Dr. Robert Reif was a household name around the White Bear area in the 1950s and 1960s. His downtown office was one of several general practitioners who served our community, but his brand of care had a special touch. Maybe that was just who he was, or maybe it had something to do with his time as an Army medic in World War II. Reif interrupted medical school at the University of Minnesota to serve in Germany, where he received the Bronze Star.
After the war, he finished school and settled in White Bear Lake, where he and his wife, Rita, and raised their family. For the next two decades, “Dr. Bob,” as he was often called, saw patients and shared his compassionate approach with our community. One family recalls when their daughter was stricken with rheumatic fever and had to be on bed rest for an extended period. The hospital would not let the young girl go home without being sure she had sufficient care, so Reif made stops on his way to the office each morning and on his way home each evening to monitor her progress.
As his career continued, Reif joined St. John’s Hospital and worked as a physician and an administrator. He was involved in bringing St. John’s Hospital (then known as St. John’s Northeast) to Maplewood in the 1980s. He served for three terms as a state representative, working to improve health care for all Minnesotans. And he also put his medical knowledge to work as the Ramsey County coroner, and as the state and national Surgeon General for the VFW.
—Sara Markoe Hanson is the executive director of the White Bear Lake Area Historical Society.