NEW PORT RICHEY — It's hard to imagine today as several modern hospitals serve hundreds of patients daily in western Pasco County. But until 1952, pregnant women had to drive to Tarpon Springs or Clearwater hospitals for care and delivery.
That's when Dr. Gerald Sprankel opened the Richey Clinic in a house just south of downtown. The nurse in charge: Julie Obenreder.
The clinic would serve more than 600 patients in the next eight years. Still, if you were a black woman in need of obstetrics, you had to find other options.
Mrs. Obenreder recognized their plight and without hesitation volunteered time and again to help in the one pocket of West Pasco where black families lived — the community known as Pine Hill. Until 1965, when the first hospital in New Port Richey opened to all in need, Mrs. Obenreder delivered at least 50 babies in Pine Hill at all hours of the day and night, free of charge.
That piece of history is included in West Pasco Heritage, a book published by the West Pasco Historical Society, which Mrs. Obenreder helped found in 1973.
"She made a real contribution to her community," offered granddaughter Julia McCutcheon.
Mrs. Obenreder died Thursday at Southern Pines Nursing Center, where she had moved only recently after breaking her shoulder blade in a fall. She was 98.
Julie Jenkins was born in 1913 in Wilcox, Pa. Her father was a glass blower and a baker. She studied nursing and on Dec. 31, 1932, married Roy Obenreder, who delivered coal by truck. They had a son and two daughters, including one with respiratory problems. In 1945, they moved to New Port Richey for the warmer climate.
Mrs. Obenreder had learned to play piano as a child. In her new community, she joined Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church and became organist for the choir.
In 1971, she joined with Janet Lewis, the city's librarian, in an effort to create a local historical society. Mrs. Obenreder became the society's first president in 1974. "She was a meticulous note taker," said McCutcheon, who cared for her grandmother in the later years. "In her last days, she started having some trouble remember things. Fortunately, she had written everything down."
The area's history is housed in a building that served as the Seven Springs schoolhouse from 1913 to 1925. It was moved to Sims Park in 1981, and Roy Obenreder, who became a building contractor, was in charge of the renovations. Roy died in 1993 at age 80.
In addition to her many articles in West Pasco Heritage, Mrs. Obenreder also authored My Pioneer Days in West Pasco. She served one term on the New Port Richey City Council in the late 1970s.