DR. FORREST ANDREW REED, JR.
1926 – 2021
A devilish sense of humor
Forrest Andrew Reed—a veterinarian with a devilish sense of humor who treasured animals almost more than people (his beloved wife and four sons excepted, of course)—passed away at his home in Richfield, Ohio on Saturday, March 13, 2021, his surviving sons at his side. He was 94.
The first in a line of Eagle Scouts, Forrest helped son Gary and grandsons Forrest John and Justin achieve the same rank. But Marv Bortz, who grew up next door to the man he described as his best friend, claimed Forrest “duped the Boy Scouts into making him an Eagle Scout” without having accomplished any of the required tasks.
Knowing Forrest’s humor and the way he joked around, Bortz’ assertion remains questionable.
The only child of Mary Catherine and Forrest Andrew Reed, a bar and gas station owner, Forrest Jr. was born on August 29, 1926 in Toledo, OH. Raised a Catholic, he later went on to occasionally attend the Seven Hills United Methodist Church, where the woman who would later become his wife, Rita Elfring, was an extremely active member.
Forrest’s love affair with animals began as a child with turtles, tortoises and snakes. He and best pal Walter Burnham “Burn” Gross and Burn’s sister Suzanne collected the critters. Burn and Forrest caught most of the adult turtles from a rowboat on local lakes and kept them in an outdoor pen. Rows of caged snakes also lined Burn’s garage.
A Gila monster named Aloysius
Notions of becoming a veterinarian no doubt sparking in his brain, Forrest went on to collect his own menagerie. This included a bat, geese, multiple cats, fish, a rooster named Twitten and a racoon named Blink, and a Gila monster named Aloysius that lived under the kitchen stove after he married Rita.
Other animals and reptiles included a gecko, chameleons, iguana, snakes and de-scented skunks, one of which went to Marvin Bortz who gave it the run of his house for years. In addition, there were two Doberman Pinchers, Cricket and Spider, which Forrest gave to his mom, and a pet goose named Honker. He also raised honeybees for a period.
And then there was Poopie, the family pet sparrow that flew outside during the day and returned home at night, only to pull lettuce off salad plates for food. To the very end, he had three cats, Matt, Foxy, and Whiskers, the latter watching over him constantly.
Holiday on Ice
Forrest also found time to ice skate, his prowess such that he performed in a Holiday on Ice show, according to Marv Bortz, who later served as Best Man in Forrest’s wedding. He also enjoyed ice dancing and entered some local competitions in the 1970’s.
Forest’s father, Forrest Sr, worked at Willy’s Jeep and then opened up a gas station and also a bar. Forrest Jr worked at both the bar and the gas station, this when gas was only 23 cents a gallon. He then joined the US Navy, where he earned the American Area Campaign and Victory Medals. He also did photography from military aircraft.
Forrest loved to prank friends and family members. After he joined the Navy, he wrote Bortz a letter saying that he was fighting The Battle of Great Lakes and later The Battle of Dearborn. Bortz was genuinely concerned about his buddy until he realized that he was duped by young Forrest as the Great Lakes are in Illinois and Dearborn is in Michigan.
After the service, he entered The Ohio State University (OSU) in Columbus, graduating with a Bachelor of Biological Science in Zoology in 1948. He continued at OSU, obtaining his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in 1954.
With a side job as a meat inspector for the Federal government, he began his professional career as a veterinarian’s assistant. But when Forrest mentioned he was breaking ground for his own veterinary practice in Seven Hills, the vet fired him. At his small animal veterinary practice, Broadview Animal Hospital, Forrest primarily cared for dogs and cats but welcomed the occasional rabbits and other small animals.
Bespectacled, slightly built at 5-feet-7 and 110 lbs., Forrest had strong competition from a man studying to become a physician when it came to marrying Rita Elfring. But with his wit and charm he finally won her hand, and the couple tied the knot on September 18, 1952, with a reception at the home of the bride’s parents. Best Man Bortz, who saw his role as assuring that everything in the wedding ran smoothly, forgot to pay the minister. “Luckily, Forrest reminded me,” Bortz wrote in a 70th birthday letter describing some of his friend’s antics over the years.
Forrest’s wife Rita, who Bortz called “Saint Rita”, served as the receptionist at the animal hospital, as well as the surgery assistant when needed. A licensed registered nurse, who obtained her nursing degree in 1952, Rita worked at Crile Hospital in Parma on weekends.
The Reeds lived above the animal hospital in Seven Hills, where all of their sons were raised; Greg born in 1953, Gary in 1955, Tim in 1961, and Tom in 1965. A loving husband, Forrest made time for “date nights” and dinner out with his wife. The two enjoyed getting together with friends. They loved and respected each other and ran the vet practice as a team.
Interests aside from animals
A good listener and hard worker who always followed through with his plans, Forrest had many interests aside from animals. He earned his private pilot’s license and was a scuba diving enthusiast, who worked on an old fishing boat based in Port Clinton so he could take members of the Ridgewood Scuba Club on diving excursions on Lake Erie. In addition to ice dancing, he wind surfed, was an active amateur ham radio operator (K8JBV), played piano, and built model steam engines and boats.
Somewhere it was suggested that Forrest was an excellent pool player. Greg, Gary and neighbors Pete Hine and Ray Koloda would practice pool at Ted Zeman’s house. When the kids thought they were good enough, Forrest would take them all to a pool hall at Southland Shopping Center and proceed to beat them all.
Forrest also taught his sons to use welders and various shop machines so they could build their own minibikes. Later he encouraged Greg, Gary and Tim to develop an interest in flying and aided Greg and Tom in acquiring their scuba certifications. He instructed Tim in the intricacies of figure skating, assisted Tom in obtaining his ham radio license and encouraged him to study for and acquire his engineering degree.
Later in life, Forrest enjoyed following the stocks and investing in his favorite company, RPM. He looked forward to the yearly shareholders meetings, held locally at RPM headquarters, in Medina, OH. He would dress up in his suit and tie each year and was especially pleased when he was able to engage in conversation with the president of the company. In hindsight, his favorite part of the meetings really were the pastries and free, product goody bag. Nothing topped off the event more than a ride in the little sports car that he loved. The top down was reserved for the ride home so his hair didn’t get messed up for the meeting.
The veterinary business could be both challenging (due to people, not animals), as well as hilarious. On one occasion, when Rita was barbecuing chicken in the backyard, someone in the neighborhood called the police saying that the Reeds were cremating dogs behind their business. The couple showed the police the grilled chicken, and all was good. Nevertheless, it gave Forrest had a new, funny but true story to tell.
He was devastated
The couple ran the veterinary practice until 1986, selling it to Dr. Shaw who specialized in birds but also worked with small animals. The Reeds moved to Richfield and Forrest thought of teaching math at a university and buying a house in Florida. But when Rita, his darling wife, died suddenly on December 16, 2014, he was devastated. He selflessly remarked that he was supposed to go first.
And then, tragically, his son Gary passed away on March 26, 2019. It was especially sad as Gary was just about to retire.
Above all, Forrest will be remembered for his gracious nature, incredible humor, and invaluable advice. He wanted to live life to the fullest, and that is truly what he did.
Predeceased by his wife, Rita G. Reed, and son Gary L. Reed, Forrest is survived by sons Greg A. Reed (Brenda); Gary’s wife Catherine and grandchildren Forrest John and Hannah; Tim J. Reed (Lisa) and grandchildren Timmy, Rebecca and Justin; Forrest “Tom” Reed (Florentine “Julie”) and grandchildren Lauren and Julia.
Tribute to Forrest on TV
Forrest playing piano: