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A Tribute to Roy Rasmussen

  • by Larry Stanleigh, BSc, MSc, DDS, FADI, FICD, FACD, FPFA
  • Aug 4, 2017, 08:00 AM

He was born, the eldest son of three, to John and Esther on Oct. 5, 1924.

He grew up on the family farm in Standard, Alberta, Canada, but he knew early on that the rural life was not in his future.

After serving our country in the second World War as part of the Royal Canadian Air Force, he was off to Toronto to study dentistry at the Faculty of Dentistry, University of Toronto — my alma mater, too.

Toronto was where he met and fell in love with Gerry Kitcher, and they were married while he was still in school.

In his final year of study, he was working in Northern Ontario when a young geologist came in with a dental emergency — an infected wisdom tooth. Roy struck a brief conversation and took care of this young man, and that was it.

After graduation, he settled back in Calgary. He bought the dental practice of Dr. Bill Welgen, who later settled in Seattle. Roy started his new practice on Friday the 13th of June in 1950. I still have his original appointment book, and I cherish it. He shared office space with a physician in the old Greyhound Building.

Two years later, a geologist came in to see the doctor, and Roy emerged from the back and said, “Hey, I pulled your tooth!” The geologist’s name? Harley Hotchkiss, former owner of the Calgary Flames, an oil and gas magnate and a humanitarian and philanthropist. They remained friends for the next 40-plus years.

Roy loved dentistry. He loved people, and he loved business.

He read business books and developed business systems in dentistry that made his practice more efficient, enabling him to treat and serve more patients at a high standard.

He loved innovation and learning. He always stayed at the forefront of dentistry. He was one of the first dentists in Western Canada to have a high-speed drill, use tooth-colored fillings routinely, place and restore implants, use intraoral cameras, rebuild bites with full-mouth reconstructions and more.

But it was the people with whom he built relationships, and the relationships themselves that he built, that was his greatest joy and strength. I would hear stories, all too familiar to me, about how the dental assistants had to remind Roy to stop talking and socializing so they could get dentistry done. It is a problem I continue to have today, too. But it was these relationships that he built that were the source of his success.

Over the years, he moved his practice two more times, finally settling in Calgary in 1971. He got together with a number of medical and dental colleagues to build Calgary’s first high-rise apartment building with central air conditioning and heating, with professional offices on the top two floors. As an owner, he chose the top floor, facing west for the view, and then promptly sold his share in the building. He stayed in that office until he retired from dentistry.

He started his practice on Friday the 13th of June in1950, and he retired from dentistry on Friday the 13th of May in 1994.

Over those 44 years, he was honored with four fellowships from the Pierre Fauchard Academy, Academy of Dentistry International, American College of Dentists and International College of Dentists. He also was a recipient of two Certificates for Merit from the Canadian Dental Association.

He served organized dentistry locally with the Calgary District Dental Society, provincially with the Alberta Dental Association and nationally with Canadian Dental Service Plans Inc., a branch of the Canadian Dental Association.

We estimated that he treated more than 500,000 patients in those 44 years. Even today, more than 23 years after he retired, I am asked about how he is doing by former patients every week.

Roy also had hobbies. Photography was one area he was particularly skilled. Our former landlord still has pictures hanging in his office that Roy took from a trip to Jordan and the Middle East more than 25 years ago.

Yes, he loved his profession, and he loved his hobbies. But his greatest source of pride was his three children, Greg, Brian and Lori, about whom he talked fondly every chance he could.

Roy never wanted you to know when he was not in top form, especially when he was suffering the pain of the loss of his first wife, taken so young by cancer. He said that some things needed to remain private because the patients see us all too briefly each year.

Roy passed away June 18, 2017.

I loved and admired Roy. He was my colleague, my mentor and my friend. I learned valuable lessons from him about dentistry, business, life and relationships.

Roy set the table for my success.

I will miss him dearly and honor his memory for the rest of my days.

May Roy’s good memory live long, well and healthy in all of you and in all who had the good fortune to have known him.

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