Semi-retirement for Madras dentist


by: Photo By Holly Gill - Dr. Owen Smith

   After 42 years as a Madras dentist, Dr. Owen Smith is getting ready to hang up his drill -- or at least, use it a little less frequently.
   Smith, 74, is not yet retiring, but he is cutting back to working one day a week. Dr. Robert Pressprich of Bend will take over the day-to-day operations at Smith's dental office at 631 S.E. Fifth St. on Monday through Wednesday, and Smith will work on Thursdays.
   Smith and his wife Elly moved to Madras in 1963 from Portland, where he had his first dental office. "I had an office in Portland for 18 months after I got out of school," he said.
   In 1961, Smith graduated from what was then the University of Oregon School of Dentistry (now the Oregon Health and Science University School of Dentistry). To support his young family, he opened a dental office, but found that it was not easy to develop a practice in Portland.
   When a dental supply salesman told him about the opening in Madras, he jumped at the chance to relocate. "We decided to move because we were starving to death," he said.
   Smith had been hunting in Central Oregon, and was excited about the move. "He fell in love with Central Oregon," his wife said. "I hated it. There was nothing here."
   "She missed the conveniences of Portland," said Smith.
   Those feelings didn't last, and Elly grew to love the area, also. Both felt it was an excellent place to raise their three daughters, Sherri, Kathy, and Dianna, who were able to ride horses and raise sheep for 4-H.
   Two of their three daughters work at the dental office, and will continue after their father's retirement: Kathy Hunt, the receptionist/bookkeeper; and Dianna Barrett, the dental assistant.
   When Smith moved to Madras, he took over the practice of Dr. John Robinson, and was one of only two dentists in Madras at the time. The late Dr. Bill Mehlenbeck was the only other dentist in town.
   "They needed the service," Smith pointed out, adding that business was good.
   Smith's dental office was originally located in the north end of the building, which was owned by Guy Balfour at that time. The Smiths purchased the building in the early 1970s.
   Although the Smiths aren't sure of the age of the building, they said it has housed many businesses over the years, including a donut shop, a restaurant, an attorney's office, a dog grooming shop, a real estate office, a video rental shop, Juniper Banking Company, and Tote-Pak, which eventually became Shielding.
   Dr. Wayne Schultz purchased the building from the Smiths in 1991, and recently completed an exterior remodel.
   With more time on his hands, Smith intends to remodel his house, travel -- starting with an upcoming trip to Hawaii for a dental seminar, go steelhead fishing, and garden, which he considers "almost a full-time job by itself."
   Elly, who has worked part-time for the past 20 years as a receptionist at the dental office, is retiring. She intends to help her husband remodel and spend more time with their grandchildren.