Phyl­lis W. Rice

Ca­tonsville na­tive served in WAVES and was vol­un­teer for decades at Greater Bal­ti­more Med­i­cal Cen­ter

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - FRONT PAGE -

Phyl­lis W. Rice, a World War II vet­eran and a vol­un­teer at Greater Bal­ti­more Med­i­cal Cen­ter since it opened, died of coro­nary artery dis­ease on Oct. 21 at Blake­hurst Re­tire­ment Com­mu­nity in Towson. She was 93.

“She was an amaz­ing woman who had a great sense of help­ing oth­ers feel at home dur­ing a time of cri­sis and con­fu­sion,” said the Rev. J. Joseph Hart, long­time chap­lain at GBMC. “She was a calm­ing pres­ence with both pa­tients and their fam­i­lies.”

“She was a very nice lady. We loved her dearly,” said Sheila R. Peter­son, su­per­vi­sor of GBMC’s Pa­tient Ac­cess depart­ment. “She had a quiet spirit — and gor­geous white hair. I was al­ways com­pli­ment­ing her on it. We will truly miss her.”

The for­mer Phyl­lis Ann Warner was born and raised in Ca­tonsville. She was the daugh­ter of Roy Warner, chief fi­nance of­fi­cer of the Bal­ti­more & Ohio Rail­road, and He­len Warner, a home­maker.

Af­ter grad­u­at­ing in 1942 from Ca­tonsville High School, she at­tended thenFur­man Col­lege, now Fur­man Uni­ver­sity, in Greenville, S.C.

Near the end of World War II, she en­listed in the U.S. Navy pro­gram known as Women Ac­cepted for Vol­un­teer Emer­gency Ser­vice — or WAVES. She was trained as a hos­pi­tal ap­pren­tice at the Na­tional Naval Med­i­cal Cen­ter, more com­monly called the Bethesda Naval Hos­pi­tal.

Af­ter her train­ing she con­tin­ued to work there for two years, and was dis­charged in 1947.

A year later she mar­ried Charles E. Rice Jr., who later be­came pres­i­dent of the Paul Rice En­gi­neer­ing Co. He died in 1986.

When GBMC be­gan re­ceiv­ing pa­tients in 1965, Mrs. Rice was among the orig­i­nal band of vol­un­teers.

“Her first as­sign­ment was in the cof­fee shop, with an out­side pa­tio that was lo­cated in the back of the hos­pi­tal,” ac­cord­ing to a Vol­un­teer Spot­light fea­ture in a hos­pi­tal pub­li­ca­tion. “The vol­un­teers waited on ta­bles and made milk­shakes...”

In the ar­ti­cle, Mrs. Rice re­called: “We had no men­tor. Ev­ery­one was new, and no one had any ex­pe­ri­ence. To­gether, we all sort of felt our way.”

Mrs. Rice worked in var­i­ous de­part­ments at the hos­pi­tal in­clud­ing ad­mit­ting, now known as Pa­tient Ac­cess. She ac­com­pa­nied pa­tients to blood work and uri­nal­y­sis, helped out with spe­cial projects and worked on the hos­pi­tal’s Nearly New Sale — a tra­di­tion at the hos­pi­tal that raises money an­nu­ally for pa­tient care.

She was a fa­mil­iar pres­ence, push­ing her cart through the halls of the hos­pi­tal de­liv­er­ing tooth­paste, tooth­brushes and other items to pa­tients. She as­sisted in car­ry­ing fresh flow­ers and vases to pa­tients’ rooms and lov­ingly ar­rang­ing them.

From 1997 un­til re­tir­ing in 2010 at 85, she had ac­cu­mu­lated 4,390 vol­un­teer hours dur­ing a ser­vice ca­reer that spanned 45 years and five months, ac­cord­ing to hos­pi­tal records.

Mrs. Rice’s fi­nal as­sign­ment was at the main in­for­ma­tion desk in the lobby, greet­ing pa­tients and their fam­i­lies and help­ing lost vis­i­tors find their way.

“She did such a great job on the main desk,” Ms. Peter­son said.

“I’m very proud to say that I was one of the first vol­un­teers in the hos­pi­tal, and I was also in the first class at Hos­pice [now Gilchrist Cen­ter Towson],” Mrs. Rice said in the vol­un­teer pro­file. Asked how she summed up her decades of ser­vice to GBMC, Mrs. Rice replied: “I’ve gained the plea­sure of serv­ing oth­ers, help­ing vis­i­tors and pa­tients.”

“She was a con­stant pres­ence and sup­port and, be­cause she was lo­cal, she knew so many of our pa­tients which was help­ful in her in­ter­ac­tion with them,” the Rev. Hart said. “She was warm and friendly yet some­what re­served as well.”

She was also a vol­un­teer fundraiser for the can­cer and heart cam­paigns.

She en­joyed play­ing bridge, was a world trav­eler and con­tin­ued play­ing ten­nis at the Bal­ti­more Coun­try Club, where she was a mem­ber, un­til she was 87.

She was also a mem­ber of the Woman’s Club of Roland Park and the Women’s Club of Rodgers Forge.

Mrs. Rice lived on Rux­wood Road in Rux­ton for many years be­fore mov­ing to Blake­hurst in 2006. At Blake­hurst, she was a mem­ber of both the dec­o­rat­ing and flo­ral com­mit­tees.

She de­lighted in writ­ing hand­writ­ten notes and cards to fam­ily and friends, as well as mak­ing and de­liv­er­ing breads, soups and cook­ies she had pre­pared for them.

Mrs. Rice was a com­mu­ni­cant of St. Stephen’s Angli­can Church in Ti­mo­nium. Ser­vices are pri­vate. Mrs. Rice is sur­vived by a son, Robert E. Rice of Ste­wart­stown, Pa.; two daugh­ters, Stephanie R. Davis of Monk­ton and Court­ney R. Martin of Towson; a sis­ter, Elaine W. St. John of North­field, N.J.; six grand­chil­dren; and seven great-grand­chil­dren.

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