Dr. Roberta Geraldine Rice M.D., F.A.C.S., died Tuesday, April 1, 2014, at her home in Kansas City, Mo., where she lived with her niece and family, Barbara and Fred Vanecek.
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Roberta was born May 29, 1917, in LeSueur Center, in a Methodist parsonage home. At the age of 10, the family moved to Rochester. As soon as she was big enough to reach the pedals, she learned to play the piano and organ, a lifelong gift she shared every place she went. She graduated from Rochester High School with honors. After graduating from Rochester High School, she went to the junior college in Rochester and graduated with honors. The next step was to Colorado College, Colorado Springs, Colo. She woke up each morning viewing Pike's Peak. After completing her BS in Biology, with honors, she headed to the University of Minnesota Medical School. After an internship at the University of Illinois and facing the great discrimination of the time by being turned down by multiple residency programs because she was a woman, she did her surgical training at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. Her mentor was Dr. Charles W. Mayo. She had previously worked with Dr. Donald Balfour, and it was he who encouraged her to apply for the Mayo surgical residency.
Her plan was to obtain her education and then go to Korea as a medical missionary. The plans to go to Korea had to be put on hold due to the outbreak of the Korean War. Dr. Rice joined the staff of the VA Medical Center in Grand Island, Neb. The Holy Spirit worked through Trinity UMC and the United Methodist Women of Nebraska. They sent her to Korea in 1956 to serve as a United Methodist medical missionary educator. She served in Seoul, Korea, from 1956 to 1975 as professor of surgery at Yonsei University and Ewha University Colleges of Medicine. Before leaving Korea, Dr. Rice was awarded the Grand Order of Mungunghwa, the highest decoration awarded by the government of the Republic of Korea. She joined the faculty of the new medical college at Marshall University in Huntington, W.Va., and rejoined the Veterans Administration in surgery at Huntington until she retired from surgical practice in 1986.
She was a past president of the Altrusa Club of Grand Island, Neb., and of Huntington, W.Va. After retirement, she was a volunteer to the Huntington Hospice staff, a Laubach literacy tutor and worked with Korean students in Huntington. She served on the Administrative Board of the First United Methodist Church in Huntington, sang in the choir, played the pipe organ and was an active member of United Methodist Women. She served two terms on the Board of the Diaconate Ministry of the West Virginia United Methodist conference and was a member of the Cabell-Huntington Hospital Board from 1988 to 1991.
In April 1992, she moved to the Brooks-Howell Home for retired Methodist Deaconesses and Missionaries in Asheville, N.C. She continued her busy life singing in the Central UMC choir, playing the organ for the BHH chapel services and the Haywood Congregation and be an active member in the Brooks-Howell and Asheville communities. Her favorite pastimes were her church, her computer and taking classes at the University of North Carolina - Asheville. She never stopped learning. She left this world a better place.
Roberta was predeceased by her parents, Geraldine and the Rev. Robert John Rice; her brother and sister-in-law, George and Helen Rice; her brother, Robert John Jr.; and her nephew, Robert John III.
She is survived by her brother, Bruce (Ilene), St. Paul; and sister-in law, Phyllis Rice, Grand Island, Neb. Also surviving are nieces and nephews, Kathy R., Barbara V. (Fred-Matthew), David R. (Chris-Adam and Mandy), Steven R. (Kristi Rutledge - Nathan, Spencer and Aubrianne), Michael R. (Ann - Kaitlin), Thomas R. (Rebecca - Tyler and Kelsey), Julie Ann Rice-Andrew (John Andrew-Andres Garza, Madeline and Sarah A.), Jeffrey R. (Vianna - Bradley R. and Vanessa Malm), Karen Nelson (Scott N.- Erik and Tara).
Her ashes were buried at her parent 's gravesite in the Woodbury UMC Cemetery in Woodbury, Minn.
Those wanting to send gifts in Roberta's memory may send to a
or to the Mayo Clinic in an area of choice.
Published in The Post-Bulletin on June 7, 2014