Special to The Gardner News
Former Gardner resident, Katharine “Katie” Reece Curry has authored a book entitled “The Man in the Fedora”, a collection of stories from the autobiography of her father, Dr. A. S. Reece. The book was just released in December.
Katie Curry read and researched her father’s autobiographical notes to compile the material for the book. Upon his retirement in 1967, Dr. Reece began to write down his thoughts and compile information regarding his life, in notebooks. Her father had 36 three-ring binders full of news articles, photos, and narratives. Before her father’s death in 1980, Curry would read an entire notebook, and then send it back to her father, and he would then send her another one to read.
But it wasn’t until around six years ago that Katie Curry got the idea of editing her father’s stories and notes into a book. She visited his birthplace in Alliance, Neb., and other places he had lived or worked. She also talked to people that knew him and had worked with him.
Dr. Reece was a private man who for most of his life didn’t share his innermost thoughts and feelings with many people, including his family.
His daughter, Katie said that it wasn’t until after her father’s retirement, and after he started compiling the notebooks, that she and other family members learned so much about him. Katie’s siblings are Marilyn, Thomen, and Bob.
Katie Curry points out that her father looked at his autobiography as being similar with the background of Gardner. Gardner is considered to be the town where the pioneer trails to the west divided. People took any of the three trails, the California, Oregon, and Santa Fe, to where they wanted to settle.
In his own life, Reece lived near the western and eastern ends of the Oregon Trail. He considered his life to be one of two separate trails, before and after he moved to Gardner in 1930.
He opened Reece Hospital in 1934. It was the first licensed hospital in Johnson County, Kan. In the early 1960s, he convinced community members to invest in a new hospital, the Gardner Community Medical Center. It was located at the west end of town, where Meadowbrook Rehabilitation Facility is now. The Gardner Community Medical Center was in operation until the early 1980s.
Reece was a very well-liked and respected man by everyone who met him. His daughter hopes that “The Man in the Fedora” continues Dr. Reece’s legacy and lets everyone in on the more personal and private side of the man.
Curry selected the title, “The Man in the Fedora,” because Reece very often wore a fedora hat.
It became a symbol of identification for him. He rarely left home without it. There is a picture of his famous fedora on the cover of the book.
In addition to learning about Reece and the Gardner community, Curry said the book also gives a modern look at the evolution of medicine, especially in a small town.
Curry feels like this is a very important aspect of the book, in addition to learning about the personal side of her father.
“I wanted to share a look at the life of this man and also provide a look at the significant story of modern medicine,” she said.
Curry recently held a book signing and discussion at the Gardner Historical Museum. She was very pleased at the turnout and at the enthusiasm and interest in the book that visitors expressed.
“The Man in the Fedora” is a labor of love by a daughter learning more about her father.
If anyone would like to purchase a copy of ”The Man in the Fedora”, please call the Gardner Historical Museum at (913)856-4447. Curry has personally signed some copies.
Curry is also working on an upcoming book, “We Remember Reece Hospital”. The book will focus on the hospital, staff, patients, and the impact and importance the hospital had on the Gardner community. This also includes the story of the Gardner Community Medical Center.
Curry, who currently resides in Colorado Springs, will be back in Gardner later this spring to conduct more interviews for her upcoming book.
She would like to interview anyone who worked at the hospital or was a patient there, or anyone who just has a story they’d like to share about the hospital. She can be reached at (719)339-9477, or you can call the Gardner Historical Museum, if interested in being interviewed for the book.