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Apr 14

A New Chapter

I am starting a new chapter in my life. I am now officially retired. My final day of work was this past Monday, April 10.

It was a fun but bitter-sweet day as I said good-bye to my boss, my co-workers, and my last ten patients.

Lots of balloons from Joe and co-workers on my last day of work.

I retired after nearly 44 years of what has been a very rewarding career in dental hygiene, working in the same dental practice all those years. I started working right after I graduated from Indiana University at Fort Wayne in 1973. Dr. James Overman had started a new dental practice in St. Marys, Ohio, the year before and I was his first dental hygienist. I am not sure, but I may have been the first hygienist in Auglaize County. If not, I was probably the second. Thank you for hiring me, Dr. Overman. Dr. Duncan worked with Dr. Overman for a year, around 1974, before moving on. In 1975 Dr. Larry Heitkamp joined the practice. Doctors Overman and Heitkamp worked together for a year or two until Dr. Overman sold the practice to Dr. Heitkamp. Dr. Travis Lutz joined the practice in 1999 and purchased the practice in 2000 and Dr. Heitkamp retired.

The dental practice was first located in the Barton Medical Building in 1973, just west of the hospital. We moved about a block down the street and around the curve to the Wheatland Building in 1986 and we moved to Celina in 2000, where we are today. Dr. Lutz renamed the practice Grand Lake Family Dentistry when he took over.

Dentists have come and gone in the practice but I have stayed the whole time. I have known some of my patients for nearly 44 years and have been the dental hygienist to four generations of some families!

Lots of cake!

I have worked with great co-workers and have met many lovely people. I have made life-long friendships with co-workers and patients as well. I have many wonderful memories.

The way you clean teeth hasn’t changed all that much but I have seen the biggest changes in technology, with x-rays and record-keeping. We now take digital x-rays and we can see the images immediately on the monitor. No more messing with films and developing solutions. And thanks to the computer we don’t have a scheduling book or patient files anymore. Everything from charting to scheduling is done on the computer. Infection control became a big issue in the 1980s and many changes, including masks and gloves, came about as a result.

On my last day of work my co-workers surprised me with a balloon bouquet held by the cutest plush bear that brushes his teeth and sings. The bear brushes for two whole minutes. (You know you should brush for two minutes.) They also gave me a specially made T-shirt that says “The Legend Has Retired,” and a cake with my dental hygiene graduation photo on it. Husband Joe brought in a bright balloon bouquet as well as cake and ice cream. Several patients brought in cards and a couple gifts. Monday Dr. Lutz is taking us out for a retirement dinner.  I worked with such nice people.

Ready to cut the cakes!

Is Dr. Lutz really that sad to see me go??

Tears were shed, hugs and handshakes given. Saying good-bye is so hard.

Below are some photos of my dental hygiene career.

1973 Dental Hygiene graduation photo.

Capping, 1972 IPFW.

Dr. Heitkamp and staff, 1982.

A gift from Dr. Heitkamp, for 20 years of dental hygiene, 1993.

Celebrating my 50th birthday with Dr. Lutz I staff. It was an office tradition to wear the crazy birthday vest on your 50th birthday.

Dr. Lutz and staff at Grand Lake Family Dentistry, 2000.

Me wearing my countdown to retirement shirt. Dr. Lutz with his 2039 retirement sign.

My last time clock punch.

So begins a new chapter in my life.

12 comments

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  1. Janet Myers

    Congratulations Karen!!
    Awesome career!A
    I did not know that dental hygienists were capped at graduation. I thought that was only nurses.
    Thanks for sharing
    Janet

    1. Karen

      Thanks, Janet! They had a capping back then, after our first semester, but I am sure they don’t even have caps today. I don’t know when they transitioned over to scrubs, which are sure more practical than the dress-type uniform.

  2. Deb Reichard

    Congrats Karen on your wonderful career life and now your retirement. It is obvious how much you cared for your patients, co-workers and doctors. Now, enjoy your free days!

    1. Karen

      Thanks, Deb!

  3. Andy Gappa

    Congrats!! Enjoy your time off. Now you can blog and do genealogy full time.
    Andy Gappa

    1. Karen

      Thanks, Andy! That’s the plan.

  4. virginia Britten

    Congratulations! Now you can have time for fun and things you want to do!

    1. Karen

      Thank you, Virginia!

  5. Karen Pautsch

    Congratulations, Karen! You may find yourself so busy doing things you’ve always wanted to do, you’ll wonder how you found time to work!

    1. Karen

      Thanks, Karen! I have already started to wonder that very thing. Thanks for writing.

  6. Shelley Bishop

    I’m late to the party, but wanted to add my congratulations, Karen! So fun to look at your photos through the years. Hope your retirement brings you more time to enjoy genealogy and other favorite things!

    1. Karen

      Thanks, Shelley! I enjoy having the extra time already!

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