Lifelong learning and giving back...thanks to more than a little luck
"My middle name should have been "lucky."'
Mary Reed made that statement when reflecting on her life, and the many hardships she has survived.
"I guess my mission in life is to give back for surviving," clarified Reed.
She added that she is an eight-year cancer survivor. She has survived two near-drownings, a broken neck and back, a broken arm and 41 surgeries. She has sustained several head injuries as well.
"And I am still here.," stated Reed.
In addition, she has been to 28 countries and has experienced 10 deep-water dives on the Great Barrier Reef. She has also been involved in six Earthwatch expeditions. Earthwatch Institute is a research nonprofit with a mission to engage people worldwide in scientific field research and education to promote the understanding and action necessary for a sustainable environment. They bring individuals from all walks of life together with world-class scientists to work for the good of the planet.
Included in her Earthwatch expeditions was a project on an island of Tonga in the South Pacific Ocean, where she helped count farm products on plantations. In Alice Springs, Australia, her group counted honey ants, and in Montana, they did archeological digs and searched for shark fossils in Bear Gulch, near Lewistown. She also assisted with a project in Utah near Four Corners, where she helped document pictographs and petroglyphs.
Each stint was two to three weeks.
"I got to snorkel. How many people have gotten to snorkel in Tonga?" wondered Reed.
When Reed isn't traveling, she finds time to be part of the Scribblers Writing Club. She has been president of the club since joining 21 years ago. She has a book or story about each adventure of which she has partaken. She has also written 12-13 children's books.
In addition to children's books, Reed has written about her other adventures abroad, including, "Islands from My Sky," "Honey Ants in Australia," "Shark Fossils in Montana," "Indian Hair in Montana," and "Petroglyphs in Utah."
In the near future, she will be going to Brothers Elementary, and the students will be illustrating a book she has co-authored with Joe Federico from the Scribblers Writing Club. The name of the book is "Sarge and the Saint Lady."
"It's a story of "Sarge the Sage Rat" who lives in Powell Butte in the brush," explained Reed.
She added that the students will illustrate it, and each student gets a copy after she finishes the book. She has done similar books with different content, in partnership with Crooked River Elementary and Ochoco Elementary students.
"They're fun books," said Reed. "I just get an idea and I flow with it. I sit and I write and it flows out."
She said that her mind is going all the time, and she writes down things as they come to her.
If there were two words that best describe Reed, it would have to be resourceful and resilient. When she was in her 20s, she initially taught physical education. At only 21 years of age, she broke her back in an accident. The injury changed her career aspirations, and she decided to go into special education.
Reed still struggles with the old injury, and it has slowed her down some — but not many things slow her down.
During her career, she worked with a wide spectrum of individuals with disabilities. She enjoys coming up with solutions that enrich people's lives. When she was an instructor, she looked for ways to help the students to be successful. She was, and still is, known for her innovation.
She moved to Crook County in 1974, and has been in Prineville ever since then.
"When I was a special education teacher, I knew the needs of the kids — and I had to find the resources to meet their needs," pointed out Reed.
She began to wonder what she would want to do when she retired.
"I know what this community needs and I know all these resources, so it just makes sense to put them together," she indicated of her retirement choices.
She has been part of many nonprofit organizations that give back to the community, including the Lions Club, the Central Oregon Retired Teachers Association, the Scribblers Writing Club and many other projects along the way.
She 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 recalls. "I was the data keeper."
Reed, always a problem-solver, 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.
She encourages people to just get involved in the community, even at an early age. She transcribed for a blind woman at the age of 14. She has served the people in the community in a large variety of ways, and many of those have included youth in some way.
Between teaching youth and hosting foreign exchange students, she has been led by example and demonstrated that if there is a problem to solve, she has a solution.
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