• Indian River History

Doris Reid: She paid her rent in full

After spending 15 hours helping a mother deliver a baby that arrived at 4:42 a.m. Doris Reid and another nurse-midwife set out on horseback to return to their quarters in the hills of Kentucky in the 1940s. On the way home, they made three sick calls and also gave postpartum care to another mother with a two-day old baby.

They finally arrived back at the midwives quarters at about 10:30 a.m, longing for "a glass of water, a bath, food and a bed."

In her book, "Saddlebags Full of Memories" Reid wrote, "The only worthwhile compensation for such hard, long hours is knowing you have been of service to someone in a time of need. That is the rent we pay to God for the privilege of living on earth."

After paying rent for 86 years, Reid died Saturday, Jan. 21, 2001. She had a heart attack on the previous Tuesday, but friends say she was still telling jokes on the day she died.

"She used her life right," said Luise McKenna, one of Reid's longtime friends.

Stan Elya, her brother in-law, said of Reid, "She always thought about everybody else. She always wondered how everybody else was doing. She never worried about herself."

Gail Cole, Reid's friend and neighbor for more than four decades, said, "She's always been a giving person. The only reason that my husband would let me stay up here with the three kids without a car during the summer was because the county nurse lived next door."

Reid received her Registered Nurse degree in 1936 from Traverse City State Hospital. Later, the Frontier School of Midwifery in Wendover, Kentucky offered her a scholarship to earn a Certified Midwife degree. She completed the degree in 1943 and spent six years in the Kentucky hills treating and caring for people and teaching other nurse-midwifes. In her book about the experience, she recalls house calls on horseback, emergency calls in the middle of the night and crossing flooded streams to bring help to people in need.

A member of the Burt Lake Christian Church since 1929 and a deeply religious person, in her book Reid recalled one of her patients calling out to God while in labor. Reid said that when the woman would have a labor pain, she would cry out, "Lordy, Lordy, pin a bit of grace on my soul." At one point in the delivery, the woman asked Reid if she was praying for her. Reid replied, "Yes, I am praying for the baby, you and myself." Reid said that apparently satisfied the woman because a short time later the child was born.

On another occasion while Reid was teaching, one of the student nurses who was supposed to be observing left the delivery room twice. Reid had to retrieve her and told her that if she didn't stay in the room she wouldn't receive a good grade. Later, Reid asked the student nurse why she had left the delivery room. The student nurse told her, "I never believed in God until now." Reid said she believed that you can't work delivering babies and be an atheist.

When Reid returned to Burt Lake in the 1950s, she was northern Michigan's only Certified Midwife. In 1951 she became a public health nurse for District Health Dept. #4 and retired in 1973 as nurse coordinator and nursing supervisor. In 1992, the Heath Department dedicated its new building in Cheboygan as the "Doris E. Reid Center."
Linda Cassar, Reid's niece, said Reid loved being a nurse. "She loved caring for people. Even after she retired from nursing, when people got cut or hurt themselves, they would call and come over to her place."

Cole said being a public health nurse suited Reid. "She could be on the road. She could assist many people in many different ways so it was never a dull job."

In addition to her job, Reid had many hobbies. She was an avid hunter and fisherman. She and her twin sister, Dorothy, went to Canada and Alaska on fishing and hunting trips.

Elya said Reid had taken up hunting and fishing as a little girl. "(It was) before I knew her, and I met her in 1941 after I began dating her sister."

Reid and Dorothy both shot moose on the same day.

Reid also liked to garden. She had a big tractor she named, "George." She and George raised yellow tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables. One year she and George pulled the church float in the Fourth of July Parade.

A voracious reader, Reid never stopped reading and learning. A couple of years ago she was seriously ill and in the hospital. Friends and relatives weren't sure if she was going to pull through. Reid was reading in the hospital and someone asked her about it. Reid replied, "You don't want me to die ignorant do you?"

Cole said Reid was known for her sly wit and honest opinions.

Reid's home was the site of the first annual Burt Lake Corn Roast and Chicken Barbecue, now a 100-year tradition. Reid was a member of both the Burt Lake Christian Church and the Burt Lake Community Club and helped with the Corn Roast for decades.

During the years preceding her death, Cole, McKenna and Reid would often go into town together on Friday mornings. Their routine was to have breakfast at Michael's Restaurant, then go to the bank and then go shopping at Ken's Village Market.

"Our Friday mornings will never be the same," Cole said.

"She's going to be missed," McKenna added.