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The Beulah and Florence Usher endowment established in 2005 was made possible by an estate gift that will be used to provide support, and promote research and education in the area of Cornea / External Disease and Refractive Surgery. The Usher sisters are also honored by a chair to enhance research and education dealing with cornea and external disease.
UI Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences recognizes the extraordinary contribution provided by Miss Beulah Usher and Miss Florence Usher of Cedar Rapids. Sisters and lifelong partners, Beulah and Florence were two of the department’s most generous benefactors. The gift from their estate will be used to provide support and promote research in the area of cornea and external disease.
The Usher family name is well known in this region of Iowa as pioneers in the Iowa City and Cedar Rapids area. Beulah and Florence’s great grandfather Henry A. Usher was an early settler and local blacksmith who helped erect the Old Capitol Building. Henry P. Usher, the father of Beulah and Florence, purchased the land where Seminole Valley Park and the Usher’s Ferry are presently located. Henry P. Usher also owned and operated a ferryboat that later became known as “Usher’s Ferry”
In 1840, before Iowa was a state, Henry A. Usher purchased his claim from the territorial land office in Dubuque, Iowa and built a house in 1855 with square nails and lumber from his sawmill. The Usher house was cut in two in 1867 and transported across the Cedar River on ice by two big sleds to the corner of “E” Avenue and Stony Point Road, NW. It was moved back across the river near its original site in the early 1980’s. It has been the family home to several generations of the Ushers and now serves as the cornerstone and museum of the Usher’s Ferry Historic Pioneer Village.
Beulah and Florence Usher were born after the turn of the 20th century in their family home. They grew up in rural Cedar Rapids and traveled on horseback to and from their Stony Point one room school house that is still located on the southwest side of Cedar Rapids. Although the sisters were rarely apart, they pursued different careers. Beulah graduated in 1925 from St. Luke’s School of Nursing in Cedar Rapids and spent 36 years in health care at St. Luke’s Hospital. Florence pursued a successful career in millinery, marketing, and sales for Killian’s Department Store of Cedar Rapids.
The Usher sisters never married and lived together until Beulah’s death in 1994 at the age of 91. Florence passed away in 2003 at the age of 98. They lived modestly and were very grateful for the care they received from the faculty and staff in the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. It is with deep and heartfelt appreciation that the Department of Ophthalmology recognizes the profound impact that this generosity will provide. Beulah and Florence Usher will long be remembered for their hard work, good humor, love of family and passionate desire to serve others.
The first recipient of the Beulah and Florence Usher Chair in Cornea/External Disease and Refractive Surgery is Michael D. Wagoner, MD, PhD.