After a brief battle with cancer, Sherry Anne Reed passed away gracefully and peacefully in the arms of her loving husband John Reed, December 16, 2019; she was 60 years old. She had just been diagnosed with cancer 1 ½ months before and had started chemo/immunotherapy. She fought a hard losing battle and gratefully did not have to suffer long. Prior to the diagnosis, she was playing racketball (usually beating John but occasionally allowing John to win so he wouldn’t be pissy the rest of the day), tennis, kayaking, biking, hiking, scuba diving, swimming, boating, and anything and everything outdoors.
Sherry will be greatly missed by her close family and numerous friends far and wide: John Reed (husband), Judith and Donald Petry (parents), Chris and Becky Petry (brother and sister-in-law) and their daughters (Molly and Katy), Alicia and David Wallman (John’s daughter and son-in-law) and their children (Lauren, Robyn, and Sean), Jim and Sabine Reed (brother of John and sister-in-law), Stanley (Rusty) Reed (brother of John), and David and Chris Phillips (Sherry’s uncle and aunt). Sherry was born February 2, 1959, and grew up in Bourne, Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Although she only lived there for 8 years, she was a true Codder, tough and independent.
As her father was in the Air Force, they lived in Stuttgart Germany from 1967- 69 where she learned to be an accomplished skier on steep slopes to the dismay of her husband who later tried to follow her down the mountains of Little Matterhorn, Switzerland; Snowmass, Colorado; and Killington, Vermont. She went to high school in Vienna, Virginia, and graduated college with a Bachelor of Science degree from Wheaton College, Massachusetts, studying marine science which was to be her dream career.
Her first marine-related job was at the New England Aquarium feeding sea lions, and coming home quite fragrant. She then landed her first marine science job at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., assisting with curating the octopus and mollusk collections. In 1983 she saw an open position for a marine biological research assistant at the Smithsonian Marine Station at Link Port (on site of Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution) in Fort Pierce, Florida. So she loaded up her truck and moved to paradise. Soon after she met her future husband John who worked at Link Port HBOI as a marine biologist and then married on January 24, 1987, and lived and worked here ever since.
Sherry was fortunate to do what she loved, and she always enjoyed traveling to remote places with her husband and scuba diving on some of the most beautiful, pristine reefs throughout the Caribbean, Bahamas, Canary Islands, Africa, Papua New Guinea, Australia, and the Florida Keys. The following is a tribute from the Director of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., Kirk Johnson:
Sherry was hired as a Research Assistant to help with the Visiting Scientist Program at the Smithsonian Marine Station in Fort Pierce, Florida (SMSFP). She headed field operations and served as Diving Officer for the Smithsonian Marine Station until her promotion to Station Manager in 2015. Sherry is known to many people for her work with countless scientists who conducted research at SMSFP over her 36-year career at the Smithsonian. She was a dedicated professional, always providing the best field and laboratory research support possible.
As SMSFP Dive Officer, she worked for many years on the Smithsonian Diving Control Board and supervised hundreds if not thousands of scientific research dives throughout Florida, Belize, and the Caribbean. Sherry was a member of a number of professional organizations. She served on the Board of Directors of both the American Academy of Underwater Sciences and the International Women Divers Hall of Fame, the latter of which she was inducted into in 2002. She has been described by her friends and coworkers as “the sweetest and most hard-working woman” and the “heart of the Smithsonian Marine Station.” She will be greatly missed.
Since Sherry’s passing, John has received numerous letters from educators, students, interns, and Post Doc scientists who had worked at SMS over the years. So many of the women said that Sherry was an inspiration to them, someone to look up to. “What would Sherry do?; I want to be just like Sherry” was often their words. Her Cape Cod resilience and toughness would not put up with BS. A recent letter states “I will never forget how she gave a little girl the opportunity to fall in love with the ocean by funding her summer camp experience this past year. I’m sure her selfless acts and passion will carry on through those fortunate enough to have met her and to have been influenced by her. ”
John and Sherry became Scientific Diving Safety Officers for their respective institutions, and Sherry obtained a Coast Guard Captain’s license and was certified as a PADI scuba instructor, CPR, First Aid, and Accident Management instructor which she used in everyday life as well as for scuba diving. Never to look away from a potential problem, whenever Sherry said “well, that doesn’t look right”, John knew that they had to go rescue or intervene to save someone or some animal. She literally saved a dozen people from drowning in the inlet over the years, an FPL lineman from electrocution, and actually did successful CPR on two sea turtles that were near-drowned after a hurricane, and various dogs, squirrels, and a snake.
Sherry was inducted into the Women Divers Hall of Fame (WDHOF) in 2002. The members of WDHOF are an elite group that includes the most notable women leaders and innovators in the diving community. They are the pioneers, leaders, innovators, and world record holders. These areas of diving and undersea endeavors include the Arts, Science, Medicine, Exploration & Technology, and Military Diving. There are currently 238 members in the Women Divers Hall of Fame, hailing from 30 U.S. states and Territories and 20 countries worldwide.
Sherry was recognized by WDHOF as the first female Scientific Diving Officer in the U.S. She was elected to the Smithsonian Institution Scientific Diving Control Board in 1990 and was the Dive Safety Officer for the Smithsonian Marine Station in Fort Pierce, Florida, and for the Caribbean Coral Research Ecosystem Program located on Carrie Bow Cay, Belize. She has also served on the Board of Directors of the American Academy of Underwater Sciences (AAUS) and served on the Board of Directors of WDHOF and as Vice-President.
The family requests that donations to honor Sherry’s memory and legacy may be made to continue the WDHOF “Sherry Reed Undergraduate Marine Conservation/Marine Biology Scholarship”.