James Shields Key Jr., M.D.
Dr. James S. Key, Jr., M.D. passed away at home in Medford, Oregon, with his wife of 65 years - and only true love - Dona Pray Key and family at his side on April 25, 2014 at the age of 86. He died from complications arising from bone marrow cancer.
Born August 4, 1927, in San Angelo, Texas, to James Shields Key, Sr. and Mary Harris Key, Jim spent his childhood in west Texas, cleaning the pens of his father's pigeons and peacocks, which left him with a life long distaste for fowl. He graduated from Odessa High School a year early, in 1944, and began college at Texas Christian University. Bored in school Jim soon joined the U.S. Navy where he was preparing to enter flight school when World War II ended. Stationed at Oakland Naval Airbase in California, Jim helped load the returning wounded from the Pacific theatre onto planes taking them to military hospitals across the country. He was honorably discharged in 1946.
Jim returned to TCU where he graduated with a Bachelors degree in biology in 1948, then entered the Medical Branch of the University of Texas in Galveston where he earned his M.D. in 1952. The post-war conditions of his internship in St. Louis, Missouri, and residency in dermatology at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, which he completed in 1956, allowed him training opportunities unheard of today. Jim wanted to practice dermatology, yet challenged himself with a rotating internship that exposed him to surgery and general medicine and allowed him the distinction of being perhaps the only dermatologist in the country who'd delivered 21 babies in one night, replaced nine broken hip joints, driven twelve inch long steel nails into broken shin bones, as well as practicing psychiatry and general medicine.
Jim met Dona Jean Pray of Monett, Missouri, in 1948 when both were students at TCU. It was love at first sight and they married in 1949. Daughter Margaret Candace was born in Galveston in 1952, and Lori Anne in St. Louis in 1953. After moving to Springfield, Missouri, the Keys had son Philip Shields in 1958 and daughter Sally Pray in 1960.
The American Board of Dermatology certified Dr. Key in 1956 and he practiced in Springfield through 1994, treating multiple generations of Springfieldians for acne, poison ivy, rashes and the like, often to the embarrassment of his children. He served on the staff of both Cox and St. John's hospitals and as the Consultant in Dermatology at the Missouri State Sanitarium in Mt. Vernon. He taught the dermatology section of the Burge School of Nursing and is still fondly remembered by many of his students for keeping them awake by unexpectedly interspersing slides of flowers, animals, or scenery in the midst of long lectures.
Jim enjoyed being outdoors, whether it was gardening, camping, or birding. He also became in turn an avid archer and bow hunter, fisherman, photographer, hiker, and botanist, engaging in each activity intensely, perhaps obsessively, and excelled at each. He brought home so many limits of bass when Bull Shoals Lake was first impounded that the neighbors grew weary of the gifts of fish; he missed the state archery championship in 1963 due to illness, but had beat the winner in a tournament a week earlier (so to his family he was always the state champion); and then he became a botanist.
Having grown up on the arid and sparsely vegetated west Texas plains, Jim fell in love with the Ozarks with its four seasons, running water, and lush hills. Its plant-life fascinated Jim so much he started taking botany courses Southwest Missouri State University. By 1975 he discovered and named at a previously unrecorded fern, Asplenium rhizohhyllum L. forma bifidum (Key), and earned a M.A. in in botany and became an adjunct professor at SMSU. His thesis, Pteridophytes of the Interior Highlands of North America, became the source for his Field Guide to Missouri Ferns published in 1982 by the Missouri Department of Conservation.
While other interests came and went, Jim retained a life-long passion for the written word. In his youth, Jim enjoyed the Romantic poets and considered an English Literature major at TCU. The Key kids have fond memories of his dramatic recitations of The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes. His library focused on books by naturalists and outdoorsmen, on American history (especially the early West), and American novelists. After retirement, one could always find Jim reading. He admonished those who spent their evenings in front of the idiot box (TV) saying, When I was growing up we had books!
When their children left home, Jim and Dona began spending two weeks each summer at the Presbyterian Church's Ghost Ranch Education and Retreat Center near Abiquiu, New Mexico. There Jim would relax doing maintenance work on ranch trails. His special task was identifying the desert plants, and then painting and posting trail signs marking them. At home in Springfield he assisted Dona working as a docent at the Gray/Campbell Farmstead.
The Keys retired in 1999 and moved to The Rogue Valley Manor in Medford, Oregon, where they enjoyed exploring their new home state and being close to their daughter Candace in San Rafael, California, and son Philip in Portland, Oregon. Dr. Key is survived by his beloved wife Dona, their four children, his daughter-in-law Susana Alba, and three grandchildrenMark Reed Becker, Dein Lawrence, and Gabriela Key.
Dr. Key suggested memorial contributions be made to either a local public library or the Ghost Ranch Education and Retreat Center, Abiquiu, New Mexico, at