Most children pretend to encounter lions in the wilds of Africa, but Marshall Lawrence Reiner Jr., of Chelsea’s Cohen Florence Levine Estates, actually did encounter lions while growing up in Africa.
Reiner, 82, has lived in Chelsea for about two years, a retired accomplished physician, and he raised many eyebrows last fall when he exhibited his marvelous photos of Africa – photos taken when he returned to his childhood home as an adult.
“At some point, I just knew I needed to go back to Africa and get back to my roots,” he said. ‘I wanted to take my wife out there and show her where I grew up – how I grew up in Tanzania. I went back about six times. It became something we did every year, and I loved taking photographs there. My favorite subject was Mt. Kilimanjaro.”
At the age of 3, Reiner’s parents moved the family from Oak Park, IL, to Tanzania on a missionary trip.
“We took an old freighter around the southern tip of Africa and up the East coast of Africa, landing in Kenya,” he said. “From there, we traveled inland to Tanzania. It was colonial Africa, and very different than now. I had a very interesting upbringing as a little boy who didn’t know where he belonged with all his African buddies. No doubt, I have a lot of crazy stories of wandering around and coming across lions and other animals…The lions don’t just go chasing anybody and they won’t really chase human beings. The only ones that will chase human beings are the older ones that are worn out and can’t catch anything else. People here think every lion is a man-eater and every human is a target. No. They save their prey. If they’re hungry, they go for it. That’s it.”
Reiner grew up in Tanzania most of his life, going to British schools and finding that they were quite adequate as he began to look at colleges and universities. When it came time to further his education, sadly he said, he had to leave what had become his homeland.
He attended Wheaton College in Illinois, then decided to study medicine in Houston at the Baylor University. He said he originally thought about being a psychiatrist, but didn’t appreciate what was being taught in that discipline at the time.
So, he decided to specialize in pediatric childhood nutrition, something that wasn’t nearly as popular as it is today.
After medical school, he landed at Children’s’ Hospital in Boston, and stayed her for the rest of his career.
“Most of my career was on Beacon Street in Brookline in practice and on staff at Children’s, Beth Israel and Brigham & Women’s,” he said.
While those days in Boston hospitals might have been fulfilling in his career, he was longing to get back to Africa.
Along the way, he met a professional photographer who was kind enough to show him how to use a camera.
“He took me under his wing and taught me all his tricks,” he said.
Reiner combined his desire to get back to Africa with his new photography skills and came back with a wonderful archive of photos from his Tanzanian home.
Now, with numerous images from Africa, he has no shortage of stories to impart with those photos.
“I always say what a lucky kid I was,” he said. “I have such wonderful memories from those days back in colonial Africa.”