Tribute to Mary Reed: An incredible life of giving
Along life's road, there are remarkable people who choose to lead a life that is defined by serving others.
Mary Reed's life would be described as nothing short of amazing. She led an extraordinary life, giving back to others, after surviving a myriad of hardships throughout her life. She was an 11-year cancer survivor, survived two near-drownings, a broken neck and back and 41 surgeries. Her large network of people who knew her will miss Reed tremendously as will the countless individuals who benefitted from her selfless service to her community and beyond.
Reed passed away on Aug. 19, 2022. Up to the day of her passing, she worked on countless humanitarian service projects.
In 2019, Reed made the statement, when reflecting on her life and the hardships she survived, "I guess my mission in life is to give back for surviving."
She also stated that, "I do what I do because I know what I do makes a difference."
Reed was born in Post Falls, Idaho, in 1940, growing up in Spokane and Pullman, Washington. She attended Washington State University, where she was a consummate athlete. She was proficient in a number of sports, including women's field hockey, swimming, tennis, volleyball, baseball, boating and fishing. She earned her Bachelor of Science in education from Washington State and a master's degree in special education from Western Oregon University.
Reed taught physical education for three years in Salem, and moved to Prineville in 1974, where she taught middle school special education until 1998, when she retired — from education. Reed had a heart for those less fortunate and did not like to see people treated differently because of disabilities. She especially disliked seeing students bullied or made fun of because of their disability. She was quoted as saying, "I thought this is not fair. I always thought they should not be treated differently. They should not be excluded because of their handicapped conditions. So, I taught them skills that would make them acceptable members of society."
Reed made a difference on numerous fronts, including her travels while volunteering with Earthwatch, an international environmental charity that sends researchers around the world to collect data for Master of Science and doctoral candidates. Reed traveled to Tonga in the South Pacific to count farming products for plantation owners. The following year, she dug up honey ants near Alice Springs in Australia. She added to these adventures by digging up shark fossils in Montana and documenting petroglyphs and pictographs in Utah.
Reed developed a worldwide web of connections, which she utilized in her retirement as she became involved in a host of humanitarian projects and organizations. Her motto in retirement was: "It takes a village to raise a child, but it takes volunteers to run the village."
Being an avid writer, Reed joined the Scribblers Writing Club in Prineville in 1998. She loved to author stories to share with the group. Reed was integral to publishing six anthologies comprised of personal stories and poems written and compiled by local writers, club members and others, and including writings from Crook County High School students. Mary would be honored to learn the upcoming seventh anthology of the club will be dedicated to her.
Reed also wrote 12-13 children's books and would get ideas for her stories while out and about. She would incorporate the adventures into her stories and have local children illustrate them.
Not only did she write children's books, but Reed also recorded her family's history in three biographies, telling stories of her great-grandparents' early days in Minnesota and her great uncle's homesteading in North Dakota.
Barbara Minturn, who first met Reed through the Scribblers club commented of Mary, "She has her finger in every pie. She is a very aggressive proponent of anything that she is interested in."
Carol Wayne, who also knew Reed through the Scribblers said, "She is such an asset to this community. She does so many things. Mary cares about people. She is very caring to everyone she meets. She is so friendly to everyone, and she wants to help everyone and anyone."
Linda Sharp also met Reed through the Scribblers. Sharp was working on a book for her late father, "Horse Whisperer, John Sharp."
"I saw a notice in the library about a group called 'Scribblers' that met weekly," explained Sharp of her first meeting with Reed. "They were inviting people who were interested in writing to join them. I accepted the invitation. I had the privilege and joy of meeting Mary Reed. When meeting Mary, I found that she had taught with my mother. It is always special for me to meet someone who knew my parents, so that gave me a special tie with Mary."
During that time, Sharp was able to compile a mimeographed copy of her dad's stories to give to family members when they celebrated his 90th birthday, but unfortunately, he died before his stories were published in book form.
"After his death I returned to Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) West Africa where I had worked for 38 years. What I thought might be a one-time event has turned into my spending six months a year there. Those first summers home from Africa I was busy getting Dad's book ready for publishing, printing and out to the public. So, it was a few years of my going back and forth before I returned to Scribblers," said Sharp.
