An 8-year-old shadow often accompanied Frederick County’s first black physician on house calls. Dr. Blanche Bourne-Tyree knew then that she would be a doctor.
Bourne-Tyree idolized her father, Dr. Ulysses Bourne, and she tried to follow him to every patient visit. She never understood why he would not let her attend some.
And in 1941, Bourne-Tyree followed through on her promise, graduating from Howard University’s School of Medicine. She was the first woman from Frederick County to earn a medical degree and one of the first black female doctors in Maryland.
“She definitely was a trailblazer,” said Delma Bourne-Parran, her cousin.
Medicine was in the Bourne blood, Bourne-Parran said. Bourne-Tyree’s older brother was the first black doctor to work at Frederick Memorial Hospital. Her sister was a nurse.
Bourne-Tyree died Thursday evening at 102 years old. Bourne-Parran was with her at the end.
Bourne-Parran often visited her cousin, who retired in Frederick after a long career in medicine. Last week, Bourne-Parran treated Bourne-Tyree to a “staycation,” getting Bourne-Tyree’s hair done and dressing her up. Then the two donned leis, drank apple cider and pretended they were somewhere sunny. It was the last full day that Bourne-Parran spent with Bourne-Tyree.
Despite Bourne-Tyree’s firsts in medicine, family members and friends said she often did not talk about the barriers she crossed. Her parents sheltered her from segregation as much as they could, Bourne-Parran said.
Although Bourne-Tyree experienced racism, it did not hinder her, Bourne-Parran said.
Bourne-Tyree practiced medicine in Cincinnati and St. Louis before taking on a teaching role at Howard University and then the Washington, D.C., Department of Public Health, according to documents provided by Bourne-Tyree’s power of attorney.
“Medicine was her first love,” Bourne-Parran said.
Bourne-Tyree was a pediatrician. Though she had no children of her own, she considered her patients her family, Bourne-Parran said.
Bourne-Tyree did not talk often about being a woman in medicine, said niece Lisa Bourne, who said she was the best doctor.
“People wanted their babies to be seen by Aunt Blanche,” Bourne said.
Bourne-Tyree liked to decorate and often changed her furniture around. She was a fashionista who loved to shop.
“She was one of the nicest, kindest people you ever met,” Bourne said.
Lisa Bourne’s mother, Barbara Adams Ramos, was close to Bourne-Tyree. The two were sisters-in-law.
“She loved life,” Ramos said.
The two became fast friends, Ramos said, and they often went shopping together. She remembered that they took a painting class together, but neither of them was very good at it, she said.
Bourne-Tyree made many friends in her 102 years, including Terrence and Jennifer Rickrode. Terrence Rickrode served as her power of attorney for several years.
“She was, for years, recognizable at restaurants,” Jennifer Rickrode said.
The two met Bourne-Tyree while on a cruise, a vacation that started many years of traveling together, they said.
Jennifer Rickrode and Bourne-Tyree were shopping friends. Bourne-Tyree loved shopping for jewelry.
“To us, my husband and I, she was a very good friend and a close confidante,” Jennifer Rickrode said.
Although Bourne-Tyree loved medicine, it did not define her life. After retiring, she stayed active, joining a number of clubs and memorializing her father’s legacy in Frederick. She was a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority.
“One of her legacies is she never forgot her father, the Bourne family or where she came from,” Jennifer Rickrode said.
The sky was the limit for Bourne-Tyree, Bourne-Parran said.
Bourne-Parran and Bourne-Tyree spoke about her legacy before she died. Bourne-Tyree told Bourne-Parran she did not need to die happy, but she needed to live her life.
In Bourne-Parran’s eyes, her cousin did just that.