Dr. Mary H. Horder, 68: Delivered 10,000 babies, here and in Rwanda

Over her nearly 40-year medical career, Dr. Mary Horder delivered, by her estimate, 10,000 babies, the majority of them at Gwinnett County’s Eastside Hospital, and in the process she kissed each newborn on the forehead.

For the past decade, she continued delivering and kissing babies, but in this case as a OB-GYN volunteer at a remote Rwandan village in central Africa.

Dr. Norman Freid of Snellville, her former partner in Gwinnett OB-GYN Associates, called Horder “tops in her field, an excellent practitioner and compassionate caregiver.”

He credited Horder with introducing obstetric ultrasound examinations to the Atlanta area during the early 1980s. “Mary had studied the procedure earlier while on a fellowship at a hospital in England,” he said. “I can’t begin to tell you how many babies’ lives ultrasound exams have saved.”

Dr. Lynn Campbell said Horder became her mentor when she joined Gwinnett OB-GYN in 1990. “Mary was incredibly generous in sharing her expertise with me. She was respected by her peers and truly loved by her patients.

“Long after she retired, her former patients would ask me about her. They felt connected to her because she was such an empathetic caregiver. They would speak nostalgically of their deliveries, surgeries and life crises through which she guided them. She is remembered with gratitude as having saved the lives of many of them, their children or their grandchildren,” Campbell said.

Dr. Mary H. Horder, 68, of Atlanta died May 30 at Eastside Hospital of pancreatic cancer. Her memorial service is 3 p.m. Tuesday at St. Bede’s Episcopal Church. Tom M. Wages Funeral Service, Snellville Chapel, is in charge of arrangements.

Clare Richardson of Atlanta, who is president of Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, said she introduced Horder to Rwanda 11 years ago. She said Horder took an immediate fancy to a village, Bisate, where the Gorilla Fund operates a patrol post and supports a school and a health clinic.

Richardson said the clinic was in poor condition in 2003, and Horder in 10 subsequent visits helped to make improvements. In addition to delivering villagers’ babies, she schooled clinic workers in the best methods of patient care.

“Mary had that rare ability to connect with people even when she didn’t speak their language,” Richardson said. “Mary would fashion diagrams or drawings to illustrate her ideas. That plus her upbeat personality got her message across.”

Richardson said the health of the villagers has a direct bearing on the core objective of her organization – saving the gorillas.

“Both villagers and gorillas nearby tend to contract the same parasitic infections,” she said, “but gorillas suffer worse consequences. So the more we can control parasitic diseases among humans, the better off the gorillas will be.”

Horder’s onetime partner Campbell said Horder was endlessly surprising.

“Mary took up weaving, gourmet cooking, cultivating African violets, collecting antique medical texts — a myriad of esoteric interests that mirrored the intricacies of her amazing mind.

“She encouraged her friends to see the world as malleable and themselves as its molders,” Campbell continued. “She challenged us to make the world a better place but in such a kind way that you felt galvanized rather than coerced. She was the kind of friend you find once in a lifetime.”

Horder is survived by her husband of 41 years, Rick Horder; two daughters, Alexis Horder of Atlanta and Kimberly Craig of Cumming; a sister, Helen Loeb of Tucker; three brothers, Arthur Haecker of Atlanta, Charles Haecker of Cerrillos, N.M., and Harry Haecker of Dunedin, New Zealand, and five grandchildren.