Reba M.W. Gershman, 71, occupational therapist

November 24, 2005

Reba M.W. Gershman, a retired occupational therapist, died of kidney failure Saturday at her Columbia home. She was 71.

Reba Mary Wright was born and raised in Oak Park, Ill., and earned her bachelor's degree in occupational therapy from the University of Illinois in 1958.

She began her career that year as a therapist with the Navy Medical Corps in Norfolk, Va., and later worked at St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington.

In the mid-1960s, she joined the staff of Spring Grove State Hospital and in 1969 began working at the state hospital at Crownsville. She retired in 1989.

For years, Mrs. Gershman suffered from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a degenerative connective tissue disorder that affected her hands.

"As an occupational therapist, she was always striving to give people back their independence. In her death, that is how she would want to be remembered - her passion for independence for herself and others," said her sister, Sylvia W. Kete of Chicago.

Mrs. Gershman enjoyed attending the theater and symphony. An opera fan, she seldom missed the Saturday radio broadcast of the Metropolitan Opera Co., family members said.

Her husband of two years, salesman Irwin Charles "Butch" Gershman, died in 1968.

A memorial gathering was held Sunday.

Survivors also include a brother, Jerry E. Wright of Corning, N.Y.; several nieces and nephews; and her friend of 18 years, Bill Owens of Baltimore.

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