in loving memory of
Dr. John Ernest Reed, M.D.
1939 - 2021
Live-streamed Memorial Service
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Dr. John Ernest Reed, M.D. departed this life on January 25, 2021 at the age of 81 after a decade-long battle with Alzheimer’s Disease.
John was born August 16, 1939 to George Martin and Elizabeth Newswanger Reed in Brutus, MI. The family moved to Lancaster County, PA in John’s infancy, and it was here he grew up, getting his education in a two-room schoolhouse. Elizabeth passed away in 1950. Two years later, George remarried Anna Bertha Weaver, who became a beloved mother to John and his six siblings.
John graduated Lancaster Mennonite School in 1957, worked for his father for a year in the trucking business, and then attended Eastern Mennonite College (now Eastern Mennonite University) in Harrisonburg, VA. It was at Eastern Mennonite that John met the two great loves which would define his life – medicine and Carolyn Frances Heatwole.
John and Carolyn were married on August 25, 1962 at Weaver Mennonite Church.
John attended medical school at the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond, and performed his internship at Norfolk General Hospital. While in Norfolk a son arrived, John Douglas, born in 1967.
As a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War, John performed his alternative service at Sacred Heart Hospital in Cumberland, MD. It was here that a daughter arrived, Catherine Leigh, born in 1969.
John performed his residency at the University of Maryland and became board certified in Diagnostic Radiology and Nuclear Medicine.
The family moved back to Richmond in 1974, where they stayed for 25 years and where their children grew up. John practiced medicine, first at Stuart Circle Hospital, and then spent the bulk of his career at St. Mary’s Hospital. In these years, John and Carolyn were active members of the First Mennonite Church of Richmond.
In 1999, John and Carolyn moved to Wooster, OH to be near their daughter and her growing family. John practiced at the Cleveland Clinic location in Wooster, until his retirement in 2007. He returned to work on a part-time basis until his final retirement in 2009.
John and Carolyn moved back to Harrisonburg, just down the street from where they met. They enjoyed the fellowship of family and reconnecting with friends they had known from many stages of life. As John’s disease progressed, he was forced to move into a more intensive memory care unit in 2017. The ravages of COVID made it impossible for family to visit in the last year of John’s life.
These are the dry, statistical details that tell the story of a life, but do not paint the picture of a person.
There was a fastidious side to John Reed. His high school friends remember that he was “always polishing his shoes or his car”. His son remembers that a carelessness in mowing the lawn was always cause for great disappointment. While there was nothing flashy or showy in his personal style, he was never underdressed for any occasion, no matter how casual.
There was the professional side of John Reed. He was instrumental in setting up the Nuclear Medicine Department at St. Mary’s Hospital in Richmond. He served as President of the Richmond Radiological Society. He enjoyed the challenge of Radiology, and worked hard throughout his career to stay current with changing medical technology. He often said that medicine is sometimes more art than science, and he always approached his practice with his patients foremost in his mind. He leaves behind scrapbooks, given at his retirement, filled with affectionate testimonials from fellow physicians, nurses, and support staff that remember his skill and his unfailing courtesy.
There was the craftsman side of John Reed. For many years, he enjoyed woodworking and took a quiet pride in progressing from small carvings of animals to making complicated furniture. A chess table, a blanket chest, and a grandfather clock built by his hands still grace the home that he and Carolyn shared. True to form, the blue ribbons he won at the Virginia State Fair are not on display, but are discreetly tucked into the drawers.
There was the sailing side of John Reed. He enjoyed racing his boat, the aptly-named “Placebo”. As with everything he turned his attention to, he took the time to do it thoroughly, completing courses in Celestial Navigation. Even late in his battle with Alzheimer’s, if you could turn the topic to sailing, you would see the old twinkle in his eye and get him wistfully talking of the open water.
There was the traveling side of John Reed. His children fondly remember trips to California, New York, and New England. In their empty nester years, he and Carolyn enjoyed many vacations, including Bermuda, Jamaica, and the Panama Canal. Sometimes their travel served a higher purpose, such as a mission trip to Costa Rica. They took a “Sailing Acts” tour, where they followed the route of the Apostle Paul. In 1997, John was asked to come to Nazareth to relieve another radiologist. During his off-time, he and Carolyn found great meaning in exploring the Holy Land.
There was a whimsical side to John Reed. He loved flying kites on the beach. He loved kaleidoscopes. He loved taking his grandchildren on amusement park rides. At the first snow of every year, he would take anyone who wanted to go for a drive, usually to get ice cream. He was an efficient power napper, throwing a pillow down on the floor, “crashing” for a few minutes, and then being ready to go for the rest of the day.
He was a loving husband and father. His four grandchildren remember him as “Paw Paw”, loving and indulgent, always ready for ice skating, skiing, amusement park rides or playing “the bug”. On the first snowy day of every year, he loved to go for an adventure drive. Ice cream was frequently a part of these outings.
There was John Reed, the devoted husband. For 58 years, he and Carolyn forged a strong partnership in sickness and in health. When he became ill, Carolyn cared for him full-time until his condition deteriorated past the point she could manage.
There was the faithful side of John Reed. While there was nothing preachy or showy in his faith, he was an active member of the Mennonite Church in every town his life took him to. He enjoyed the fellowship of small groups, and was always free for a church friend who needed a listening ear. Without calling attention to himself, every church and school he ever attended knew the benefit of his generosity with his time and his finances. He steered his life like he steered his boats. He picked a spot on the horizon to fix his eye on and moved steadily in that direction.
As Alzheimer’s robbed him of his gifts one by one, there remained a sweet soul. Even when he didn’t know who his visitors were, he wanted to make sure everyone around him was comfortable. He was unfailingly cheerful, and always sang along when he heard “Peace Like A River”, “Farther Along”, or “Amazing Grace”.
We speak of John’s “battle with Alzheimer’s”, and one might think that after taking his memories and his physical body – that Alzheimer’s was the winner of that battle. Those of us who loved John Reed say no. Alzheimer’s could never take his kindness, his gentleness, or his loving personality. Alzheimer’s never took the love of his family. Alzheimer’s cannot undo the good he did in the lives of thousands of his patients. The essence of John Reed remained untouched, and the love he leaves behind is undimmed and undiminished. Make no mistake, John Reed is the winner of this battle, and he now goes home victorious.
John is preceded in death by his parents and stepmother; his two brothers, Harold (Barbara, who survives) and Paul Reed (Ethel, who survives) ; and two sisters, Anna Mary and Ruth Reed.
John is survived by two sisters, Dorcas Danner (James, deceased) and Irene Zimmerman (Jay, who survives); his children, Doug Reed and Cathy Yoder; a son-in-law, Brian Yoder; four grandchildren — Ilsa Reed, Laszlo Reed, Reed Yoder, and Sam Yoder — and his devoted wife, Carolyn.
Arrangements are being handled by Kyger Funeral Home. John’s cremains have been interred at Weavers Mennonite Church Cemetery in a private family gathering. In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to the Alzheimer's Association (alz.org).