Valentine’s Day this year was an occasion when abiding yet poignant love enveloped the Reed family and friends. Sydney Marie (Pratt) Reed—our beloved wife, mother, sister, grandmother, mother-in-law, and friend—passed away peacefully of complications following a hemorrhagic stroke twenty-five days earlier. With family at the bedside, she left this earthly realm and ascended to a better place.
Sydney was born on May 31, 1941, to Sidney Charles Pratt, MD, and Esther Irene (Dahl) Pratt in the “cow town” of Miles City, MT, situated on the Yellowstone River. Always proud of her hometown with its loyal citizenry, rich Western heritage, and annual Bucking Horse Sale, she clearly enjoyed an extraordinary childhood in Eastern Montana. Syd often reminisced about her earliest years of games, dolls, and pranks with girls who became lifelong friends; a youth marked by climbing the cottonwood trees in Wibaux Park, hikes to Carbon Hill and Signal Butte, long summer days of swimming with the Rivenes and Lemire girls at Lake Scanlan, and winter ice skating in the high school “bowl”; and her adolescence as a Rainbow Girl, competitive swimmer, and student at Custer County High School. Even while fondly recalling her formative teens, these years were also marked by unexpected responsibilities born of her mother’s affliction with, and early death from, multiple sclerosis. Throughout the resulting period of decline between 1953 and 1961, Syd not only helped with the care of her mom, but also played a meaningful role in the upbringing of her younger brother Charles as their father managed an active surgical practice at the Holy Rosary Hospital. She was in turn increasingly drawn to career of service as a nurse and forever anchored by strong family loyalty.
It was at CCHS as a freshman that Syd met Bob, a sophomore and new kid from Livingston, MT. With adjacent coat lockers, their daily encounters soon led to steady dating (hayrides, dances at the Harmony Hangout, movies, and family dinners), growing affection, shared dreams, and a steadfast love affair that endured for almost sixty-seven years. Although the Reed family moved to Great Falls, MT at the beginning of her junior year, their relationship was secured through frequent letters, occasional phone calls, and monthly visits. After Bob graduated from Great Falls High School in 1958 and entered Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH, Syd began to evaluate nearby nursing programs. Following high school graduation in 1959, she enrolled in the School of Nursing at Boston University. During the next three years, the soon engaged twosome arranged monthly visits and were fully involved in student life at both campuses. An almost yearlong separation followed Bob’s graduation in 1962 when he sojourned in Southeast Asia to confirm his budding interest in regional studies. During this time, Syd finished her senior year with honors and planned their wedding.
Following completion of her B.S. degree in late in May, Syd and Bob were married in Miles City on June 29, 1963. They then embarked on an exciting two-month honeymoon in Europe before moving to Berkeley, CA. There she began a thirty-five-year career in health care—beginning as a staff nurse at Herrick Hospital with its 150 beds—while Bob pursued graduate work in Geography and Southeast Asian Studies at the University of California. Soon responsible as the head nurse for both medical and surgical services, Syd also acquired Intensive Care in 1965 and was advanced to the rank of supervisor. With a leave of absence between 1966 and 1969, the Reeds (now including sons Michael and David) moved to Southeast Asia where Bob did doctoral research and Syd enhanced her professional expertise by earning an M.A. degree in nursing administration at the University of the Philippines. Returning to Herrick Hospital, she was promoted to Associate Director of Nursing (1969-1975) charged with management of expanded medical, surgical, and ICU units along with the development of two then pioneering departments (a catheterization laboratory and a dialysis program). In 1975, Syd joined the staff at Mount Zion Hospital (a 495-bed facility in San Francisco, CA) as the Associate Administrator and Director of Patient Services with responsibility for all in-patient nursing units, laboratories, and therapy departments (physical, occupational, speech, and respiratory). Her further advancement came in 1983 when she was selected as the Associate Vice President for Nursing Services accountable for patient care departments at two institutions: Seton Medical Center in Daly City, CA and Saint Catherine’s Hospital in Half Moon Bay, CA. Seven years later Syd became the Manager for Quality Assurance and Survey Programs at the California Medical Association (1990-1995), where she coordinated the periodic survey all healthcare organizations and the accreditation of over 350 acute care hospitals in California, together with the required medical education of physicians. Syd’s professional life was capped with a unique opportunity to serve as Chief Operating Officer of the Institute for Medical Quality at the CMA (1995-1998) responsible for statewide licensure surveys of hospitals and the training of physician surveyors. Throughout her interesting nursing career, her focus remained that of a compassionate servant for all in need of medical care.
