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Dr. Ben Reed, Fulton's veteran coroner, ends long service to county


Dr. Ben Reed came to Wauseon from West Virginia and established a general practice. He served as deputy coroner before becoming the county coroner.

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WAUSEON - Dr. Ben Reed, who at age 80 has been Fulton County coroner almost half of his life, will retire next month.

“I'm getting old enough to quit,” said Dr. Reed, who had a leg amputated in the past year and has suffered other aging-related problems.

In his letter to Fulton County officials, he wrote that because of his health he would resign. He retired from his general practice in Delta in 1999; he had started there in 1954.

He was known as a compassionate, empathetic doctor who treated people in dire straits without charge, said Dr. Harry Murtiff, his deputy coroner who practiced with him in Delta for four years.

They covered for each other on vacations for 30 years before combining their practices.

“He did a lot of things for people that no one would ever hear about,” Dr. Murtiff said.

The self-proclaimed “certified hillbilly” from West Virginia fell in love with the people in northwest Ohio's flatlands half a century ago and stayed.

He grew up in southern West Virginia, the grandson of a doctor, and graduated from Concord College in Athens, W.Va., and the University of Louisville. He practiced first in Kentucky and then in a West Virginia coal mining town.

Dr. Reed learned to be resourceful and depend on his own skills rather than sending patients to specialists. He treated miners with amputated fingers, pregnant teenagers in difficult deliveries, and elderly men with heart problems.

He enjoyed an obstetrics/gynecology residency at Toledo Hospital where he delivered a number of babies. But he decided he didn't want to do that 24 hours a day.

“I was cut out to be a general practitioner,” he told The Blade in 1994 when the Delta Chamber of Commerce honored him as its citizen of the year.

He became deputy coroner soon after moving to Fulton County and held that position for seven years before becoming coroner, an elected position.

“I used to do all my own autopsies,” he told The Blade in 1996. “In fact, what we did [was] I'd do the gross autopsy, I'd look and see the bullet hole, then I'd send the vital organs to Toledo Hospital, and the pathologist there would do the microscopic study.”

In recent years, he's sent autopsies to the Lucas County coroner, particularly if it may have been a homicide. But general practitioners of his generation had more training in autopsies than doctors half his age, Lucas County coroner Dr. James Patrick said.

That still left going to the scene of deaths, the hospital, speaking with family, and writing the death certificate and other paperwork for Dr. Reed and his staff.

“For a quiet community, we seem to have an awful lot of coroner's work,” Dr. Murtiff said.

Over the years, Dr. Reed held offices with the Ohio State Medical Association, the Fulton County Medical Society, and the American Heart Association's Northwest Ohio chapter.

Dr. Reed, who has been paid $24,600 a year as coroner, requested that his retirement be effective April 1. The Fulton County Commissioners will name an interim replacement next month, said Jack Graf, president of the commissioners.

Ultimately, his replacement will involve the county Republican Central Committee because Dr. Reed ran for office as a Republican.

In his resignation letter, he recommended Dr. Murtiff.

“He had been my deputy for the last 18 years, and not only has a real interest in the job but knows the job well,” Dr. Reed wrote of his colleague.

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