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 of a brain hematoma in Richfield, Ohio on Saturday, March 13, 2021, his remaining 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 attend the Seven Hills United Methodist Church—on occasion. The woman who would later become his wife, Rita Elfring, was an extremely active member of the church.
Forrest’s love affair with animals began as a child with turtles, tortoises and snakes. He and best pal 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. And rows of caged snakes 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, a racoon named Blink, and a Gila monster named Aloysius that lived under the kitchen stove after he married Rita.
Oh, and a Gecko, chameleon, iguana lizards, 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, this 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 then the gas station, this when gas was 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. After the service, he entered The Ohio State University in Columbus, graduating with a Bachelor of Biological Science in Zoology in 1948. He went on to acquire his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in 1954.
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.
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 happened to mention that he was breaking ground for his own practice in Seven Hills, the vet fired him. At his small 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 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.
“Saint Rita”, as Bortz called Mrs. Reed, served as the receptionist at Broadview, as well as the surgery assistant when needed. A 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 their sons were raised; Greg born in 1953, Gary in 1955, Tim in 1961, and Tom in 1965. A doting husband, Forrest made time for date nights and dinner out with his wife. The two also 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, Forrest had many interests aside from animals. He earned his private pilot’s license, for starters. A scuba diving enthusiast, he 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. Along with ice dancing, he wind surfed, operated a ham radio (K8JBV), played piano, and built model steam engines and boats.
Somewhere it was suggested that Forrest was an excellent pool player. Greg, Gary and neighbor Ted Zemans would practice pool at Ted’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 got Greg and Gary to develop an interest in flying and helped Greg and Tom acquire scuba certification. He instructed Tim in the intricacies of figure skating, assisted Tom in acquiring his ham radio license and encouraged him to get 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.
True, the veterinary business could be both irritating (due to people, not animals), as well as hilarious. One time, 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 cops the chicken, and all was good. Plus, Forrest had a great, new yarn 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. They 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 remarked that he was supposed to go first.
And then, to make matters worse, son Gary passed away on March 26, 2019 due bacterial infection. It was especially sad as he was just about to retire.
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.
Memorial services are postponed due to the pandemic. But the family appreciates donations, in the name of Dr. Forrest Andrew Reed Jr., to the Cleveland Animal Protective League, https://clevelandapl.org.
Tribute to Forrest on TV
Forrest playing piano: