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Phillip D. Reefy
IT is not merely poetic fancy that traces through all the wholesome acts of the life of Philip D. Reefy, the impress of his Swiss forefathers. This world has a very clear ideal of all that goes to make up the highest in Swiss national life—indeed the very name of Swiss is
a synonym for rugged sincerity in all relations of life and ready self-sacrifice for a cause sufficiently noble.
If high ideals are the mountain tops of spiritual life, then truly Philip D. Reefy found the life of the spirit in these higher altitudes. These high ideals were an integral part of the man. He did not strive to attain them. Spiritually speaking, he could not live or think or be on any lower plane.
Philip D. Reefy showed from earliest boyhood this permanent characteristic of the man—seeing always just before him the next most important thing to do—to him it was a duty to do it unques- tioningly and uncomplainingly. And with each Herculean task accomplished—there was always another looming larger just ahead.
Coming from liberty-loving Switzerland in the thirties, his parents, Johan Heinrich Reefy and Marie Gnaegi Reefy, settled in the hills of Tuscarawas. On December 29, 1845, Philip, the youngest of their children, was born just out of the little village of Mt. Eaton, Wayne County, fifteen miles southeast of Wooster. The boy grew up in the great school of the pioneer, in summer busy helping his father and elder brothers with the endless tasks of clearing, and in the brief winter months gaining the substantials in education from the little old log schoolhouse, which everywhere marked the hopes of the early Ohioans. Strongly imbued with the love of country, and descended from a military family, the soul of the young lad was fired with patriotism at his country's call to arms in 1861. Although less than sixteen years old he eagerly enlisted in Company F. of the Ohio Volunteer Infantry, September 7, 1861. Fate never dealt half-measures to Philip D. Reefy, and the lad was destined from the very moment of his enlistment to see hard service. He was sent with the army of the Cumberland and thus was plunged into the thickest of the aggressive move of the rebels at Nashville, December 15, 1865. If has been estimated that in those four years he passed through no less than eighty-four actual engagements, some of them the most memorable of the Civil War. He was in the federal victory at Shiloh, at bloody Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge; in the drawn battle of Chickamauga, and even in the last aggressive move of the rebels at Nashville, December 15, 1865. If fate was trying the metal of this young soldier, she succeeded indeed; for through toil and hardship, through horror and reek of civil warfare, the youngster bore himself like a warrior, first as private then as captain, for young as he was he was put in command after two years of war.
On November 25, 1865, he was mustered out and joined his brother at Roanoke, Indiana, Seminary, where the latter was
teaching. Young Phil spent two years in study at Roanoke, then took up the study of medicine and in 1869, graduated from the Eclectic College of Medicine at Cincinnati. From here he went to Bellevue Hospital, New York, as an intern, and having gained some experience of practice as well as science of medicine, he returned to Ohio and settled in the beautiful, thriving town of Elyria, as assistant to Dr. Paul Sampsell. In 1871, he graduated from the Cleveland Medical College, and subsequent to this spent a part of the year 1874 in Vienna and Berlin under special physicians and surgeons. Thus excellently equipped, he returned to Elyria in 1874 and settled down to a practice which identified him with the whole of Lorain County for more than forty years.
At the age of thirty-two, on his own natal day, Mr. Reefy was married to Miss Libby Mountain, daughter of John and Elizabeth Frazier Mountain, of Toronto, Canada. He brought his bride to Elyria and here the couple spent the whole of their useful wedded life, devoting themselves to the community. Two children were born of this union, and with the widow, survive Dr. Reefy. The son, Dr. Karl Reefy, followed in the footsteps of the father, graduating from the Eclectic College of Medicine in Cincinnati. The daughter Bessie also resides in Elyria, being the wife of M. E. Roe, a mechanical engineer in the Safety Department of The National Tube Company's Steel Plant. Dr. Karl Reefy married Miss Neva Manville, daughter of L. W. and Emma L. Manville, of Elyria. He has one child, a son, named Philip D. for his noble grandfather.
Dr. Reefy was always public spirited, and strongly democratic in his views. In the year 1899 and again in 1901, he was elected Mayor of the city of Elyria, this distinction being only another evidence of the universal confidence he enjoyed. In matters political as in matters therapeutical, his townsmen had confidence when they knew Doctor Reefy was directing affairs.
Dr. Reefy was a prodigious worker—never sparing himself whatever the undertaking in which he might be engaged. The hard end of things seemed to gravitate toward him but whether or not he was conscious of this it would be difficult to say, for he always accepted "his end" as a matter of course. He cared for a remarkably extensive practice. It was frequently said, with literal truth up to a very few years before his death, that he knew
by name every man, woman, and child in the whole county of Lorain. True it is also that his was the task of journeying over its country roads at the call of his profession, in the days before convenient rail facilities were established, and no matter how bleak the weather or untimely the summons, Dr. Reefy could always be relied upon to respond to the call for help for the suffering.
His was the highest professional skill both in surgery and medicine. But such was the innate quality of the man, that many a patient declared that the doctor himself was the best part of the treatment. He fought disease as he fought any other enemy—with unconquerable determination to rout the intruder, and a spirit that knew no surrender until the last stronghold was taken.
Numerous and pathetic are the stories told of his benevolence, for with Dr. Reefy it was impossible for him to withhold a kindness in his power, even at the cost of considerable sacrifice to himself. His services were without money and without price at the call of the needy. It is told of him that he sent his receipted bills to those whom he knew conscientiously unable to pay them. Certain it is that his charitableness of heart showed itself in many ways, as countless citizens can testify in their own hearts. His pastor once said of him, "I always know when I am on Dr. Reefy's trail. He prescribes for the body and provides for the home. He brings the bedding for the sufferer, if he can find none in the house. And no larder is empty when Dr. Reefy prescribes for the poor."
The physical constitution inherited from his Swiss progenitors gave Dr. Reefy a remarkable vigor even past the usual threescore years of active life. A few years before his death he was injured by a street car accident, and while he seemingly recovered from this, recuperation was never complete, he never quite regained his old vitality. However he was considered in rugged health up to a month before his death, when blood poisoning developed. He battled against the encroachment of the disease with characteristic determination but the final fortnight was almost continuously one of pain. Death when it came put an end to terrible suffering, however courageously it had been borne by the old warrior. On the seventh day of October, he breathed his last, lovingly attended by his wife and children. Services were held from the family home Thursday, October 9. Business of the city was suspended for two hours Thursday afternoon as a mark of respect to the passing of one who had labored so long and faithfully for Elyria's welfare.
Not yet sixty-nine years of age, Philip D. Reefy had spent more than fifty-two years of that busy life in active service for his fellow men. One who knew him throughout these years voiced the feeling of all Elyria that few had lived in any community more worthy of tribute.
Captain, Doctor, Mayor—Philip D. Reefy: Honorably earned and creditably worn, as were all these titles of distinction, there is yet one other which even more fitly, distinguishes the true quality of the man. They who knew Captain Phil D. Reefy in war times; or who felt the relief of his professional administrations in after years when he was Doctor Reefy; or who elected him to office and sat secure against civic mismanagement while Mayor Reefy held the reigns of city government—still by what-
ever title they named him, all felt that one only expressed to the
full his broad humanity—the simple title of the camp--Comrade Phil D. Reefy.
No man felt more keenly his oneness with all humanity. The welfare of those about him was felt as his own best welfare. The hurt to his neighbor was his own hurt. Surely we may—with the Angel of Abou Ben Adhem—"Write him as one who loved his fellow man."
Barbara's Bordered Backgrounds