Sox end the curse of the Bambino in 2004 was his favorite sports moment, it truly was watching his children play for the Lynnhurst LARC, Washburn Millers, Southwest Lakers and many more teams. He himself also loved recreational volleyball, softball and long distance running as he completed four marathons in Minneapolis and one in Boston.
He is survived by his wife Barbara Fipp, children Hannah Fipp-Rosenfield and Jace Fipp-Rosenfield, brothers Keith (Helaine Winzelberg) Rosenfield and Paul Rosenfield, sisters Cathy (Nicholas Ruocco, Jr) Rosenfield, Mary Lynne (Jack) Cronin and Rikkie (Sandra Cornwell) Rosenfield as well as many nieces, nephews, great nieces, and great nephews. He is preceded in death by his mother, Lorraine Lenore (Johnson) Rosenfield, his father, Jace Louis Rosenfield, and his aunt, Bonnie Jean Johnson.
A funeral will be held at 10 a.m. Friday, August 18 at Lakewood Memorial Chapel, 3600 Hennepin Ave. S, Minneapolis. A reception and then a private interment will follow. In lieu of flowers, please consider donations in Rosenfield’s name to ARC of Minnesota, Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders Association Inc., American Heart Association, or the Minnesota Disability Law Center, a project of Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid.