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Sharing a charmed life
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Walter and
Betty Reid

Sharing a
"charmed"
life

“Wherever we travel, Walter always checks out the candy section in the local shops,” says Betty Reid.

By Kay L. Grismer

Not surprising for the former CEO of Charms Candy Company and creator of the American classic “Blow Pop” lollipop, the third largest-selling candy in the world.

“It is,” Walter says, “my claim to fame.”


Walter and Betty Reid

Walter Reid has shared the fruits of his “charmed” life by establishing the Walter and Betty Reid Fund in recognition of the outstanding health care provided to the community by FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital and in support of the Foundation of FirstHealth’s Stepping Stones Campaign.

“This gift has given me as much pleasure as anything I have done,” he says. “It may go into bricks and mortar, but it won’t end when the last brick is laid. The income from the fund will be there forever for FirstHealth to use as it wishes to care for people.”

The world’s No. 1 candy company
Walter Reid III began his 54-year career in the candy business when he joined his father’s New Jersey-based company in 1934. Founded 22 years before, Tropical Charms, as the company was originally called, produced the world’s first individually wrapped hard candies in a disappearing package.

“I held every job there was in the company,” Walter recalls, “including sweeping the floors.”

Walter’s career was interrupted when he was called for one-year compulsory military training in 1940. Soon to be married to Lorraine Hyde, a Duke University graduate from Staten Island, Walter joined the Army Signal Corps at Fort Monmouth. He expected to complete his service in December 1941, but Pearl Harbor changed his plans.

After the war, the couple traveled to Pinehurst to visit his parents at the old Pine Needles Hotel. Two decades later, he and Lorraine would buy their own home here.

When Walter returned to Charms, competition from more than 6,000 candy companies was fierce. But under his leadership, Charms became the largest producer of hard candy in the world.

In the mid-1960s, Walter moved Charms into the gum market with “Blow Pop,” a lollipop with a candy-coated exterior and bubble gum center. Major retailers in the U.S. and around the world began carrying the product, and its place in history was sealed when “Candy Industry” magazine named “Blow Pop” “the most popular lollipop on the planet.”

Charms Candy Company weathered many ups and downs. In the 1980s, Walter brought in a business consultant from Boston by the name of Mitt Romney (now a Republican candidate for president and former governor of Massachusetts), who advised him to merge with a compatible company. In 1988, he sold Charms to Tootsie Roll.

Leadership, service, philanthropy
When his father died in 1960, Walter Reid assumed a legacy of community service and philanthropy by serving on boards of several businesses and churches, as well as president of the local YMCA.

He began his 32-year association with Monmouth Medical Center, one of New Jersey’s largest academic medical centers and an affiliate of Philadelphia’s Drexel University College of Medicine. He founded the Mid-Atlantic Health Group, the holding company for Monmouth Medical Center and Manchester Regional Hospital in 1981, and he became chairman of the Board of Governors in 1986.

When Walter stepped down in 1992, the president and CEO of Mid-Atlantic wrote, “I have worked with scores of leading American businessmen and bankers. Only a scant handful have been constructive individuals of character, wisdom and wit. You are one of those few people.”

In the Resolution of Board of Governors, Walter was recognized as having “consistently given the organization the benefit of his astute judgment and his dedicated efforts.” Monmouth Health Care Foundation also recognized him as “First Honoree” for “his time and effort extended to help mankind.”

A new life in Pinehurst
Throughout their married life, Walter and Lorraine Reid traveled extensively. Both avid golfers (he had a four handicap and twice shot his age), they were attracted to Pinehurst where they had visited his parents after the war. In 1967, the couple decided to buy their own winter getaway at the Country Club of North Carolina.

Betty and Jim Smith lived nearby. Born Mary Elizabeth Walters, Betty was raised in Rockingham by her aunt and uncle, Elizabeth and Henry C. Wall, in the historic Leak-Wall House, which is now owned by the Richmond County Historical Society. She graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill, where she met Jim. They married and moved to California, where they raised their children before returning to Rockingham nine years later in 1954.

Betty and Jim had also considered CCNC their “vacation getaway,” even though it was only a short drive from their home in Rockingham. The Reids and the Smiths became great friends, traveling to Scotland and other places for golfing vacations, spending Christmases together and taking cruises. They even bought a duplex together at Belle Meade, where they planned one day to live side by side.

Jim was diagnosed with cancer in the mid- 1980s, but lived another 13 years with the care provided at Moore Regional. He died in 1998.

