5th Alley East, Lot 44
(1861 – 1941)
Fergus Reid was born in 1861 and became a well-known and highly respected Norfolk businessman. He was involved in cotton brokerage activities that ultimately became a business with branches and connections in other and more important American cotton centers and in the principal cotton receiving ports of Western Europe. From cotton, Mr. Reid’s path led him to real estate, ferries, investments and participation in manufacturing, engineering and petroleum ventures both in the United States and South America.
It is said that Mr. Reid possessed an extraordinary ability to quickly get to the core of business problems and find ways of solving them that benefited all involved. At one point in his career he risked his reputation and his money on abandoned warehouses that soon came back to life with industry, on farm lands that became city streets lined with houses. He anticipated the northward movement of the Norfolk retail district in the late 1800s and early 1900s and was a pioneer of investing in small businesses and bringing larger businesses to that area.
Fergus Reid lived at 507 Pembroke Avenue in the Ghent section of Norfolk and was married to Mary Wilson Chamberlain Reid, daughter of William Wilson Chamberlain and Mattie Dillard Chamberlain of Norfolk. Mrs. Reid was one of Norfolk’s foremost philanthropists who contributed greatly to city beautification and the arts. She and Mr. Reid had to children, Fergus Reid, Jr. and Helen Reid, better known as the Baroness de Lustrac. They also had seven grandchildren. Mrs. Reid passed away in 1947.*
Mr. Reid was most appreciated for enriching Norfolk’s communal life. He contributed large sums of money to local churches, charities and to Sweetbriar College “for which he had a special and deep affection.” He supported the Norfolk Museum of Arts and Sciences of which he was one of the directors; Norfolk General Hospital on whose directorate he served 54 years beginning as one of its charter members, Norfolk Symphony Orchestra, The Little Theatre of Norfolk, the Feldman Chamber Music Society and the Community Fund. He was rumored to have given “under the shelter of rigid anonymity” to friends who were “overtaken by misfortune and adversity.” He did not like to be recognized publicly for his generosity and believed that “the act is better than the word.” Fergus Reid passed away in November of 1941 at 80 years of age.**
Other family members interred on the Reid Lot include: Baron Jean de Lustrac, d. 1973; Helen Reid de Lustrac, d. 1990; Janet Reid, d. 1907.
Photograph and obituaries courtesy of the Sargeant Memorial Room, Norfolk Public Library
*The Virginian-Pilot, Obituaries Section, October 1947
**The Virginian Pilot, Obituaries Section, November 1941
Biographical information provided by Norfolk Bureau of Cemeteries.
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