Forest Park's 'Dr. Spock'

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By KEN TRAINOR

Phyllis Mrazek Orland 1919-2009

She was ahead of her time, one of seven women in her graduating class at the University of Illinois Medical School.

"Well before women today," said her son, Dr. Ralph Orland, a psychiatrist, "she balanced the demands of being a professional woman and a good mom."

She moved to Forest Park with her husband, Dr. Frank J. Orland, in the late 1940s and set up her practice at home in 1954. Like her better known contemporary, Dr. Benjamin Spock, she quickly developed a reputation as a kind and caring pediatrician who dispensed down-to-earth, common sense advice.

"She eventually cared for the grandkids of her original patients," said her other son, Dr. Frank R. Orland, a dentist in Riverside. "She was kind and gentle with all her patients. She was a storehouse of information."

But her family was an equal priority. "That's why she practiced out of her home," Frank said. The Orlands had two adjacent apartments in their building on W. Jackson, and one of them was used as Phyllis's office.

"Patients felt at home when they came," noted her son, Ralph. "They knew they had a doctor who cared." It also benefited Ralph when he entered medical school. "She would invite me in to observe certain cases."

It was a unique situation, Frank recalled. On the plus side, they got her home cooking. On the other, they had to grow up fast. "Sometimes we had to finish cooking the dinner when she was seeing patients," Frank said.

Phyllis and her husband instilled a strong service ethic in their three children - they also had a daughter, June - who went on to become a dentist, a psychiatrist and a teacher. And Phyllis always encouraged education. "Work makes it all possible was her philosophy," said Frank. "There was always a structured basis for what she did."

Ralph said she wasn't a hugger, but she was a good listener, always interested and involved.

She was plain, Frank said. Frugal and resourceful, she rarely wore make-up. "She was a very professional lady," he noted. "I don't think she had any vices."

Strong-willed like her more eccentric husband, she nonetheless complemented him, enabling him to pursue his interests in research and local history.

She spent several years as head of the pediatric department at MacNeal Hospital in Berwyn, and after she retired in 1988, she continued to volunteer at an infant welfare clinic in Stickney. She also spent her later years caring for her husband and another son, Carl, both of whom died in the last decade.

Outside of work and home, she most loved spending time at the family "farm" near Dixon in western Illinois. A botany major in college, she loved plants and picking mushrooms. Ralph recalls her serving "weird salads" during weekend dinners. She was also an accomplished pianist and musician, who encouraged her children to play instruments.

Ralph and Frank both say they hope their mother is remembered as Forest Park's pediatrician. "She was really dedicated to the town," said Ralph, "and to providing quality medical care."

She spent her final year at the Scottish Home in North Riverside, where family and friends celebrated her 90th birthday in April. "She was very alert and responded to people," Frank said of her latest birthday.

Responding to people was how she lived.

Dr. Phyllis M. Orland (nee Mrazek), 90, died on July 1, 2009. She was the wife of the late Frank J. Orland; mother of Dr. Frank (Dr. Carla) Orland, June (Jack) Kiburz, Dr. Ralph (Dr. Anna) Orland and the late Carl Orland; grandmother of Dr. Gina and Geoffrey Orland, Mika, Karina and Jace Kiburz, and Adriana, Hannah and Mark Orland; and the aunt of many.

A memorial service will be held in August. Arrangements are being handled by Zimmerman-Harnett Funeral Home.

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