Sharp continued, "After retirement, Reed had her 'irons' in many fires in addition to Scribblers. I returned one summer to find that while visiting friends in Arizona she heard about making dresses from pillowcases. She encouraged various women to help her make these dresses for me to take back to Africa. Mary could not sit idle, so while watching television, she made yarn caps using a circular loom. That first year Mary and her friends sent several dozen dresses and knit caps back with me. Mary and her friends worked all that following winter and were able to send 50 pounds worth of pillowcase dresses and knit caps back with me. Even though I am with nationals every day in the setting at Ferke, it was not conducive for giving out the dresses, but when a couple restarted working in a nearby village, I had the outlet I needed for getting the dresses into the hands of those who needed them the most."
Sharp went on to report that Mary was really on a roll, so she decided that something needed to be done for the boys. She started making shorts and collecting tee shirts.
"If she didn't think there were enough, she bought them. A friend worked at the Redmond swimming pool, so at the end of the season she donated dozens of swim trunks that had been left at the pool," added Sharp. "Over a period of five years, several hundred little girls had the joy of receiving new dresses--and boys, shorts and tee shirts.
Sharp indicated that the fathers sought the knit caps, to wear to keep the sun off their heads while working in the fields.
"I had the opportunity to help give the clothes two different years," concluded Sharp of their project. "It was so fun to see the smile on the faces of the children when they looked in a mirror after putting on their new outfit. The parents were as happy as the children. Many pictures came back so that Mary and her friends could see the fruit of their labor. One year Mary made arrangements with the library to put up a display in their display window showing the dresses that would be going to Africa that fall. There was also a continuing display of pictures of the African Children in their new clothes. This was another example of Mary's thinking outside the box to expose people to a world bigger than Prineville."
In May of 2011, Reed was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer. After surgery, 14 rounds of chemotherapy and 33 radiation treatments, she rewarded herself by taking a trip to Australia with a friend.
Reed commented of her amazing trip, "I told myself in 2012 after I had all my chemo and radiation, if I survived, that I would go back to Australia and climb Uluru/Ayers Rock. So, I did. I did not climb all the way to the top, but I never said I would climb all the way to the top!"
Climbing a mountain after battling aggressive cancer may have seemed too steep for some, but her friends knew that Reed was not ordinary.
Reed also collected leftover hospital materials and supplies and shipped them to missions overseas.
Minturn, her friend from the Scribblers said, "She is very organized and has a vast network of people that she can rope in to help. She seems to know everybody, and she calls on people to do things."
Reed once noted that people would call her all the time and say, "They have this box of medical supplies," and she found a way to give the materials to those in need.
"One time, I walked into Verizon and saw a young man with a white cane, and I walked up to him and asked if he still had some residual vision, and he said yes," Reed recalled. She asked him if he could use an electronic magnifier. He was a college student and indicated that he could use one for his textbooks. The next time she got a machine, she took it to him — a reflection of her empathy and compassion for other people.
Reed supplied partially blind people with the machines and even wrote a grant through the Lions Club to furnish the library and senior center with these electronic magnifiers.
Reed was part of many nonprofit organizations that give back to the community, including the Lions Club, the Central Oregon Retired Teachers Association, Red Hat Society and Mountain Star Relief Nursery, as well as other projects along the way.
In 2019, Reed reflected on one adventure she took part in for the Lions Club — upon taking 10,000 pairs of glasses to Mexico.
"They were all calibrated and sorted, and we fitted people in Mexico with glasses," she recalled of the special project. "I was the data keeper."
Reed was always an analytical person and discovered that through her data, more people in Compostela, Mexico, located in the mountains, were far-sighted, as opposed to people who lived at sea level, who were near-sighted.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country, Reed once again found a way to help her community — and beyond. When the coronavirus slammed the U.S., in partnership with her dear friend, Bev Horton, Reed made more than 4,000 cotton face masks on her 70-year-old Singer sewing machine for schoolchildren in Crook County. Every Tuesday, Reed personally delivered masks, in packs of one dozen, to public and private schools across the county.
Reed was also known for her profound sense of humor. Her good friend, Christina Lilienthal, shared a story of a time that Reed agreed to care for a large palm tree she had purchased.
"I decided to have some vinyl plank flooring put into my house," recalled Lilienthal."I had to move all my furniture and plants out to make room to place the flooring. Mary agreed to take care of my palm tree because it reminded her of the South Pacific! So, I took it over — and she promptly named it "Arnold" — and it took me a few minutes to get the humor.... until she said "Arnold PALMER!" And then I laughed. I would never have thought of that," Lilienthal shared with a smile.
"Mary is no longer physically with us, but the mark she left on all of us will not soon fade," said Sharp of the large void left by Reed. "She left a hole that will take many to fill."
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