Eleanor N. Humphrey, M.D.

By on July 2, 2018

Eleanor N. Humphrey, M.D. died June 12, 2018 at age 102. Predeceased by her husband, Paul Humphrey. Survived by her three children, Dr. Paula Kim (John), Paul N. (Cathy), and Joel (Deborah); seven grandchildren and six great grandchildren.

Eleanor Humphrey in 2016. Photo by Kristina Gabalski

Eleanor Humphrey in 2016. Photo by Kristina Gabalski

An article written by Kristina Gabalski, printed in the Suburban News in March of 2016 for her 100th birthday shared some of her life stories: At age 100, Eleanor’s eyesight is not what it was, but she is able to continue to live in her historic home on Union Street (it was a stop on the Underground Railroad) with the help of Joel and his wife, Deborah, who live there with her. 

“I want to stay in my home,” Eleanor says, “the gardens are so nice.” 

Recently, Eleanor recounted main events in her rich and long life, which began in Rochester, where she was born and grew up. She attended grade school and high school in the city and then attended the Women’s College at the U of R. She knew she wanted a career as a doctor and was one of the first local women to be accepted into the U of R Medical School, where she studied with the likes of Arthur Kornberg, who won the Nobel Prize for his discovery of the mechanism in the biosynthesis of DNA. 

Eleanor remembers working for two summers on a job related to Kornberg’s research. “I stirred pig’s kidneys and strained them,” she says. 

She was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society at the U of R and married Paul Humphrey in 1941, during her last year of medical school.

She traveled to Boston for an internship and residency work and remembers the first time she delivered a baby, an experience that left her a bit in awe. “I came out and the sun was up, I felt there is something else that is guiding us in our lives,” Eleanor says of the natural wonder of birth.

Joel says his mother helped to open doors for women doctors in Rochester. “She was breaking-in when women weren’t really wanted,” he says. One fellow medical student – a young man – even told her to, “go home and learn to cook,” Eleanor remembers. 

She opened her first office in the Medical Arts Building in Rochester and practiced in obstetrics and gynecology from 1944 to 1975. She then worked as a gynecologist for Planned Parenthood until the age of 77, eight of those years as medical director. 

Eleanor had three children – two sons, Paul, a retired attorney, and Joel, who worked 42 years in healthcare; and her daughter, Paula, a physician. 

“I only missed nine months (total) away from my practice,” while she was having her family, Eleanor says, and with support of family, she did not have to put her children in daycare. 

She and her husband, Paul, enjoyed traveling the world. “We went twelve times over the Atlantic and twice over the Pacific,” she says, visiting such places as Japan, Thailand and Hong Kong. Eleanor and Paul took their three children on a “grand tour of Europe,” Eleanor recalls, which included Spain, Portugal and Morocco. 

Eleanor also enjoyed playing piano, making doll houses and doll dresses, and gardening, which brought her special joy. 

“I was a member of the Spencerport Garden Club for 60 years,” she says. Additionally, she was therapy chairman of district garden clubs for 13 years, working on projects like planting flowers and plants on the children’s play deck at Strong Memorial Hospital and also in garden therapy work with the disabled. She became a National Council Judge for flower exhibitions. 

After Eleanor’s husband died in 2001, Westside News Inc. sponsored a children’s garden outside the library wing of the Ogden Community Center in honor of Paul and Eleanor. Paul enjoyed his involvement in Suburban News and Hamlin-Clarkson Herald as a frequent contributor of feature articles and light verses. The quiet reading spot with benches is protected by a hedge of arborvitae and continues to be a peaceful spot for young families. 

Of making it to her 100th birthday, Eleanor very candidly says, “I would advise other people not to live to 100 … I can’t play the piano anymore, I can’t do my handiwork.” She notes she and her family always ate a proper diet and watched their weight and son, Joel, adds that his mother always kept active and never smoked or drank. 

“I would have a cocktail once in a while,” Eleanor admits, “and sometimes a glass of wine.” 

Services will be held at the convenience of the family. Donations can be made to the Ogden Baptist Church in her memory.

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