While dedicated to the practice and institutionalization of quality patient care, family always ranked as Syd’s highest priority. She, with husband Bob, delighted in the birth, education, maturation, professional paths, and marriages of their three sons (Michael, David, and Daniel), along with the long lives and active participation of their parents (Sidney, Thelma, and Floren) in family activities. For more than fifty years the Reeds collective life was energized by the annual calendar of youth sports, Cal football and basketball games, Cub and Boy Scouts, a full range of school activities, musical performances, church events, hiking and skiing in the Sierra, college adventures, exciting summer vacations (foreign and domestic), marriages, and the births of grandchildren.
Over the decades, Syd displayed a strong calling to service for church and community. The resultant list of board or committee memberships and presidencies in California and Montana would fill several pages. Yet she felt especially rewarded by her roles as a Sunday School teacher, a fundraiser for several school and youth organizations in Albany, CA, a docent and Tinsley House cook at the Museum of the Rockies, and a Stephen Ministry leader at Hope Lutheran and Springhill Presbyterian Churches in Bozeman, MT.
Despite the challenges of work and motherhood, Syd always found time to welcome many hundreds of her health care associates, Bob’s colleagues and students at the University of California, frequent Asian visitors, and friends into our California and Montana homes. Every year, with the help of husband and sons, she hosted parties, large dinners, and open house gatherings at Christmas, Thanksgiving, birthdays, and other celebrations. Her scrapbooks provide a vivid photographic record of such happy gatherings.
Following retirement, Syd and Bob returned to Montana in 2001 and moved into their newly built house situated on a 100-acre homestead north of Bozeman. Thus began two delightful decades of flower and vegetable gardening, landscaping, and shelter belt construction (with over a hundred trees and several thousand bushes), yard and pasture maintenance, outdoors recreation (hiking, cross country skiing, and long walks), church involvement, community service, and increased travel. Although they had visited more than fifty countries as students and through Bob’s work, they could now schedule longer and more leisurely tours at home and abroad. These trips not only included predictable stops at museums, archaeological sites, parks, and beaches, but were sometimes highlighted by stops at the world’s great opera houses (the Met in New York, Covent Garden in London, La Scala in Milan, and others) to witness performances of Syd’s favorite compositions by Puccini, Mozart, or Verdi. Once relieved of professional responsibilities, Syd also began to nurture neglected artistic talents. A self-taught and quite accomplished painter, she displayed a natural aptitude for capturing scenes and landscapes of our Montana homeland.
Though burdened by a struggle with dementia that was diagnosed in 2008, Syd met the challenge with courage and dignity rooted in God’s grace. Thankfully the memory loss progressed very slowly and never compromised her zest for life and social involvement. She lived a full life filled punctuated by joy, optimism, love of family and friends, wisdom, and unfaltering Christian faith. While realistic about the myriad challenges of life, she invariably looked for a “silver lining” that softened all individual and collective troubles. Syd’s kind and positive presence was infectious for those who shared her life at various times over the past eighty years. She will be deeply missed by family and friends.
Syd is survived by husband Bob, who remains eternally grateful that she joined him on the journey of life; three sons, Michael (Jenn) of Hershey, PA, David (Lori) of Xenia, OH, and Daniel (Kelly) of Boise, ID; brother Charles (Marilyn) of Billings, MT; six grandchildren, Matthew, Donald, Thomas, Rachel, Lauren, and Robert; two step-grandchildren, Antonina and Cole; and several cousins and two nieces, Kim Meier and Stacie Hicks of Billings, MT.
A Celebration of Life for Syd will be held with live streaming on Friday, August 12th, 2022 at 2:00 pm at the legacy site of Springhill Presbyterian Church, 9855 Walker Road, Belgrade, MT 59714. It can be viewed from afar through the following link: https://springhillpres.com/sermons-media/livestream. Inurnment will be held at the Custer County Cemetery in Miles City, MT on Saturday, August 13th, 2022 at 2:00 pm with local arrangements handled by Stevenson & Sons Funeral Homes: www.stevensonandsons.com.
Memorials in Sydney’s name may be sent to Springhill Presbyterian Church, Hope Lutheran Church, or Gallatin Valley Love INC in Bozeman, MT, with condolence messages directed to Bob Reed, 2178 Annandale Place, Xenia, OH 45385.