Written Summer of 2009
Mary Histand Reinford is a strong woman but she may have gained her strength from hardships she experienced throughout her life. Mary was born in Doylestown Township on July 21, 1932 and grew up in the Doylestown Mennonite Church as the fourth child of Daniel and Nora Huddle Histand. Her parents had a total of 11 children before her mother, Nora, passed away at the young age of 44. Since she was one of the oldest girls, she took over the kitchen and cared for all of her younger siblings.
She remembers that the year before her mother died she was told by her father that she could attend Lancaster Mennonite School (LMS) as her sister had. Her trunk was packed but Mary refused to go, mainly because she knew she would get too homesick. So her father said since she didn’t want to go to LMS, she would stay home and help her mother. This was a hard decision for Mary to take, but she believes today that God knew her family would need her, because during that school year was when her mother died of a sudden heart attack.
After her mother died, the children didn’t feel like they could talk about her, but Mary and her sisters found solace in their bedroom where they poured out their hearts to each other. Her father soon married her aunt, a widow from Lancaster, and Mary was “farmed out” at the young age of 16 to work for Eastern Mennonite Homes (EMH) because “you can’t have 2 women in the kitchen.” When their aunt came to live with them, her father chose a different bedroom for him and his new wife and the girls got to stay in their mother’s bedroom where she had died. It was there that they talked quietly about their mother and found comfort in each other.
At EMH, she was the only teenager among many older persons speaking Pennsylvania Dutch. She felt very alone that summer and wanted to go home, but when “I called home, my father said, ‘if you come home, you’ll get a good lickin’ and then go back again.’ ” So she decided to stay, but cried herself to sleep each night for 3 months.
Finally, her father told her she could go to Eastern Mennonite School (EMS) in the fall of 1949 to finish her education. This time she went willingly with no objections or fears of getting homesick. “I wanted to learn and I loved being the hostess at meals.” The lively Mary blossomed at EMS and when everyone gathered for meals in the cafeteria, she was appointed hostess along with a male student as host to keep the conversation flowing around the table.
During the summers in between high school years, her father got her a job at the Pearl S. Buck Welcome House as a cook. She cooked the meals and helped attend to the Amerasian children that stayed at the welcome house. The host couple, a Yoder family from Zion Mennonite broadened her Mennonite perspective and she has remained close to the family ever since. “Because I gave all my earned income to my father till I was 21, Mrs. Yoder was the one who bought me luggage and a few items of clothing.” She spent two summers working there for Pearl S. Buck and got to know the famous author well enough to “take coats” at her personal parties.
When Mary was 21 and she had graduated from EMS, she decided to do a short term of voluntary service in Rittman, Ohio with a friend, Ruth Gross. She remembers the long trip to Ohio by train on January 1st and how the train was filled with service men returning after the holidays. Her friend, Ruth, got homesick and returned home early, but Mary completed her 3 month term and returned home alone by train.
She worked at a laundry in Doylestown for awhile till she realized she wanted to go to college. She took her GED and made plans to attend Eastern Mennonite College. But in 1955, she also met a handsome man from Skippack Mennonite Church that had been told there were nice women “on the other side of the Cowpath” and was driving around scoping out this area near Doylestown. Ernie talked to her brother Herb who told Ernie, “I’ll bring her to Young People’s Meeting on Sunday evening at Souderton Mennonite Church and you can take her home.” They dated after that, but when Mary discussed her plans to attend EMC in the fall, Ernie said, “I’m not driving 8 hours down there.” So, she had a change of plans and they were married in 1956.
Through the years Mary has had some times when she doubted this decision to not pursue her education. She thinks she would have been a psychology or social work major because she enjoys working with people and helping others through their problems. In 1978, Mary started working at Grand View Hospital as a nurse’s aide and enjoyed that job for 21 years. Mary says “I love people. If they are a stranger, they can become an acquaintance and then maybe a friend.”
Today, she has been married 53 years with 5 children: 2 boys, 3 girls, and 9 grandchildren. If she has regrets about her past, she doesn’t show it. She has weathered many struggles over the years, but she firmly believes, “everyone is special and a potential child of God …and arms are made for hugging!”