As they had planned, Betty sold their house and moved to her new home at Belle Meade, without her husband of more than 50 years.

In the early 1990s, Walter began to have multiple health problems that required extensive treatment at Moore Regional’s cardiology center, but it was Lorraine who succumbed to cancer a few months after she and Walter moved to Belle Meade. Now a widower, Walter decided that he, too, would move into the duplex at Belle Meade, without his wife of almost 60 years.

Once Walter and Betty were neighbors again, they realized their almost 30-year friendship had become something more. They were married in the Village Chapel in 2000.

“We have had a wonderful time ever since,” they say.

During the last six years, the couple has traveled throughout the U.S., and cruised, Walter’s favorite means of transportation, to Alaska, South America, Europe, and the Mediterranean and Baltic seas, and across the Pacific to New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong and Japan.

“The first wealth is health”
Walter became involved with Moore Regional Hospital in 1986, when fellow CCNC member Hal Stevens invited him to join the Scroll Society, the “cornerstone” of the Foundation’s continued growth. He was intrigued by the success of the organization Hal had established 10 years earlier to broaden the Foundation’s base of philanthropic support and which then rested on the generosity of a fairly small number of prominent families.

The Scroll Society represents the Foundation’s most successful annual-giving program. Annual contributions from the more than 500 Scroll Society members, who give $10,000 over 10 years, are the principal source of “current-use” gifts.

“I consider the Scroll Society the perfect means of fundraising,” says Walter. “It is really the way to raise funds and keep the community involved.”

Based on his experience with Monmouth Medical Center, Walter had been convinced that teaching hospitals keep the practice of medicine at a higher level than a community hospital. But over the past decade, he has experienced first hand the state-of-the-art medical equipment, technology and facilities, as well as cutting-edge treatments and innovative services, offered at Moore Regional.

“FirstHealth has proved my theory wrong,” he says.

Walter credits visionaries Charles Frock, CEO of FirstHealth, who was recently recognized as a fellow by the American College of Healthcare Executives, and cardiothoracic surgeon John Krahnert, M.D., who performed the 5,000th bypass at Moore Regional earlier this year.

According to Dr. Krahnert, Moore Regional has some built-in advantages over large academic medical centers in achieving and maintaining high quality. “We don’t teach medical students, train residents or do research,” he says. “We concentrate on only one thing, and that’s patient care. We have the ideal environment for success.”

The Walter and Betty Reid Fund
Since becoming members of the Foundation of FirstHealth Board in 2006, Walter and Betty Reid have attended various Foundation-hosted educational programs, information updates and receptions, and have become active in the Camp Easter Network.

“Betty has been very helpful in growing the network by getting vibrant, younger retirees involved,” says Foundation President Kathy Westover. “She is a breath of fresh air.”

As a result of their involvement, Walter reevaluated his charitable trust. “Originally, my interests were in New Jersey, now they’re here,” he says.

According to the Reids, trusts lose their focus and vitality over time when administered by second- and third generation trustees. “The generation who would manage this trust is scattered all over the country,” they say. “They won’t know what we want. That’s why we transferred the trust to FirstHealth. The Foundation’s Board of Trustees will ensure our wishes and intentions are maintained for many generations to come.”

Walter and Betty Reid’s generous $4 million gift is the largest single gift to FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital in its 78-year history and the lead community gift to the Stepping Stones Campaign.

With a goal of $25 million, the Stepping Stones Campaign is the largest fundraising effort that the Foundation has ever undertaken. Funds raised through the campaign will support the construction of a Heart Hospital, Hospitality House and Hospice Residence on the campus of FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital.

FirstHealth employees have already achieved their $1 million goal, and Moore Regional’s medical staff and FirstHealth governance participation has set a record for gifts from these two groups. Factor in the Moore Regional Hospital Auxiliary’s gift of $1 million and the FirstHealth “family” has already provided more than $4 million to Stepping Stones.

The Stepping Stones Campaign continues a tradition that goes back to the earliest days of the hospital in Pinehurst. It also follows the tradition of calling on the community to help build the facilities needed for expanding and updating patient-care services and raising them to the highest level of excellence.

This story focuses on the generosity of a Pinehurst couple and their major gift to the Foundation of FirstHealth’s current Stepping Stones Campaign. One of the major beneficiaries of the Stepping Stones Campaign will be a designated Heart Hospital to be built on the campus of FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital. Be sure to read the fall issue of FirstHealth of the Carolinas magazine, which will be devoted to cardiovascular disease and its diagnosis and treatment.