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Longtime area obstetrician dies at 83

Published May 16, 2007



1923 - 2007

Dr. Sherman H. Pace, who delivered thousands of babies during a 60-year career, died Sunday (May 13, 2007) at Morton Plant Hospital.

He was 83, and he continued to see patients until a few weeks before his death.

"When people would ask my dad when he was going to retire, he'd say, 'I love what I do and when God takes me from my practice is when I'll retire, ' " said his son, retired Pinellas County sheriff's Deputy Mike Pace.

Although he rose to chief of staff at one hospital and was on the board of another, Dr. Pace was once paid in chickens as a young doctor.

After World War II, he played a personal role in the baby boom by delivering 1, 200 babies in one year alone.

A prized photo on the wall of his Clearwater office came from a wedding in which he had delivered the all the members of the wedding party, including the bride and groom.

He even delivered the lawyer who is now handling his estate.

"His footsteps are going to be heard around Morton Plant Hospital for a long time to come, " Mike Pace said.

Dr. Pace was born At Faith Hospital (now St. Anthony's Hospital) in St. Petersburg on Nov. 15, 1923. He attended area schools and graduated from St. Petersburg High in 1940. He promptly entered Duke University in North Carolina and earned a bachelor's degree, and in 1947 received his degree from Duke Medical School.

In 1946, while an intern in internal medicine at Bowman Gray Medical School at North Carolina Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem, N.C., he married Marion Riggsbee of Durham, N.C., and the couple later welcomed two daughters and a son into their family.

Upon completing his residency in 1950 as an obstetrician-gynecologist at Duke Hospital in Durham, Dr. Pace accepted a position as superintendent and medical director of the former Forsyth County Hospital in Rural Hall, and later at what is now Highlands-Cashiers Hospital in Highlands, N.C., where he was once paid in chickens for a house call.

During World War II, the 6-foot-6 doctor served in the Naval Reserve. Later, he was part of the U.S. Army Medical Corps as a doctor at several Army hospitals and Air Force bases.

After his discharge in 1955, Dr. Pace brought his family to Clearwater, where he set up a private practice in general family medicine and obstetrics. His first office was at 1438 Gulf-to-Bay Blvd. Five years later, he moved to 1744 Drew St., where his office has remained to the present day.

Dr. Pace affiliated himself with Morton Plant Hospital in 1956.

"On Sundays, Dad and I would go fishing and catch mackerel behind Morton Plant Hospital when it was still a wooden building, " his son said.

At Morton Plant, Dr. Pace served as chairman of the Family Practice section and the ob-gyn section, and a whole wall in his office contains photos of babies he delivered.

In 1981, Dr. Pace became president of the medical staff, and a year later joined the hospital's board of trustees. He was still on staff at Morton Plant at the time of his death.

He was also a founding staff member and in 1968 and 1969 was chief of staff of the former Clearwater Community Hospital, providing his services there from 1967 until it closed in 1990.

Dr. Pace cared for his wife, Marion, until her death in 2002 from complications associated with Alzheimer's disease.

"He'd come home from work at 5:30 and take care of her, " Mike Pace said.

The doctor was a frequent volunteer with several organizations, notably the Florida Sheriff's Association, of which he was a lifetime honorary member. For a decade he served on the board of trustees of the Florida Sheriff's Youth Ranch, and was a three-year member of its foundation.

Since 1955, Dr. Pace had been a member of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Clearwater, where he was a three-term elder. He was also a former deacon at First Presbyterian Church of Highlands, N.C.

"Dad was a history buff, so we took a lot of historical vacations, " daughter Janet Kaufmann said. "He went back to Highlands annually and maintained friendships. He called it 'God's Country.' "

Dr. Pace earned many awards during his career, including the J.C. Penney Golden Rule Award for exceptional volunteer service as a nonpaid attending physician for 21 years at the Florida Sheriff's Youth Ranch, the Friend of Children Award for the state of Florida for the advancement of child welfare, Pinellas County Community Foundation Award for 13 years of service, and the 2001 Achievement Award from the Pinellas County Medical Society for civil service.

He held memberships in many medical organizations, and was a lifetime member of the Pinellas County Medical Society, and the American and Florida Academies of Family Physicians.

Dr. Pace was involved in Scouting as District Area Scout Commissioner and Scoutmaster of Troop 50, belonged to the Pinellas County and Clearwater Historical Societies, and was a 60-year member of the National Rifle Association.

He was a member of Masonic Lodge 127 and Egypt Shrine Temple.

Dr. Pace is survived by a son, Michael Pace of Tarpon Springs; two daughters, Bettie P. Stewart of Lakewood, Colo., and Janet P. Kaufmann of Lutz; and five grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Florida Sheriff's Youth Ranches, P.O. Box 2000, Boys Ranch, FL 32064-9984.

Visitation will be from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. May 25 at Moss-Feaster Funeral Homes & Cremation Services, 693 S Belcher Road, Clearwater. The service for Dr. Pace will be at 10 a.m. May 26 at Trinity Presbyterian Church, 2001 Rainbow Drive, Clearwater.

One of the gospel songs Dr. Pace chose for that service is Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen. A friend told his family that it referred to the many confidences that patients had entrusted to him in six decades of practice.

[Last modified May 15, 2007, 21:56:51]

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