Bernice Rei, 90, night-shift nurse and traveler

October 24, 2005

Bernice Rei, a retired nurse who had worked the midnight shift at the old U.S. Public Health Service Hospital in Wyman Park, died Oct. 17 at the Ellicott City Health and Rehabilitation Center. She was 90 and lived in Columbia.

Born Bernice Coston, she was raised on a small farm in Candler County, Ga., about 60 miles northwest of Savannah. She graduated as valedictorian of Candler County's Pulaski High School in 1931 and later graduated from Grady Nursing School in Atlanta.

For more than 30 years she agreed to work the midnight-to-8 a.m. shift at the Baltimore hospital "because none of the younger nurses wanted to," said her son James William Rei of Columbia. She would arrive home each morning in time to see James and his brother off to school, then take a nap. By the time her sons returned home, she would be awake.

Working those odd hours prevented her from taking up any hobbies, a void that was felt near the end of her life, James Rei said. "The last few years she had slowed down, and there weren't a lot of things for her to do that kept her mind active and her physically active," he said.

Her husband of 28 years, William Eldon Rei, worked in the contracting office for the Corps of Engineers in Baltimore. Shortly after he died in 1973, she retired and began to travel. She traveled throughout the United States, including Hawaii, and visited Ireland and England.

Funeral services were Friday in Metter, Ga.

In addition to her son, she is survived by another son, Joseph Thomas Rei of Jacksonville, Fla.; a sister, Mary Coston Bland of Tallahassee, Fla.; a brother, Bobby Brantley of Savannah, Ga.; five grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

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