B.J. Reed put Medford on the national stage this week when she was chosen as the American woman who best reflects a commitment to good health.

B.J. Reed put Medford on the national stage this week when she was chosen as the American woman who best reflects a commitment to good health.

The retired teacher was flown to New York to appear on ABC-TV's "Good Morning America" program, where she was proclaimed the winner in the "Picture of Health" competition sponsored by the network and Prevention magazine.

"It's all pretty unbelievable to me," Reed said Wednesday in a telephone interview while she waited at the San Francisco airport for a flight home.

At 66, Reed was the oldest of five finalists in the online balloting, but she drew nearly as many votes (25,847) as the other four contestants combined (27,675).

"She won by a landslide," said Angelica De Las Salas, public relations director for Prevention magazine.

"The public loved her," De Las Salas said. "I think it was her story."

Reed's daughter, Robyn, entered her mother in the competition, which drew hundreds of entries from across the United States. Robyn Reed Gaddy wrote an essay describing the 1971 auto accident that killed her brother and left her mother with broken arms and legs. Physicians told the young mother she would never bend her knees or have more children.

Reed proved them wrong on all counts. She had two more children, started exercising and eventually became a marathon runner. Now she spends about 90 minutes exercising every day and her diet focuses heavily on fruits and vegetables.

Reed drew plenty of votes from her many friends and acquaintances in Southern Oregon. Many local civic groups and organizations encouraged their members to vote for her.

"Tons of people got hooked on the Web site," she said.

Reed wins $5,000 for herself, and $5,000 for a charity of her choice. She said she'll give the money to Dunn House, the women's shelter. She will also be guest editor for the October issue of Prevention magazine.

"We had an idea session (for the October issue) while I was there," she said.

She'll also be on the cover of the October issue of the magazine, and will travel back to New York in June for a photo session.

She said she and her husband, Bob, plan to use her prize to help local kids who might not have the money to buy equipment or pay the team fees to play sports or enter competitions, such as the Pear Blossom Run.

"I want to use that money to do something," she said.

She likened winning the contest to receiving a great gift or being born with a special talent.

"Some people paint a masterpiece," she said. "Some write a sonata. This is my gift. It's a huge responsibility to do something with it."

See B. J. Reed's story at www.prevention.com/pictureofhealth online.

Reach reporter Bill Kettler at 776-4492 or e-mail bkettler@mailtribune.com